Every year in October the Houston Garden Society hosts a Bulb and Plant Mart. I’ve gone to each event since I retired from working full time. Last year was somewhat dreary because COVID-19 was raging, and so the gala consisted only of picking up pre-orders on a gray and rainy day. This year things were better. The sun was out. Many people were vaccinated. Cases of COVID-19 were down in Houston. Thus there was a green light for celebrating the event in all its usual glory.
The Houston Bulb and Plant Mart is one of my favorite days of the year. It has changed locales over time, but of late it has been held at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church. Vendors offer all sorts of plants known to do well in Houston’s gumbo soil and humid climate. They have entire areas of ferns of every variety and plants that attract butterflies. They feature native plants that grow and multiply naturally without any effort. There is one of the best selections of herbs that I have ever seen. Best of all are the many kinds of bulbs like daffodils, irises, ranunculus, and amaryllis.
I began purchasing amaryllis bulbs since ten years ago. They tend to be rather expensive, so I can only afford two or three a year. I have planted them along the fence line in my backyard and each spring they burst forth in all their glory. It literally makes me smile to think of how lovely they will be when March and April come around, no matter how cold it has been or how little or how much it has rained. They faithfully burst forth in blooms of red, pink, orange and white.
I’ve also enjoyed irises from the market that I plant in the wet areas of my yard. Most are native to Louisiana and they thrive in a shaded and damp environment. They are as regal when they bloom as orchids but they take little or no work on my part to grow. They also spread over time, so one plant can lead to a profusion of blooms.
I also have a penchant for ferns, as does my husband. My love of ferns began with a plant that a friend gave me when my second child was born. From that one gift I filled my backyard and many pots with a hardy fern that came from New Orleans. When I moved I did not think to dig up some of my beauties and bring them to my new home, but that same friend made a trip to New Orleans to get me some more. I now have two huge pots of the delicate fronds that will need to be divided next spring. I love those plants not just because they are so lovely, but also because they came from an act of kindness and thoughtfulness from mydear Linda.
This year at the Bulb and Plant Mart I purchased more amaryllis bulbs, three new kinds of fern, some more iris bulbs and a wonderful angel leaf begonia. I will be planting for days which is enchanting to me. I literally feel the serotonin of happiness pulsing through my brain whenever I am working among my plants. Plunging my hands in the soil to position my bulbs feels like heaven. Being one with the earth is a fabulous.
I’ve often thought of actually joining the Houston Garden Club, but I don’t have enough time to get all of my writing and teaching and sewing and gardening and traveling done as it is. I would have to give something up and right now I can’t think of what that might be. Still, I like the sort of people who hang around plants just as much as I do those who hike in the mountains or camp under the stars. I feel a kinship with them. Plants bring us together at least once every year in October. On that day nobody is a stranger and smiles abound even if they are hidden behind masks and only seen in the twinkling of eyes.
I joked with one of the ladies this year that I was becoming my grandmothers. Both of them spent time everyday puttering in their gardens. They kept rain barrels and created compost heaps to nurture their flowers and trees and vegetables. They wore rubber boots as they trudged around the yard with floppy hats protecting them from the sun. They were always so happy in their little Edens. I always loved seeing them there but I never dreamed that I would one day share their passion for growing things.
October warns me to prepare for winter. I clear a place in my garage to store my plumerias and my orchid plant. I watch the weather reports carefully so that I know when I must move all of my fragile potted plants inside the warmth of my kitchen. I have plant blankets to cover my citrus and my least cold hardy varieties. I care for my beauties the way I would a special pet.
The Bulb and Plant Mart reminds me to get ready for Old Man Winter and it is always as wonderful as usual. This year they even had a section housing a lovely kind of garage sale. There were wooden chests, table linens, wooden desk sets, crystal and china. As I have noted before I have so much of that sort of thing that I dared not bring anything else into my home, but I surely enjoyed window shopping and admiring what was there.
I’ll be back at the Plant and Bulb Mart again next year if all goes well. It’s one of those glorious events that, for me, are just as wonderful as Christmas and even better than Halloween.