Monday, May 07, 2007
Last weekend was our son's bar mitzvah (lots of family in town, proud grandparents — and parents, a great time had by all). We shared the day with our former next-door-neighbors, whose daughter was our son's bnei mitzvah partner. Malka — the mom — and I became gardeners together. We both started gardens of mostly native plants about the same time, more than ten years ago. Over the years the gardens between our two houses merged into one. We shared and swapped plants and seeds and advice with each other.
Then a couple of years ago, Malka and her family moved about 20 minutes away and we haven't seen nearly as much of them since. But before they moved we made a plan for our son and their daughter to have their bar and bat mitzvahs together. When we moved into this house, our son was six months old and their second daughter was a few weeks old so the two of them grew up together. When they proposed that the kids share their bnei mitzvah day, we agreed immediately.
The day's events included a luncheon following the bnei mitzvah service. Malka and I talked about centerpieces for the 20 tables and I told her how much I had admired their decision to use small, one-gallon native trees as centerpieces at their older daughter's bat mitzvah luncheon several years ago. Guests were encouraged to take the trees home and we still treasure a Texas mountain laurel from that occasion. For various reasons the tree idea wasn't feasible this time around so we decided to go for flowering perennials.
Malka and I met at Barton Springs Nursery week before last and pondered the possibilities. We wanted to keep it to $5 per plant which meant we needed sale items. We also wanted flowers so we looked for plants that were either budded out or already flowering. We ended up with various salvias — red salvia greggii, some kind of pink salvia (greggii-like, but I don't think that's what it was), salvia "Indigo Spires" and salvia leucantha/Mexican bush sage. We also got fleabane, Chrysanthemum pacificum, and bamboo muhly.
As we wandered through the nursery, enjoying the chatting about plants that we haven't done together in two or three years, Malka suddenly said, Oh, I have a great idea. Instead of getting flower arrangements for the front of the sanctuary, let's get some kind of small flowering trees. So we wandered some more, looking for something in bloom. We narrowed it down to mock orange or Barbados cherry and ended up with two of the cherry trees, covered in small pink flowers.
At the end of the afternoon we lingered beside Malka's car after we had loaded the plants. Our children brought us together in the first place — years back and forth from one house to the other, sitting together under the magnolia that shades both our houses while the kids played incomprehensible games up and down the front yards. And now it was our kids that had brought us back together again. But just as our gardens sealed our friendship years ago, I know that one of my fondest memories of this bnei mitzvah celebration will be that hour wandering together through the garden store.
Malka kept the plants at her house for a week, watering them and protecting them from the winds and lashing rain of last week's thunderstorms. Last Thursday we met to wrap the black plastic pots in layers of colorful tissue paper and shiny mylar. We trimmed back some broken branches and spent bloom stalks and then set the decorated plants out and admired our handiwork.
During the luncheon on Saturday, as I wandered from table to table, chatting with the friends who had come to celebrate with us, people kept asking, Is it true we can pick a plant and take it home? When I told them that was the plan, they had questions. Would this one do well in shade? What about this one in a pot? I watched people make their choices, make trades to get a plant they liked the looks of better. Several friends came up and said, Look what I got. This is going to be lovely in my garden. I have just the spot for it. Many of these friends have gardens I know and imagining the plants growing in them was an added pleasure on an already extraordinary day.
I had my eye on one of the bamboo muhlys, which I staked a claim to early, and we also brought home one of the Barbados cherry trees. I have a spot in mind for the muhly but I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the tree. It may have to live in a pot for a while but I know eventually I'll find the perfect spot and then every year when it blooms it will remind me of this lovely weekend with our beautiful son and our family and friends all around us. And maybe I'll visit some of those other gardens and see the party plants growing and — I hope — thriving there as well.