A Crepe Myrtle from Elk Fork, Morgan County, Kentucky

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I went to Lowe’s to see if they were stocking flats of pansies yet. I returned home with only furnace filters and light bulbs, shaking my head over my own foolishness – led astray by the erratic weather patterns in the Bluegrass.

A pot of pansies I got at Michler’s last week.

I know it’s too early – but everything is too early this year, with all of my spring blooming shrubs budding out, and my jonquils about to bloom. And I am itching to be doing more and more in the garden, to take advantage of these freakishly warm days – and planting up pots of happy pansies sounds much more appealing than tending to all of the tasks I neglected last fall.

It was while taking stock of all these clean-up items in the back yard that I noticed I was about to fall over my little crepe myrtle, and in considering this small addition to the garden, my impatience for spring waned. For sometimes, it’s not the doing that makes gardening worthwhile, but the not doing – the quiet contemplation, and the joy of unexpected discovery.

The crepe myrtle, as it was filling out last spring.

In the fall of September 2015, I was working on a project in the Eastern Kentucky county of Morgan. I drove through spitting rain most of the day, peering through a misty windshield and at my maps to figure out if I was in the right place at all.

A farmstead nestled against the base of a hill, over a creek, with flat bottom land spread out in front of it like a quilt for a picnic. Two dogs ran up to greet me as I emerged from the car – one large, with a laconically wagging tail, and one small, all shrill barks and stiffened spine.

The beauty of this site went far beyond the late-19th century dwelling.

No one emerged from the house to investigate the small dog’s greeting campaign, and after knocking on both front and back doors (keeping a cautious eye on the wee barker),  I prepared to leave. I was back in the car when the homeowner came around the side of the house, and after I explained my purpose in disturbing the canines’ naps, she invited me to take a seat on the porch.

Gorgeous late fall asters bloomed in the front yard.

We sat there the better part of an hour, falling into easy conversation about our lives, history, and gardening. Her daughter lived near Chicago, and her husband had died, and she remained on this farm where her father had been a little boy. It was raining a bit harder, so the interruption was welcome, and the conversation even more so. After a while, the rain let up, and we walked around her garden.

The meathouse around the back of the house.

Grapevines, rows and rows of vegetables, zinnias by the hundreds, and every shrub I could imagine – including some amazingly large and enchanting crepe myrtles. When I exclaimed over them, she pointed out some volunteers from the main trees, and asked me to take one home with me. The rain-softened earth yielded up a small stem with plenty of roots, which we wrapped in damp paper towels, and then in a plastic bag. I didn’t hold out much hope for it making it through the fall and winter – transplants are sometimes fickle. But I planted it when I returned home, and waited to see what would transpire.

Last spring, it leafed out, and grew. This spring will be the real test, but even if the crepe myrtle doesn’t make it, I will always remember that time spent on the porch on a rainy September day. And that is more precious than any blooms.


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  1. Annie Jaech says:

    How refreshing to see Kentucky in bloom! I’ve taken awhile to sit and daydream and that’s appreciated! I love to breathe over the tender starts of plants and have good results much of the time. One thing you must do for your crepe myrtle. Give her a fine name; use it often. (I don’t mean fine in an epic sense, like Calliope 🙂

    The late Kurt Vonnegut was/is a great favorite. He held that in habitable parts of our country there are actually SIX seasons:
    1, Jan & Feb – Winter
    2. Mar & Apr – Unlocking
    3. May & Jun – Spring
    4. Jul & Aug – Summer
    5. Sept & Oct – Autumn
    6. Nov & Dec – Locking
    Here in the mid-west this is so appropriate. He’s correct. I wish everyone, high and low, a tender and sweet season of Unlocking.


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