The Winter Dregs

My peonies look dead.

Dead dead. They look like snapped-off twigs somehow sticking up out of the ground.

I noticed them especially today because a coworker mentioned that spring was coming and soon I’d have peonies again. I usually take some blooms and put them on my desk; it’s where I spend most of my day, and I want to enjoy them.

“Yeah,” I said. “I hope they do better this year. Last year was sparse.”

I’m not a gardener. I mostly kill plants, and not on purpose. But I asked Paul and the boys to plant me peonies several years in a row for Mother’s Day. I just love them.

Peonies go big when they go. They hang out being low-key green forever and then one day there are so many flowers you can’t fit them all in a vase. Peonies bloom so hard they get top heavy and fall over. They collect ants like you would not believe, and make no apologies. Of course there are ants, peonies say, because who wouldn’t want to hang out over here. Peonies are extra.

So last year when they didn’t do quite as well, I was sad. I heard from other people – people who have been known to keep plants alive for years on end – that it was a hard season for peonies, at least right around here. I didn’t worry too much about it.

But when I looked at them tonight, my heart sank a bit. They look bad.

I finished walking the dog and came in and googled “peonies in winter” (which ought to be a band name) and you know what? They look terrible. Kind of like sticks poked into the ground. Presumably the garden websites are run by people who know what they’re doing, so it’s nice that their peonies look rancid too.

What I want to tell you here is that I remember that this is always how it is. That things look dead and I give up hope, and then the spring comes and they burst alive in a riot of color and fragrance. That’s what I want to say.

But I don’t believe it right now. Right now, all I can see is that my peonies have had a rough couple of winters. I don’t know if they’ll ever be the same. I don’t know if they can bounce back this time. They look pretty damaged.

The most I can do today is decide that I’ll do a little weeding and a little trimming and give them some bone meal. I’ll hope for the best. I don’t know if it’ll be enough. But maybe it will. Maybe there’ll be blooms when the spring finally comes.

Fingers crossed.

3 thoughts on “The Winter Dregs

  1. What about adding a little manure, too? Also, the ants make the peonies open. Also, I hate peonies. As you said, they are top-heavy and fall over like they are drunk. After all that waiting for the buds to open, they are usually gone in just a few days. Thanks for allowing me to rant. I hope you feel better. I do.

    1. Someone posted a note about how the local Scouts had done a midrash on the gospel parable lesson of the fig tree that needed help (or else!), and what the Scouts said, in so many words … was this: maybe you’ll grow healthy, if only you’re covered in shit.

  2. Are you sure that picture wasn’t taken at my house? I have a low brick wall just like yours, and the ground in front of it is just that barren. I’m hoping for a spring transformation.

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