Perennial Shuffle

The Garden Wall, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 11x14

The Garden Wall, oil on canvas, 11×14

TWENTY-TWO PAINTED FERNS cradled in loose soil by hand and trowel lead a slow procession again and again to the fresh earth at the base of the terrace before the hemlocks. My dungarees press into a bed of mixed grass and layered copper needles as I kneel and lay the ferns aside. I dig generous holes angled between tree roots and place a fern firmly in each one, tapping around its edges, tucking it in.

Three clumps of lily-of-the-valley pool beneath the lemon magnolia.

Rhubarb and bearded iris fresh from my mother’s garden in Maine pulse her presence, filling in the winter destruction wrought by moles next to the garage. Ground-covers myrtle and woodruff soak up some of the excess lawn, flanked by pale bloodroot’s delicate foliage, bright white flower and orange stem.

Sods clapped like tambourines shake the crumbly soil along a newly-scratched border heralding the bee balm’s rising tide. Sputtering tulips and withered gas plant give way to surplus purple creeping phlox and candle stalks of pea-green baptisia.

Below the soil the raw broken taproot of false indigo cools in soft earth soaked in water. Once healed, there will be better sun and moisture here.

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