Column: Of Imperfect Gardeners & New Buds Despite Them


By Maxwell Grant

Each spring, I am all promises when it comes to the hanging plants in our backyard.

My wife focuses on getting our girls to grow a few vegetables in the sunny corner by the gate, and on selecting plants that are pretty but hardy.

She knows that these are probably not the years when a shelter magazine will come calling, looking to do a full color spread on the parsonage garden. She plans accordingly.

But I can’t go to a plant nursery without feeling like the biggest morning glory basket—I like the ones with the mossy exteriors—needs to be ours… okay, mine. And so, while my wife and our older daughter, Grace, are dutifully waiting in line to buy tomato seeds, I take our youngest daughter, Emily, off to the hoop houses and ask her which plant she thinks is the prettiest one. Then, as a loving father, mind you, I feel duty-bound to get it. After five years, she’s finally started to figure out what I like, which is gratifying.

Unfortunately, I am not as good at watering as I am at purchasing, so there are years when my joy at the garden is short-lived. This year looked like one of those. I’ve been very faithful to watering the lobelia. Love that blue. It’s losing its elegant shape but remains electric. But last week, I realized on Monday evening that I hadn’t attended to the snowtopia… since the Friday before.

The snowtopia wasn’t happy about it.  I sheepishly applied water. But to no avail. After a few days, except for one improbable, bright, cheery blossom, such flowers as were left looked like the color of old newspapers. The elegant trailing stems were more like brown shoelaces.  The water seemed to run right through the hanging basket without stopping.

I kept watering it, anyway, mostly out of guilt. I tried debudding the shriveled buds. I told it I was sorry. Nothing. Then, yesterday, I noticed the beginning of new buds. At first, it seemed like only a few. But as I looked more closely, I saw that all of the stems had perked back up.  Every tendril seemed to have new buds preparing to blossom.

The snowtopia is coming back.

As summer rolls along, I think a lot of people feel as if they’re dragging: that they’ve been cut off too long from whatever it is that sustains them: rest, affection, inspiration, peace of mind, a sense of grace.

Maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten to water—to care for ourselves and for others who depend on us. Maybe someone else has not been faithful to the task of our nurturing.

But life being what it is, a power beyond all our imagining, it emerges again and again, even in the most delicate forms and in the most hostile places. No matter who’s to blame or what we’re up against, new life breaks forth, even under the care of the weakest of hands and nourished by the thinnest of streams. Beauty remains ready to blossom.

May we all find some of the beauty in ourselves in these coming weeks, and give thanks to the Creator who placed it there to flower in due season.

The Rev. Maxwell Grant has been the senior minister at Second Congregational Church since February 2012. He is a 2006 graduate of Yale Divinity School, where he was awarded the Mersick Prize for Preaching, and he was ordained in June 2007. For fun, he is a beginning banjo player, an avid reader, and a fan of the series “Outlander.” Max and his wife, Liz Perry, an independent school administrator, have two daughters, Grace and Emily.

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