Indoor gardeners are a hopeful bunch. We keep the blossoms and greenery of our favorite house plants alive and lovely. Whatever the season, they bring color, texture, and freshness to the home or office. A common spider plant, philodendron, or orchid never ceases to surprise a humble gardener with their resilience, even when watering is neglected or it is left on a drafty window sill.
In the last frosty weeks of winter, my hands are longing for the feel of dirt. This is when I force spring bulbs. In the fall I buy a variety that I store in a cool spot until March, then I plant them in small decorative pots. Hyacinths are easy to force in soil or water, and within a few weeks, a fragrant, long-lasting bloom sweetens the air. I also start a mix of daffodils in larger pots that will go on the porch to be activated by the bright vernal light, once the nights warm. Forcing bulbs is a heartening ritual that brings strength to my bones and a feeling of being rooted and ready for a new season of growth.
When an indoor gardener also cultivates outdoors we can experiment, especially with bulbs. Years ago, I had a lovely white Easter Lily, a spring indoor plant in northern zones, which I enjoyed through the summer until it went into a natural dormant state in the fall. At that point, the flowers were long gone and the spindly stems and leaves were decaying, but like most hardy lilies, the rhizomes and roots were alive. The ever-optimistic and intuitive gardener, I decided to plant it outside, deep in the soil like other perennials, and see if it would propagate. After a snowy Maine winter, I cleaned my gardens and loosened the soil to awaken the growing season. Among the first green nubs to rise up was that lily.
The persistence and beauty of the white lily continued to amaze me for nearly a decade, spreading with vigor until the small garden bed was too crowded with more invasive specimens. It just disappeared so I thought it had died from neglect, until last year, when I was digging and weeding and lo and behold, I came upon the bright white rhizome of that lily with a tiny bit of root. That was all it needed. Fast forward the story, I planted it in a pot and kept it on my porch where I could nurture it. A tall skinny lily with no blossoms grew and quickly wilted by late summer. I decided to overwinter it, believing that would be good for the decorative pot more than in the survival of the plant, yet, I remained curious.
Lo and behold, in my recent spring bulb-forcing ritual, I took what seemed to be the dead lily plant in my hands and could feel it awakening with the gentle rustling of my motion, like nudging a napping baby. I freed it from the soil to find a healthy root ball and the single white rhizome I’d planted was now two. White and pure, like twin lotus flowers, they were intertwined in a root cluster that reminded me to believe in my ability to create and all that I have created is rooted and ready to grow with my love and care. The white lily is growing, and with my faith, it will rise up to bloom just in time for Easter. From roots to shoots to full flower, all we need is good compost with a little cultivation and nurture and a lot of passion, and to find our place in the sun where we can flourish.