GARDENERS like bees often experience profound chemical changes when the temperature approaches 80, and become rather pleasant.
It is so with me, certainly, and nothing in all the world is so fine as a May morning with the sun hot and the first roses on 'Old Blush' and 'Agnes' the iris stalks pushing out and the water lily pads firm enough for a moderate-sized frog to float on.
On this day three horrendous obligations faced me, which ordinarily would have set me on my Bluebeard course. But in the garden - even if only for an hour - nothing seemed more onerous than the grim task of chasing the hound back to the kitchen and picking four tumblers full of pansies for a friend who commanded them.
I have always admired the white lotus (Netlumbium grandiflora alba, as it is listed in the trade) but never grew it, so this year I ordered one which will arrive any moment from the aquatic specialist.
It must content itself, like Diogenes, with a tub, so last year I laid in a half-barrel formerly full of whisky, and filled it with water to age a few months and get the anti-lotus chemicals out.
But then I emptied it and filled it half full of the heavy clay loam (no peat, no leaf mould no sand, no fertilizer except a couple of handfuls of composted cow manure). The barrel dried out and of course leaked, so for the past three weeks I have been gradually persuading it to swell tight again by slopping water inside and outside.
The plain pink lotus of India (N. speciosum) is the lotus on which Buddha sits. Throne enough.
We had it for years in a former garden and nothing can be more beautiful. And when I was a boy - not all that long ago - the hot lakes of my country were full of the yellow lotus, which can take several years to settle down in a lily pool and bloom right, but which is magnificent in still water in the wild.
But you know how it is, if you have the pink and yellow you want the white, and if you have all three you want still a fourth.
The dogwoods this year have outdone themselves, though they owed us one, so to speak, for their niggardly performance last year. Azaleas can never have more florets than this year, and somehow the late freezes missed the irises and the botrytis blight missed the peonies (except for 'Chocolate Soldier' and the anciet 'Edulls Superba' which is foolproof ususally).
The fence repair people necessarily dealt some heavy strokes to 'Mme. Alfred Carriere,' that great ivory climbing rose, and in a nutshell I suffered a good bit in earlier weeks that the poor garden was looking even worse than usual.
But rightly do nations celebrate spring. There are moments everything takes care of itself. The bleeding heart has never had such long racemes; I measured one of mine in which the distance from the first heart to the last, on that branch, was 12 inches.
The grapes decided not to freeze, and 'Kassel,' that German red rose, decided not to die back, or not as much as usual, and the 'Marie' viburnum is blooming better than in the past two years, and the hollies I stupidly planted in December are leafing out very well, though I deserved for them to die.
Some uncommon clematis I thought I had lost have sprouted forth with vigor, among them 'Perle d'Azaleas', Sir Trevor Lawrence,' and the species or species hybrids called tenensis, venosa violacea, vedrariensts and viticella rubra. All treasures, and all alive.
The single-flowered kerria, which usually waits for the white and cerize azaleas to bloom before it bursts forth with its brassy yellow golf florins, producing a garish rather than rich effect, this year behaved itself and bloomed before them and is preparing for its second flush following them. Give that kerria a cigar.
It is endlessly troublesome to track down some plant - rare because nobody much wants it - and I feel like a squirrel in a peanut warehouse when I survey my small new plant of the Blush Noisette rose.
You finally find the plant you are looking for and order it with excitement. But then the delivery service has a strike while it is en route. Or else through confusion of labels they send the wrong thing. Or it arrives when you are (over your dead body) in some outlandish place far from home. Or a unique drop to 10 degrees occurs. Or we have Hurricane Agnes.
But the day comes when the right plant is actually ensconced and you are its proud possesor. All that remains now is for it to flourish to the extent of pulling down the chimney and you can point with pride to your priceless treasure so a friend can say:
"Oh, that. We had one till we got rid of it."
The gardener's life, to end on another positive note, is much improved when he finally says to hell with lettuce and gots it at the store, freeing himself from one more nuisance.