Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful

IMG_7805Isn’t she lovely? She and her sister blooms stop me in my tracks every day, in sheer admiration.

They look so out of place, these lush tropical-looking beauties. How does something this extravagant, this opulent, this voluptuous dare grow in Zone 4, in upstate New York, a few miles from Canada?

I don’t even remember where the plant came from but my guess is that my husband brought it home from the deep-discount rack at the big box hardware and garden center. He regularly brings home nearly-dead plants—waterlogged marigolds, root-bound daisies, dry-as-dust coleuses. Some we save, some are already dead and just don’t know it yet.

The hibiscus lived! It bloomed last summer and then looked really, really dead after our long, nasty, icy winter.

But like a colorful, vibrant phoenix, rising from ice instead of ashes, it came back.

I have to admit, as pretty as they are, I’m not entirely comfortable with the hibiscus blooms.

They’re so . . . showy.IMG_7745

They make me think of those girls and women I’ve known who love attention and love to show off their amazing looks. The ones who wear the low-cut tops over their fabulous figures and lots of make-up. They pluck their eyebrows all the time, and do their nails, and always look perfectly turned out for every occasion. They’re even pretty when they cry. I’ve always been suspicious (and envious!) of that.

I feel more comfortable with the geraniums and hostas in my little garden. Like me, they’re more traditional and homey. The hostas, in particular, are happy in the shade and don’t really need people focusing too much attention on them. That’s how I feel, too. I am uncomfortable with bright colors and with looking like I’m trying too hard.

I can relate to the hostas!

The only thing that reassures me about the flashy hibiscus is how short-lived its gaudy blooms are. One day, they’re all done up in total perfection—seductive and impossible to ignore. But the next day, each bloom has drooped and faded. Their petals look like a skirt that’s lost its starch or maybe a bouffant hair-do that’s come undone. Maybe they simply had too much fun on their one-day-long coming-out party and have a wicked, final hangover.

I tell myself that we, the hostas and I, hold up better in the long term. We’re not drop-dead gorgeous but we are sturdy and constant and slow to fade. The garden needs us.

In fact, I realize, my garden is big enough for, and benefits from, all of us—the stately and the understated, the hot and the cool, the extroverts and the introverts. I’ve also learned, across the years, that the prettiest can be the pleasantest, the flashy exterior can contain an interior of integrity and strength. After all, the hibiscus plant can withstand temperatures well below freezing and come back strong, even if its blooms don’t last for long.

So, I’m rethinking my anti-hibiscus prejudices and committing myself to a more open-minded garden policy. Bring on the showy and flashy, those that live fast and fade soon. We welcome you and your vibrancy to our understated world.

We balance, and complete, each other.IMG_7744

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44 thoughts on “Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful

  1. I’m sure all those half dead plants that your husband brings home appreciate all your efforts to resuscitate them. The hibiscus is gorgeous! It’s amazing it survived that miserable winter.

    • I knew the hibiscus had the potential to make it thru the winter because I can remember seeing them thriving when we lived in Buffalo. But I’m still surprised it’s working for us–we’re sort of latecomers to the gardening party and we often plant things that are not at all happy. I only blog about the successes!

    • I haven’t had trouble with coleus but we kill lots of stuff. And I only show you the amazing bits of our garden–maybe someday I’ll do a blog post about all the other parts! 😉

      • I agree. My DIL, and her sis, have had these trees for several years. They are in large pots and they move them outdoors for the summer so they can enjoy the blooms even when there is snow on the ground!!!!!

  2. while hanging out in the District, we had lunch outside of the botanic garden….there was a hibiscus the size of a dinner plate! It was beautiful! Yours is beautiful too!

  3. I’m sure I would enjoy time in your garden, with sun playing through boughs overhead. I like your description of the hostas. This year I’ve articulated my goal for health, mental and physical, to be “sturdy and flexible.”

  4. beautifully written. I too, prefer the hosta. For years my garden was various shades of green and pale, occasionally a bright and beautiful individual would arrive shouting “look at me”, I frequently sent it packing, in later years I’ve learned to be more forgiving

  5. Them’s deeply philosophical thoughts there Kerry! I suspect the hibiscus has a secret plan to take over the world – making themselves agreeable to nearly all zones in the garden and where it proves impossible happily blooming in a pot inside. They may be showy and flashy but appear to be smart too. I’ve always been highly suspicious of them! Personally, I’m a white daisy girl!

    • Yup, deep and philosophical–that’s me. 😉 Right behind my back, when i was taking the pix of the hibiscus, I have Shasta daisies! They are past peak for this year but so sweet. Yes, I can see you as a daisy.

  6. Beauty… If it is on the outside it all fades fast … As in a hibiscus swiftly ~ coneflower a little longer , the inside beauty lasts the longest. Some people are so beautiful on the inside that the faded beauty isn’t even noticed. I love all flowers even the humble dandelion. Enjoyed the post!

    • I’m not much of one for pink but this deep raspberry color makes me smile. I used to only plant red and orange and yellow flowers but, over the years, other colors have crept in. Nothing clashes in nature!

      • I have just one or two spots of light pink, but like you tend to plant other colors. In my case lots of purple, yellow and white. As you’ve eloquently stated, nature doesn’t clash.

    • I don’t the answer to this! We don’t have deer problems, although I’m not sure why we don’t. Hibiscus is related to Rose of Sharon–do deer eat those?

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