Fleurs Rouges

For our anniversary, The Lovely One generally receives a dozen red roses.

(“Aha!” You, the francophone, think: “Thus the title of todayʼs piddling post!” — But you would be wrong, my French-prattling friend. Read on…)

As weʼve passed our twenty-fifth several years ago and are closing in on thirty years of marital euphoria, my annual floral present has gotten pretty predictable, especially since she also gets a bouquet of flowers for her birthday in February (and this year a special blog post chock full of poems not exactly just for her). The February flowers are usually whatever the florist interprets from my request for “something springy”  (and it varies, let me tell you, from too many daisies to tiny, plentiful orchid orchids — I  liked that second phrase: please read the first of the two words as a color and the second, plural word as the type of colored flower). But the anniversary bunch has almost always been the predictable and lame twelve-pack of ruby roses (which also sometimes make their overpriced appearance on her desk at work on the Big Romantic Card Holiday, also in February). Rather pathetic and sadly boring, actually.

The hibiscus outdoors before it started its downhill slide (note the red clay pot and the floral buds that never opened, but just fell off)

Janet has made efforts to inspire me to throw my cash away on something less transient (and the sadsack blooms in some of the bouquets some of those florists have cocked together have been miserably over the hill before they even got shoved into a vase). But my eye for jewelry turned repetitious years back, forcing her after more than one unfestive Yule to exchange the lovely gem I had selected for something that doesnʼt resemble in every detail the ring/necklace/bracelet I had already offered years ago, and putting me in furious doubt of my selection abilities and methods. And donʼt even gaily imagine that I could on my own even begin to attempt to pick out clothing for her!

Years ago, we always had green and flowering plants about the house, at one point, back on Arcade Street, dozens on stands filling a whole bay window in the living room. One monster (I forget what it was) grew ten feet tall and had to be staked (with old nylons, naturally) to one of my bookshelves here in our current living room (I think that was the overinflated camel that broke the wifeʼs tolerant back). But she tired of those, although I know I enjoyed the extra wintertime oxygen in the house, and since the early or mid-Nineties our house has been barren of flora — inside (she has always gone wild about potted flowers outdoors in spring, summer and fall — in fact, once I finish typing here I should water the few she has maintained this year, back, now that the drivewayʼs done, in our front yard). However, last winter she unwisely remarked idly that maybe some potted flowers inside might be nice again.

Thatʼs all it took. That innocent little casual utterance stuck clear in my mind, which as she well realizes forgets just about everything — at least all the things that donʼt particularly interest me. And well before our anniversary arrived (some years the flowers have been ordered the morning of the Big Day itself), I was on the phone to her currently preferred florist in Dubuque to lay claim to my chosen flowering plant — an hibiscus!

Janetʼs anniversary gift in all its repotted, blooming glory (and yes, it has a ways to go to return to its former magnificence, but now it blossoms again)

It arrived at her office in a really tiny red clay pot, deeply green and about a foot tall, filled with very red flowers (I donʼt really quite understand how florists can always get any plant to bloom at least for the day of its arrival as a gift). I got to see it when she brought the plant home that evening (I had it sent for Friday, May 21, since the anniversary itself was over the weekend), and I was pleased (that the florist had gotten it right for once and also in anticipation of the lovely thing in our hose all through the winter). We kept it on the dining room table for several weeks, until in the middle of June it was clear the poor thing was ailing — no blooms and tired leaves hanging limp and brown. Janet hoped it just wanted to be outdoors in the summery humidity, but that change made little difference, and the leaves just started to show signs of buggy interest.

I kept watering it and moved the thing into the garage to keep it from pests, but although the move back to semi-interior space seemed to brighten the plantʼs condition a little, it still lagged and never blossomed. We tried taking it back outdoors on the front steps, but the wind one day knocked it over, breaking the pot (at least cracking it plentifully). It was a fortunate accident because that incident forced me to seek out a different, larger pot and transfer our hibiscus. And in the process of moving it, I realized what had been wrong all along: the poor thing was significantly more than seriously potbound (it had just been too many years since weʼd had plants, and I guess we both had forgotten that issue, or that florists always send potted plants in the smallest possible pot from which any plant should be transferred to a more spacious home immediately). Finally stumbling onto the right course of action always makes me feel like a dunce (hmmm… if I am always forced at length into the right thing, maybe I should finally at 56 perceive the bright red indication that I am a dunce).

The repotting worked miracles. Since then the plant has revived brilliantly, blossomed and has retained blooms solidly ever since. The photo records its state back while the driveway installation was occurring, but it still looks as good. I am going to change pots again in just a few weeks to bring it inside, and we hope to enjoy the carmine splendor of Janetʼs anniversary hibiscus right through the dreary, bleak midwinter.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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