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Gazing at the Newport plum tree in flower each spring reminds me of my friend who lugged it home for me in her “mommy van” because my car was too small. The tree was just a little stick, but no way could I have safely gotten it home in my sedan. Now it’s quadrupled in size and explodes with pink flowers and burgundy leaves in spring, and it brings happiness by blooming and by reminding me of a wonderful person and amazing mom I’m fortunate enough to call my friend.

Another wise friend gave me (as a birthday gift one year) a mossy brick from her own garden. As I removed the soggy damp wrapping paper from the weighty bundle, I must have almost squealed in delight at the brick. Not a normal reaction to a birthday brick, unless you’re a gardener and you love moss. The brick, with its moss intact, lives proudly in my Zen garden.

Seeing such plants and objects in the garden reminds me I can be surrounded by love, if I choose to be. We all can. It’s a matter of choice.

Choosing my husband was a stroke of brilliance, luck, and good timing, kind of like the best moments in the garden when you didn’t plan something spectacular and it turns out better than spectacular. When you get to have your chard and eat it too.

Many plant choices I’ve made were emotional, not botanical. I love hydrangeas so much. One of my first attempts to garden over twenty years ago in the deep South was cutting back a neglected woody hydrangea with no flowers. I don’t think I knew it was a hydrangea. It just looked dead. Next spring it bloomed with giant mop-heads of blue flowers right outside the living room where I did my drawing and painting. Hydrangeas, like many plants I favor, seem to give back more than you put into them.

That’s the way real friendships are: they feel like so much reward for so little effort. We get to choose our friends, unlike our families, and these choices provide an opportunity to opt for health or illness, balance or imbalance, joyousness or obligation. Looking around the garden I see a history of my choices, and I think they are mostly good.

Although it’s solitary work, you never feel alone in the garden, surrounded by so many living emblems of those you love. Who do you see when you look around your garden?

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