Planting Primroses

Planting Primroses

“Live Plants – Perishable”
The label warns in big letters.
As I unwrap the spiky dark-green leaves
And prepare damp soil under a September blue sky,
I remember the primroses these plants are meant to commemorate.
The tissue-thin pale pink petals
waved good morning every day at the end of May,
A breath-taking bank of undulating pastel
That we walked out of our way to see.
Sometimes lost in conversation
In the afternoon
We missed the turnoff
And had to retrace
Our steps
To walk not-so-casually
By them, their petals still open in the fading light
And mountain desert air.
Our time there was too brief to witness them wilt
Or drop petals onto the path.
Rather than pick one to press for a memento,
I opted instead for living plants.

Paging through the nursery catalog,
I didn’t know then that the seed
planted in our hearts would flourish so.
How you would harass the florist brothers
Searching for primroses out of season,
Not listening to their protests
That primroses were not florists’ flowers,
That you can’t force blooms in August,
And opting for silk ones
That never die because they never lived.
The brothers,
more knowledgable in the standard language of flowers,
Added red roses for passion – that much they understood.

And now I carefully prepare the hole,
Score the root ball and settle it just so,
Sprinkle dirt around, pat it down, and start another.
The rhythm of the motions fits my mood and my memories.
And I wonder – next spring, when the petals unfold
And illuminate the moonlight garden,
Who will be here to see our primroses bloom? –Virginia Gilbert, 1996


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