The town where I grew up and the one where the EM and I raised our family is rural, small, and fairly conservative as are many small towns. There is one main highway which bisects the town and this is the route which has the local restaurant, the gas stations, a few antique shops and the all important 'ale houses' which are really just bars but ale houses sounds so much nicer. It was a great place to grow up and a good place to raise a family. Years ago, my daughter and I were riding together in the car when we passed a local business which gone through a series of owners. The newest sign read, 'The Perfect Combination'. Much conversation ensued concerning the meaning of that sign and we came up with many different possibilities. I remember her turning to me and saying clearly, "handbags and shoes"? That seemed plausible although there was no clear evidence in the window of this storefront that indicated there might be 'bags and shoes' for sale. Wine and cheese seemed logical as well but that was not the case either. It was weeks later before I found out that the store was in the business of 'massage and hypnosis'. This might not cause any flicker of the eyebrow in a major city but here, in this small town still dotted with farms, it seemed a curious, rather than perfect, combination.
Who of us isn't striving for the 'perfect combination'. Whether it be the handbag and the shoes, the perfect partner, a particularly tasty culinary pairing or, with gardeners, the perfect pairing of color, form and texture. Most of us who enjoy perennials and have perennial borders strive for the perfect combination. I was sure that I finally had the winner for this spring's debut.
I have a patch or two of Phlox stolonifera
which sends its' flowers up from the creeping matte of foliage to a height of about twelve inches. This particular variety, 'Sherwood Purple' is a clear, dark lavender and since it blooms early with the tulips, I could just see this lovely 'Shirley' tulip
highlighting the background with its' white flowers edged in purple. I decided this was it, 'The Perfect Combination'. As all great thoughts enter the head, they leave just as quickly and I ordered bulbs for fall planting forgetting the all important 'Shirleys'. Now, I rarely shop at box stores but I had to go in one for some gadget unavailable elsewhere and while walking to the cash register I spotted the very economical bulbs in their bright, CLEARLY marked packages. There, resplendent in it's package with beautiful photo for easy identification, were 'Shirley' tulips. Fate had intervened and I was that much closer to perfection in the garden.
Much of the joy of gardening is waiting. Waiting for that peony to burst into bloom or for this combination of phlox and tulip to bloom in May. Here it is.
Blooming and pretty but definitely 'Not Shirley'. These tulips are not even of the same type or color. This is a cautionary tale. You really cannot trust the labels on packages (from box stores). I am still striving for the perfect combination. It has eluded me once again. Gardening teaches many lessons, humility, patience, perseverance. If not in life, in gardening, I am ever the optimist, I will try again.