Again and again it goes…like clockwork. The creation of my annual herb pot garden. My personal Rite of Spring. During the cold and blustery March days, I diligently researched exactly what plants and herbs I wanted, although it was pretty much the same each year. Basil, tarragon, parsley, oregano. rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and always lavender for its fragrance. Then there would be flowers. Brilliantly vivid and sun-loving, as there was little shade on our deck.
The next step was to check for any potting soil leftover from the previous year. It was rare there was and we would add it to our shopping list. Also added was plant fertilizer. In late April, my husband and I would haul out all the miscellaneous pots and containers and place them on the deck. This was critical so I could envision what would go where. Once everything was gathered, the potting “ritual” was ready to launch.
Our traditional day for plant gathering was Mother’s Day, invariably cold and rainy. Off we would go, undaunted, in search of herbs and flowers. My spouse would trail behind, constantly reminding me that I mustn’t buy too many. “They always die because you don’t have time to water them, and when we go away, there’s no one to take care of them.” I would do what I always do, essentially ignoring him, buying exactly what I wanted. And he did what he always did. He paid the bill, without a grumble.
Depending on the weather, the plants often remained in their plastic homes for several days under a protected area on our deck. My spouse would lug the bags of soil from the garage to the deck so everything was in place for the “Big Plant,” as he called it. On a warm and sunny day in late May, I would dress in my planting clothes, jeans and a t-shirt that had seen many earlier planting days. I would plant, having to steal precious hours away from writing, and sometimes from making dinner, to accomplish the task. As I planted, I’d hear Simon and Garfinkle’s “Are You Going to Scarborough Fair” in my head, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” kept me company. It was a solitary job as my husband would disappear into the secret recesses of our home, only reappearing once the job was done. Armed with a garbage bag, a large broom and paper toweling, he was my clean-up “crew.”
And every year, as always, we would return from our summer vacation to find bedraggled, barely alive herbs and flowers. Until this year, when we didn’t go away. I still went out on my herb-gathering quest, masked and socially-distanced.
This year there were no admonitions about buying too much, for fear of not having enough time to tend to my deck garden, or leaving on vacation and abandoning my plants. My husband knew we both needed some things that were normal. Because, like those plants, we too, would be house bound. This summer my flowers stayed vibrant through September and the herbs remained bountiful until October. And as I harvested the last batch of herbs, I found myself humming, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.”