Ready to Pop!

Apr 27, 2012 | 2 comments

Jean Maries

     It won’t be long now!  Within the next few weeks, the rhododendrons alongside our house and lining our eastern fence will burst into bloom.  Deep red Jean Maries – always just in time for my father’s birthday on May 12th.  He planted them forty years ago and reveled in their blossoms each spring for the rest of his life.
      The time of their blooming is always a tad bittersweet for me.  Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer toward the end of May in 1991, just as the Jean Maries had finished their brilliant bloom in celebration of his 82nd birthday.  We stood out in the garden on that day and we both lamented that the lovely blossoms don’t last longer.
     Not only the Jean Maries, but our entire garden is a legacy left by my dad.  He truly enjoyed his garden over the years, no matter where we lived.  Always, there were roses and dahlias.  Only during the Second World War were there vegetables – a Victory Garden.  But it wasn’t until he and my mother retired and came to Oysterville that he began his love affair with rhodies.
     A few years ago, I counted the individual rhododendron plants in our garden.  One hundred and ninety-nine!!  I’m not sure how many separate varieties there are; certainly enough so that some are in bloom almost every month of the year.  But it’s the Jean Maries that make the biggest splash.
     My father “inherited” his gardening gene from his mother, or so he always said.  She and my Grandfather Little lived in Boston and the only time I visited their lovely home was in December 1947.  Our visit coincided with a big blizzard and left me with fabulous memories of walking along snowy roads and across frozen ponds.  But I didn’t get any sense of my grandmother’s gardening skills.
     If I have a gardening gene, it must be the armchair variety.  I’m long on appreciation but I am not crazy about digging in the dirt.  I’m far more likely to be overwhelmed by the weeds than to be spurred on by visions of beautiful flowers.  I’m sure it’s a version of that half-empty-or-half-full syndrome.
     But, for the next few weeks, my thoughts will be about the color and drama and beauty of the Jean Maries; about the transitory nature of our lives; and about the tangible and intangible legacies we leave behind us.  And I’ll be thanking my dad.     


  1. Jean Stamper

    It was with regret we left Oysterville on Wednesday after spending five days up there because the big jeanmarie beside our cabin door is just beginning to bloom. We will have to hurry back so we don’t miss it. Dad and Mom alwayse loved the rhodies too!

  2. Kathleen Shaw

    Somehow the rhodies on the peninsula are always the most beautiful, maybe because of the humidity or something, I don’t know. I’ll be down in about a week, and I look forward to seeing all of those May beauties–including those in Oysterville.


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