There’s a hydrangea bush next to my back porch – old and sturdy, its blooms are gorgeous when they meet the sun each morning. When I first moved here, it had been uncared for, it was out of any sort of shape growing haphazardly, dead blooms covered the branches and thick thorny vines had grown around it – almost like a protective wall around it. It almost looked….broken.
As I started the arduous task of lawn care after buying a new home, I saved that hydrangea for last. One by one, I went around the yard, pulling weeds, trimming and caring for the plethora of plants and bushes that I uncovered as I got rid of the thorny vines that seemed to be everywhere. As the cleanup neared completion, that one sad hydrangea still waiting my attention as I watered, fertilized and cared for the camellias, the pecan trees, the crepe myrtles and azaleas.
Finally it came time to care for the hydrangea – I could almost swear it said “leave me alone” as I got close to it. Carefully, I started to trim back the thorny vines covering it. Even with gloves, I came back with scratches and marks as that one broken bush protected itself from me. For the first time, I did the one thing I used to laugh at my mother for doing…. I talked to that freakin bush. (This might have been my neighbors’ first clue that I’m a little off kilter)
As I removed it’s grown over protective barrier of thorns, I spoke softly and sang a bit, and found after, that it had been more neglected than the others, the soil beneath it dry and unyielding. The few leaves wilted and the branches tired. It seemed, it had given so much for so long, with no care in return, it was just ready to be alone in its last years but had nothing left to heal itself.
I slowly removed most of the soil from around it and replaced it with new, nutrient rich and fertilized and added some water and in that quiet morning, I think I almost heard the plant sigh with relief. Just as slowly as I removed the dying earth around it, I gently plucked the dead blooms and leaves as well as trimming around some of the branches giving it once again, its majestic shape.
I waited until the next weekend before returning to the task and was rewarded with my hard work. Each morning as I walked out onto the back deck with my coffee, a smile upon my face as I watched the yard begin to bloom. Bright pinks and reds on the camellia bushes, shoots of green in the trees, soft pinks and whites in the crepe myrtles. One by one, they all came alive again…. All except the hydrangea – it stood in its corner, naked and proud as the sun rose over it to feed it. I kept watering, adding some food and watching. The next weekend, I found the smallest of green leaves budding from its branches and I smiled to myself – it was going to find a reason to bloom again.
Another week went by and my yard was alive with colors. Birds were visiting to serenade my mornings, squirrels scampered across the thorn free ground and jumped from tree to tree. Still, the hydrangea fell behind – more green leaves, but still not the first bloom. I waited patiently and kept watering … finally, on the fourth week, I squealed in delight as I found the first little green bud popping out on a branch.
As it opened up and others followed it, I was astounded, the blooms were full and puffy, the palest shade of blue with white tips –its elegance and beauty took my breath away. One by one they began to cover the bush. I took a few tips from some others that loved hydrangeas as much as I do and began to add to the soil from a list of old wives tricks. Suddenly, within a couple of weeks, my poor broken hydrangea was tall and proud with the most incredible colors. I came home one afternoon to my neighbor standing at the fence staring at my hydrangea.
“In all the years I’ve lived next door, I’ve never seen this hydrangea do so well…. And I’ve never seen one with blooms this big in these colors”. I turned to look, from a different angle than my back porch. Her blooms almost covered the once dying bush, so many of them, branches almost hung down. What had started out as elegant and pale blue blooms had become a majestic purple, rich and deep tipped in white. I almost wanted to reach out and caress her. This plant, so broken and almost dead, had pulled herself up and become something better than she had ever been – despite being neglected and unloved.
I went inside to get my clippers and came back with a wet towel to gently clip a few blooms for my neighbor. As I did, her voice so quiet over the sound of nature around us singing, she said to me, “You’ll have to share your secret with me, I’ve never seen one so beautiful”. I stopped for a moment, wrapping the stems I had cut carefully in the wet towel and handed it to her with a very simple reply, “It only takes time…and love”. She smiled at me, took the blooms just as carefully as I had clipped them and thanked me, turning to return to her own home.
It occurred to me, later that evening, after watering and loving a bit on all my plants, trees and bushes, that maybe, we should look at the relationships in our life in the same way. We all have been broken, we have all put up thorny vines to protect our hearts. Maybe what we need is that one person who is willing to take the time to pull away the vines, who isn’t scared to get scraped by the thorns, who is patient enough to water us and help us grow – who is willing to love us as we fight the feelings of fear wondering if we will end up neglected again.