In a long Louisiana summer, a garden manages to thrive | Entertainment/Life

I’ve written before about the plant nursery my family ran during my childhood in the 1970s, when people presumably had a lot more on their minds than daisies and petunias. In that time of high inflation, with money so tight and worries so grave, why would anyone want to splurge on flowers?

But we didn’t lack customers — in spite of, or perhaps because of, the anxieties of the day. I learned that in trying seasons, people often turn toward the comfort of growing things.

All of this returned to mind a few weeks ago as I was having a hard afternoon that suddenly took a turn for the better. I had been on the phone with customer service, trying to untangle a knot with our insurance company. Languishing on hold for a small eternity, I’d had plenty of time to think about the work that was piling up while I waited. There also were more than a few minutes to scroll some grim headlines. It wasn’t shaping up to be a great day.

That’s when a delivery truck pulled into our driveway with a slender parcel carefully packed with the plants my wife had ordered from a specialty nursery in Merryville, a small community in southwest Louisiana.

I’m a big believer in shopping locally, and we get most of our plants and garden supplies at a good nursery down the street. But for a few hard-to-get items, we decided to try Almost Eden, a mail-order nursery near the Texas line. We also were heartened by the thought we’d be helping a business in southwest Louisiana, which is still recovering from recent hurricanes.

After leaving the extended purgatory of my insurance call, I fetched our box of plants from the porch, eager to unpack the precious cargo. Inside, taped to cardboard and padded with damp paper to keep them safe and moist, were a tiny honeysuckle vine, a little bee balm, and a small pot of Jack-in-the-Bush —all great plants for birds and butterflies.

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Like a heart surgeon at his table, I stood over our kitchen counter with pocketknife in hand, slowly liberating our treasures from the box. My wife planted them all near the patio, and nourished by afternoon rains, they’re thriving.

Our summer in the garden has brought other victories. The hydrangeas we planted last spring are holding their own in the high heat, and our new Japanese magnolia and hollies seem resolute against whatever August wants to throw at them. My favorites this summer have been our cleome plants, also known as spider flowers because of their long, threadlike stamens.

What we seem to overlook about flowers is how tough they often are, sustained by just a little dirt, water and a modicum of love.

They’ve been my banner this summer, a small reminder of how resilient we can be when we put down roots and find a place to grow.

Email Danny Heitman at danny@dannyheitman.com.

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