Dark pink and lavender clematis grow along my back fence, blooming every May. Last fall I wrapped the base with several twists of a soaker hose and plan on using Aqua Cones to deliver worm compost tea this summer.
Still in my work clothes, I stand silently against the fence, the pruners quick in my hands, my feet careful of the daffodils. The vine clings to the wire fence lining, its dried tendrils like earthen seaweed, sinuous in a wave of slow green and pale yellow. Memories roll to the surface as I navigate the clematis stems from dessicated tips to joints cracked and swollen with life. New stems burst from the ground, and climb not vertically but sideways, circling the wires and doubling back on old wood. Running my fingers along the older stems, they crackle and peel away, bending as I prune and guide them, newly shorn, through the fence. A smooth inner heart lies exposed and fresh, almost a pulse in my hand. The pale green heart bends while the outer shell breaks and I catch my breath and stop.
Planted on a dry slope, the pink clematis should not be alive. Competing for water with trees and a mass of perennials, it should have died years ago, a victim of ignorance and poor planning. But with spring rain it's own cycle continues and I am given a gift I have done nothing to deserve. Carefully pruning last years tendrils from the fence I wonder if I am as resiliant and forgiving as my garden. At what point does one bend instead of break? Sometimes there is too much thought in my garden, memories and ideas churning and crashing like surf. I slide the pruners into my pocket and head back into the house, counseled by a clematis.
I redesigned this section of the garden last fall. Originally sunny and moist, this spot is now dry and shady thanks to a very huge and happy Rose of Sharon. The clematis was almost dormant by mid-July. Last fall I dug the clematis up, plopped it in a pot until I could figure out where to put it, and after a few days of sun and rain, new shoots were bursting from the base. It spent the winter in a large pot and has been transplanted to the fence near the Certified Wildlife Habitat sign that's pictured on the right, at the top of the blog. I cut back the Painter's Palette to make room.