After washing the breakfast dishes, Miriam finished sipping her second cup of English Breakfast tea and headed outside to her garden with an anxious heart. After working so hard to create a magnificent display of fall annuals early last week, she had been dismayed when the Atlanta weather forecast had turned to rain, rain, and more rain. Added to all that rain, the area had suffered a sudden and violent storm the night before that was so powerful, it caused trees to fall on houses and damage power lines. Quite a few of her neighbors had flood damage in their basements, at least according to the e-mail circulated by her Sunday School class.
So while she knew she had much to be thankful for since she and Richard had suffered none of those calamities, she was still worried about her flowers and plants. Her Camellia sinensis bush had been struggling for weeks now, and she feared the storms might have finished it off for good. She hoped not.
Miriam slipped on her Crocs, the old blue gardening clogs she loved but that Richard had always said were “as ugly as homemade sin.” She stepped outside and onto the back patio, trash bag in hand, fully prepared to find a hot mess awaiting her in the patio garden.
Instead, she was surprised to find that her annuals had fared pretty well. One of the new container gardens she’d planted had gotten knocked over in the storm, and the clay pot broke, but the plants themselves had landed right side up and still looked sturdy. Miriam smiled as she realized that a broken pot didn’t bother her nearly as much as a broken plant. In the raised flower beds near the patio, she had planted masses of mums in gold and yellow hues. She actually preferred the pink and mauve ones, yet she somehow believed that fall mums should echo the fall colors. This year, she’d also included a few bright orange marigolds in her garden plan. The marigolds wouldn’t make it past the first freeze, but in the South, that could be a while.
Her one concession to a non-gold color was the purple asters. They were just as hardy as the mums, but Miriam knew they didn’t like to be wet. She’d have to watch them to see whether they recovered from all the rain.
Miriam started to scoop up the broken pieces of the clay pot. She would break them into smaller pieces and recycle them, using them next spring to help with drainage in the bottom of new pots. She was halfway through cleaning up the broken pot when she glanced several yards away and saw something white bobbing in the wind near that Camellia sinensis bush she’d probably lost. Who knew what might have blown over into the yard in last night’s storm.
Curious, Miriam stopped what she was doing and walked over to her beloved tea plant. To her astonishment, one perfect white blossom was there, so obviously, the plant wasn’t dead after all.
Miriam stopped to finger the soft petals. The small white blossom reminded her of the Cherokee Rose, Georgia’s state flower. Why on earth had her Camellia sinensis decided to blossom in such awful weather? But then Miriam remembered that she’d been out of town on a girlfriend getaway when the rain started, so the plant could have blossomed while she was still gone. And the last few times she’d been working in the garden, she was focused on the patio area and probably hadn’t even looked at the tea plant. At any rate, that single blossom was quite lovely, she thought.
Back at the patio, Miriam finished cleaning up the spills from the storm and repotted the fallen plants. She kept an extra bag of potting soil on hand, and she always had a spare clay pot for container gardening, too. She’d received so many passalong plants from friends over the years, Miriam knew it was wise to keep pots and soil on hand for those unexpected garden treasures that came her way.
Her Camellia sinensis, in fact, was a gift from a friend who bought it for her on a trip to North Carolina. A garden center there had the plants for sale, and Lynn had told Miriam that she had no idea whether the plant would thrive in Georgia, but since Miriam was such a tea lover, it seemed appropriate that she grow her own tea plant.
With a fine film of mist and dirt covering her hands and feet, Miriam went inside and took a quick shower. Her afternoon included, of all things, a planning meeting for her church’s Christmas Tea. Christmas planning, already? Miriam sighed. She knew it wasn’t too soon to start, although she would never be one of those women who had all her Christmas gifts purchased by July and wrapped by August.
Before she got busy with the rest of her day, Miriam decided to have a cup of Darjeeling, another of her favorite teas. She looked at the package and saw that it said, “Garden-fresh tea, straight from our tea gardens in Darjeeling.”
Garden-fresh? No. Those tea leaves growing in her backyard, they were garden fresh. And to her great delight, despite the storm, they stood.