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Salvia & Vinca

I imagine spending summers with my family at Dalguise House
in Pertshire with Beatrix Potter. I
imagine chasing Peter Rabbit down a lush Scottish lane.

But hoe in hand, all the chopping at clay soil I can muster does
not a Dalguise garden make. I don’t know what color my thumb is but it
certainly is not green.

So I imagine a compromise. I stop fretting about the lawn in
my front yard that manufactures crabgrass and settle on crafting miniature
gardens in containers where the soil is controlled, pliable. I have, in my
suburban plot of land, fashioned a satisfying eye-full of Scotland in
galvanized tubs.

I have created a backyard biome for my children to observe
nature in the city. We have worms, and moths, and butterflies, and June bugs,
hummingbirds, and squirrels. We even have a rabbit named Greybone that goes lippitey
lippety in circles around the containers.

Salvia is a favorite in my garden—easy to grow and that lush
purple hue, well the image etched on my retina says it all. It had to be
related to sage… I just knew it. Turns out I was correct. Those velvety leaves
were a dead giveaway. I love these unkempt ornamental shrubs and their aromatic
flowers that bloom and sway in panicles.

Liam’s favorite four-letter word is still “d-i-r-t” so he
jumped at the offer when I asked, “Hey, how about working in the garden with me

“Sure Mom!”

We walk up the hill with the squeaky rusting wagon to the
neighborhood nursery to pick up some plants for a handful of containers that
need refreshing. I suggest Liam choose some plants for the raised bed near the
front door.

(His response warrants three, if not more, exclamation points).

“Yes, of course you can!” He sets out on a furious journey
and is back again sooner than I expect with an armful of Vinca.

The flowers flash in my face and make my heart sink. It’s
true. I am actually shocked by my response to this mass of cutie pie flowers. I
mean, I have to engage in some serious and immediate introspection, “Vinca
doesn’t match the rest of the garden, is that it? No, I don’t think so…that’s
not exactly the rub. I shake my head, snap out of it, and pulled it together
for my lovely son, “Great Liam.” I feel much better when I see his proud smile
beaming from ear to ear.

Back home, Liam takes to task without a prompt. He turns the
soil, digs holes with his bare hands for the tiny plants, pats them into their
new home, and sprinkles the bed with water all the while smiling cheerfully. Cheerfully…
yes, that’s it!

Liam chose Vinca because these flowers are just like him: Cheerful.
And cheerfulness is not exactly the first word that comes to mind when
describing me. I can be cheerful, but I am, by nature the Salvia melancholy
sage. I am not the image of Vinca though I’ve longed to be that image at times.
I truly believe that my gut response was because, in that moment when Liam
lifted the mass of Vinca to my eyes, the flowers caught me off-guard and sneered,
“You are not like us.” And in that moment I slipped into an ancient insecurity.

But I’m the teacher who values individuality, even my
own. I am thankful for the Vinca
challenge that kept me on my toes that day. Sipping a glass of iced tea on my
front steps, I smile at Liam’s bed of Vinca, thankful for his cheerful nature,
and then, when ice is left to jingle in the glass, I wander to my Salvia