It's spring, really spring, when it's time for my annual Woodstock experience: the members' preview of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden plant sale. Every year, perennial-crazed garden wonks mob the gates before opening, with the well-equipped already toting conveyances and the hapless, like me, struggling to score a red wagon for our purchases. This year was as bad as ever, although the crowds waiting to pour into the Cherry Esplanade were orderly.
Why wouldn't we be, when we had to wait amid the Japanese peonies? This display gets more fantastical every spring; the tree peonies in a rainbow of shocking colors are starting to look more like anime flowers than real ones.
This year, I was oddly Zen about my purchases; I just wandered around one area and picked some stuff I liked, instead of fretting over plans for "winter interest," "succession of bloom," and other garden-magazine goals that I never achieve anyway. I craved a new variety of non-invasive bamboo, but it was $57 a pot; for that price, it should invade Iraq. I got cheaper bamboo, in the hopes it would invade the "back 40," where nothing grows anyway. Got my tomato and eggplant babies, although I have nowhere to plant them (their bed was annexed by raspberry bushes). In a triumph of hope over experience, I scored two delphiniums. And after years of yearning, I fell off the sustainable-rose wagon and bought another hybrid tea: Fragrant Cloud (oh, it is).
But really, it was all about slogging through the checkout and getting to the lilacs. The Child patiently accompanied me on this religious pilgrimage; I think she may be a convert. First, we decide which one to sniff first. Then we sniff lots more. We remark on the subtle variations in perfume. We nuzzle the clusters, remark on how edible they seem, like buttercream frosting. We take our glasses off to look at the individual flowerets. And finally, Child looks out for a guard while I lie on the grass underneath a bush and look up at the sky, completely filled with lilacs. Reassured of the existence of God, we go home, dragging our wagon full of hope.
But not before greedily sniffing the apple blossoms in the last rays of sun.