Wildflower Week: Dutchman’s Breeches

From The Spirit of Gardening: Reflections on the True Joys of Gardening by Jeff Cox

“We planted the Dutchman’s breeches and kept it watered, but the foliage withered and died by mid-May…I’d pretty much forgotten about it when, on a balmy April evening this year…I noticed a large mass of feathery, ferny foliage by the big rock in the shade garden. It was the Dutchman’s breeches, already beginning to hang out its white wash.

Not only had it survived, but it had tripled in size and was flourishing. I realized that the spot Marilyn had given it was craftily chosen — perched above its cultivated cousins on a shady, rocky ledge much like its original home.

If we’d planted it in rich soil, with unfamiliar neighbors, in one of our regular perennial beds, it probably would have sulked and died out. One plant’s ideal conditions are another plant’s burial grounds.

It’s the same with people. When I’ve done jobs I didn’t like, I’ve always had the same reaction — a feeling of suffocation. But, plant me behind my typewriter or in front of my drawing board and I flourish. Someone else, perhaps, would not like to confront the blank piece of paper each morning.

A person who loves his or her work is like a plant in the right spot — there, growth is maximized and yield is great.”

• • •

About The Spirit of Gardening, from Library Journal: “Gardeners tend to become philosophers. In this collection of essays, Cox illustrates that fact as he reminisces about the 16 years during which he observed changes and growth in his Pennsylvania garden. His lists of plants include trees, vegetables, herbs, weeds, fruits, and flowers. Each is treated in a short essay. He records his observations on the mysteries of pollination in the columbine. Each essay teaches a little lesson learned from the plants.”

There are some copies of this wonderful book, circa 1986, available on Amazon, or visit author Jeff Cox’s website.

Note: Despite this charming essay, it’s best practice to not remove wildflowers from their natural habitat.

Photo ©2012, Jen Payne

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