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Mystery garden (05/30/2010)
By Sarah Squires
My experiences with flower gardening are not much to brag about. But if you came out to my new little abode planted next to Merrick State Park, you might think that there was at least a little color in my opposables.

In reality though, I have no idea what is going on in the flower beds that circle my little house and yard. This being our first spring here, Iím having a magical time discovering what is coming up, whatís blooming, in what Iíve begun to call my ďmystery garden.Ē

For most people, there might be a little mystery there, but not the full on Scooby Doo-style nut to crack itís been for me. As someone whose favorite flower for many years was simply the tiny violet soybean blossom that, while hard to notice and fleeting, stretched for miles in all directions in the western Minnesota plains I grew up in I can pick out the daisies from the daffodils, but thatís about it. I mean, even the first yellow tulip was something magic and worth singing about.

At the bottom of todayís front page is a little bit of what Iím talking about. Itís the first large bulbous flower that spread its little wings weeks ago, outside of the daffodils even I am familiar with. Itís a small, old-fashioned style iris, and itís brown. Who would have thought that a brown flower could outlook all the flashy pink and purple and yellow blossoms that usually take all the glory? Not me.

Now, weíve got dozens of the larger, more common yellow and purple irises in full bloom, cast against the flaming orange of what I believe is very poisonous bittersweet, but oh so beautiful. I recently discovered a second rosebush trying to make a comeback, tucked against the fence to our lot across the street. And ó hence the name ďmystery garden,Ē there are so many things blooming or beginning to bloom that are far outside my knowledge of flowers that I cannot begin to describe them all here. (I recently discovered what jack-in-the pulpits are, and I must at least brag a bit that I have several of these little hidden gems, too.)

But my favorite, above all else, is the smallest flower of all. And itís common, and even I know what it is. An entire side of the house is peppered with lily of the valley, their tiny upside-down bells enticing me and all the honeybees for miles with their beautiful aroma.

For me, itís one of those smells that reminds me of a whole era in my life. I must have been about nine, back when every little girl wasnít toting a makeup filled purse before she hit middle school. And my mom gave me permission for something oh so grownup: she let me wear one little squirt of lily of the valley scented perfume on my wrists.

It was called ďMuguet des Bois,Ē French for the flower, and I thought it was the most sophisticated, wonderful stuff the world had come up with. Just walking by a cluster of the blooms brings me back to those years, to a glass goblet filled with Door County cherry juice and a little girl who pretended to be a princess with each tiny sip and squirt of that smell.

These days, when I run outside first thing upon waking to see what has unfurled out in the garden, and when Iím digging around and trying to solve the mysteries, I wonder about all the love and hard work and years it must have taken to get it all planted years ago. I wonder how old the late Mrs. Braatzís children were when she planted this iris or that bush. But mostly, I just think about her, and thank her, for leaving a legacy of color and wonder and mystery for me to discover.



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