I will have beautiful rhododendrons next year. Every shade of pink, from the palest blush to the deepest rose, blossoms perched on hardy, robust, unbroken stems.
All because my lacrosse player leaves for college.
I truly have never minded his backstop in front of the piney slope under-planted with my naturalized rhody collection. Or the lax wall, or the 40-foot net strung from tree to tree to catch the strays. And despite the errant balls and even harsher foraging with a stick to find said balls, the bushes have done remarkably well with this treatment from pretty much day one of their planting. It has been seven years of pruning broken stems with a sigh, but never a curse.
I consider myself lucky to have children who allow me to garden at all, who stay out of the rose bushes entirely (for obvious reasons) and tolerate so much garden in what could have been more play space.
So I have been quite satisfied with our arrangement. I give the rhododendrons a hearty helping of organic compost around their bases each year, spray with anti-desiccant each fall, and hope for the best. The best has not been perfect. But while I am out there snipping and pruning, sharing the occasional word of encouragement with “Jane Grant” or that lavender one whose name I never learned, I am occasionally called into service.
“Mom, toss me the ball, go high.” It brings us together in the great outdoors.
But come mid-August my middie will be shipping out to play for a college team. This has always been his dream, but one I was too clueless about the game to realize was an attainable one. Too much time spent daydreaming about what is blooming at home instead of what was blooming on the playing field in front of me. But he has always understood that, and just been glad to have me show up on the sidelines – even with soiled knees and garden clogs – hooting and hollering when the action was obvious enough for me to get it.
So as he heads off for great things, so will my hillside. Nothing but the uncertainties of a Maine winter to impede perfect blooms next spring.
The Lord has a cruel way of aligning this power shift in the garden with peri-menopausal symptoms. So emotions run close to the surface, and I already know that my smiles next May and June will be mixed. So happy to see the plants get their due, even happier to see my son get his. But watering those rhododendron with more than the hose.
I guess with all they have withstood, a bit of salty tears won‘t kill them either.
Katy Gannon-Janelle lives in Falmouth.