“For pleasure has no relish unless we share it.”
– Virginia Woolf
A few days ago a friend of mine tagged me on Facebook® during her trip to Custer State Park in South Dakota. While enjoying the rolling landscape, dotted with buffalo, she also noticed an explosion of butterflies, the likes of which she had never seen. There were dozens of them, nectaring on a particular stand of flowers, and, as she put it, when someone would pass by they’d “scatter to the winds then come right back.” Without even examining her photo, I probably could have guessed the species by the description of its flight…the Painted Ladies. I know them well. They visit my garden daily.
I’m rather fond of the Ladies. They flit from flower to flower, sometimes sidling up to one another and sometimes standing alone, not unlike women at a party, alternating between huddles of gossip, sips of wine and samplings at the hors d’oeuvre table. And they can do this ALL DAY LONG…the butterflies, that is. Well, maybe the women too.
The Painted Ladies have seemingly lived in our garden all summer, but an extraordinary thing happened yesterday. I walked outside and felt just like B. in South Dakota. They were literally EVERYWHERE! I watched them scatter and descend, scatter and descend again, and then I realized one significant difference from days prior. Our Frostweed was finally in full fall bloom. They simply couldn’t get enough of it. It was like Ruffles® and onion dip at a backyard barbecue when you haven’t eaten chips in a month. I sat and counted, quickly, thirteen on two plants alone. Custer State Park is 1,050 miles from my house, yet B. and I were studying the same subjects during the same week, just on different canvases hanging in different museums. That’s the reality of life, really. The world is actually vastly similar. It’s the nuances, scattered here and there, that confuse us into believing that difference is the core of existence.
As I stood there, marveling at the frenzy swirling about me, I reflected, not on the butterflies, or the bees or the wasps diving in and back out again, but rather on how I came to possess my two, now towering, stands of Frostweed. They came from five or six small plant starts given to me by my friend S. It’s what I like to call “plant sharing.”
I come from an exceedingly long line of plant-sharing women. Honestly, though, I think women have been doing this from time immemorial. I’d be willing to bet that if Eve hadn’t gotten tangled up with that serpent, she would have been delivering cutting starts from the Tree of Life to all of her friends. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone in my family say, “Well that was Grandmother’s,” or, “I got those seeds from Aunt R.” or, “Well, you know, Mother brought those back from Louisiana.” And I can’t even begin to count the instances when I watched either my father, or my uncles or my grandfather load old soil-filled containers, brandishing sticks with a few stubby leaves, into the trunks of cars, shaking their heads all the while, and saying, “Now just what are THESE?” To which they always got the dismissive response, “Well, those are my PLANTS.” And the men just continued loading. Just this last spring, my poor Uncle D. and my husband J. had to do an exchange of Oxalis from his car to our car in the parking lot of Campisi’s Restaurant because my aunt had said, “Now these are for Mandy.” And now, thanks to her, AND to him, for that matter, I have Oxalis in my garden. Funny thing is, all of these men have stayed married to these women. So clearly something about this perpetual exchange process is one of the many ingredients tossed into the pot that miraculously makes the marriage soup delectable in the end. But I digress.
I had not even heard of Frostweed until a couple of years ago when S. brought some to the school butterfly garden where I volunteer. After one season, though, I was hooked. That October, I stood at the school and counted nine Monarchs dangling from its tall, white clusters. Not to mention the hundreds of bees and Hairstreaks, seemingly on fire, darting in and out. Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of Frostweed either. It’s a native plant that grows wild and isn’t something you will find at your run-of-the-mill garden center. In fact, it’s often hard to find at specialty nurseries. That’s why the concept of plant sharing is so critical to acquiring unique species, like this, in your own home garden.
But my generation doesn’t plant share. Heck, most of my generation doesn’t even plant. I’d like to change that. I’d like to make plant sharing en vogue again. I think I might even establish a hashtag (#plantsharenow), a call to action, so to speak, and use it on social media to create plant sharing awareness. LOL. I mean, why not? People are creating awareness about something every day, right? Being a good steward of this earth that’s been given to us is why J. and I do things like plant a 550 sq.ft. pollinator garden on the side of our house or tag Monarchs for release from our kitchen. Stewardship aside, though, it’s just nice. It’s nice to walk outside with a cup of coffee on a Friday morning, amidst swirls of colorful wings, loving the plants that you planted. And it’s just nice to realize that such a moment might not be happening, but for the share of a friend.
So, here’s to you S. You planted the start to a part of my amazing little piece of the world…guess it’s my turn to pay it forward and #plantsharenow.
All the best,