My Dodecatheon is Blooming


It was always a race. Whose dodecatheon would bloom first? Mom’s? Or mine?

We had bought each other one on our annual just-before-Mother’s Day garden centre meet-up. Took them home and potted them up, a shooting star each to decorate our decks. And then for all the years we had them, until she died in 2012, we would compare bloom dates. She usually won since her’s basked on her south-facing back deck, and got more love than mine which was left to fend for itself in among the chives and tulips in a pot by my greenhouse door. Mine was always a more vivid purple, perhaps due to it having to fight a little harder for survival.

Thanks to Mom, I know exactly when we started this annual garden shopping trip, during which I would buy her a plant of her choice, and she would buy me one too, for Mother’s Day. It’s crystal clear, the picture in my mind. So sharp I feel the achy possibility I could scan it, print it, and hold it tenderly in my hands, placing it once again in front of, instead of behind, my misty eyes. May 12, 2002. Mom was 62 and I was 41.

Marigold Nurseries. Angle parking on the strip of gravel running between the chain link fence and the road. My slender, graceful Mom, monochromatically classy in her carefully chosen garden centre-ing outfit. Light blue high-waisted skinny jeans, a baby blue t shirt and an oversized faded blue Levi’s jean button down shirt. White purse and runners. A smoke in her hand. Walking towards me from her parking spot down the line. Heat squiggles rising from the pavement, distorting her figure slightly as if she were approaching through water. And her peculiar gait, listing a touch sideways though she was walking straight on. Dusty wind blowing, flaring her loose shirt tails. Our first time. She looked like a teenager until she got up close.

We’d had a fractious relationship when I was growing up, I frustrated her and she pissed me off. But we had learned to like each other (I mean really LIKE each other, aside from the deep abiding love that securely anchored our whole family) well before the turn of the century. Maturity and motherhood drew us closer I think. And it was her who first suggested we get together near Mother’s Day and shop for that year’s annuals to fill our deck planters. But, as she pointed out, not on the exact day because I should be able to just hang out at home and relax on actual Mother’s Day – not duty visit my mother – and besides, the garden centres are insane that weekend and who likes line-ups?

That first year, after we went through the checkout, she asked me to come to her car as she had a Mother’s Day gift for me. Opening her trunk, she presented me with a brand new shiny Sunset Western Gardening Book. THE book for serious gardeners. With a simple inscription inside the front cover. That I cherish.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. My frugal mother, splashing out on this wonderful book. When she died and no one wanted her Sunset Western Garden Book, I took it home and shelved it next to mine. I couldn’t bear to see it donated, full as it is with mom’s scratchy pencilled notes, plant tags and Helen Chestnut newspaper clippings. Maybe one of my kids will want it someday.

Every year thereafter we made the same trip, although soon it was a whole morning and afternoon and I’d pick her up so we weren’t juggling two cars, and we’d visit every garden centre on the peninsula. Pausing for a quick smoke in the parking lots before going in. Marigold, Elk Lake, the one near Pat Bay whose name escapes me, Brentwood, Cannor. Slowly piling my minivan, then my SUV, full of flowery fragrant flats. Heliotrope. Schizanthus. Petunia. Begonia. Impatiens. Alyssum. Lobelia. I would drop her off home, help her unload her flats, give her a big hug, and head home myself, to see what my family had all got up to that day. Then I would brew a cup of tea, put my feet up, and plan my potting up strategy for that year.

My dodecatheon is blooming, and I miss my mother. I think I will see if my daughters want to go to the garden centre one day soon. You know, just a quick trip, pick up a few annuals for the deck. The last couple years we’ve started going, and this year one of them brought it up before I did. ❤️