Wilted plant

Gardening Grief

            After the funeral, since he had no siblings, his house was filled with flowers and plants.  His mother could have named each one, both its common name, camellia, and its scientific, C. obularia.  She had gardened all her life, and she’d worked part-time at the florist shop on 31st Street to help send him through college.
            Wouldn’t it be fitting, he thought, if he made a home for all the plants, and began to grow some of the flowers that his mother had cultivated—day lilies and roses, mums and daisies?  He could even have a greenhouse for the camellia, for she’d left him a substantial amount of money.
            He surveyed his January yard.  Yes, the greenhouse in the corner, unshaded by trees, to catch the most winter light.  The garden plot in front of the greenhouse, as though tea roses and snapdragons, marigold and primrose had been flung to the earth by someone standing in the greenhouse door—a fan of flowers casually intruding into a yard that had been only green grass in summer, brown grass in the frigid winter air.  The colors, the fragrances, the touch of those petals, stalks, leaves, the earth itself—what restoratives.
            Soon, he would research greenhouses, call the local lawn and garden specialists, consult the nursery man, maybe schedule a site visit.  He would order seed catalogues from Burpee and Gurney and Henry Field’s, the ones he’d seen on her coffee table each winter.  He thought of visiting the Seed Savers headquarters in Iowa and finding heirloom vegetables his mother might have eaten when she was a Midwestern child.
Then the alstroemeria lilies drooped, the forced tulips shed their pink lips, the roses dropped curled petals, the mums threw their thin beauty like flakes to the floor.  The water in the vases browned and stunk.  The plants began to lean, their leaves yellowing, the stems and stalks listing like drunks in the corner.
            He carried wilted flowers, in their vases, to the trash barrel that sat in the spot where a he had imagined a greenhouse.  Over the next months, the plants followed the flowers. 
His mother was dead.
Come spring, he had a single rose etched into her headstone.

"Gardening Grief" first appeared in I-70 Review






Artichoke symbol


Winter onion

Rose etched in tombstone

Dead potted plant


Willow tree


Return to Memorial Gardens

Return to Garden Plots Map