Earlier today I pulled the car out of the garage to take it for a wee spin on a mid-December morning that felt more like mid-February. I warmed up the car, then remembered that wonderful heated seat gizmo (ahhh – bliss), while watching shadows of the curls of smoke escaping the nearby chimneys.
Soon, I was mesmerized by a dozen or so sparrows which were flying around aimlessly in the front garden. They alighted on one bush, then another … all of a sudden, en masse, they gravitated over to the wall and began clinging to the bricks. Well … what in the world?
I sat there, transfixed on those birds, as I waited for their next course of action, but they just stayed there, hanging onto the rough surface of the brick.
Before I pulled out of the driveway, I made a mental note to myself to Google “why do sparrows cling to outside bricks?” Hours later … what do you know … ask and ye shall receive – small birds glom onto the brick to nibble on the grit from the mortar to aid in their digestion. Yup, several sites said that, and now I know why tuck pointing is an ever-present Fall chore. I’ve always blamed the crumbling mortar on the age of the house.
While I was in the driveway warming the buggy and myself, I was also checking out the front garden. I was pleased to see my holly is almost as tall and full as it was before Polar Vortex #1 that occurred in January and February 2014. You may recall I wrote that when I went out to do Spring clean-up that year, I lost several bushes, among them my beautiful butterfly bushes, all considered hardy to Zone 5. Because it was nearly thirty years old, the holly’s roots were massive, and the hole it would leave in the front garden would have altered the entire landscape. So, in a desperate measure to revive it, I poured the contents of several bags of Holly Tone through the bush and onto the ground, watered it and crossed my fingers.
But, nothing transpired, so, just as I figured, it was a futile attempt. Several times during the Summer of 2014, I peered at this pitiful imitation of what had actually began as a pair of holly bushes: “Blue Boy” and “Blue Girl”. Believe it or not, to get those beautiful red berries, you need to have a male and female holly for pollination to transpire and red berries will eventually occur, but only on the female holly. Those two small bushes, planted way back in 1985, eventually merged into one large bush through the years, towering over the compact evergreen bushes. The pointy leaves were a dark, shiny green, and, I was patient, until finally the female holly bush bore bright red berries, which gave the front garden a festive flair in the middle of the humdrum Winter landscape.
Back in my youthful, and more creative days, I used to take sprigs of holly and sprays of Mugo pine to fill two ceramic snowmen mugs. I buried mushy floral foam in the base of the mugs, added the greenery, plus a few stems of red and white carnations from the florist, and, for a flourish, I poked a candy cane or two into each mug. Voila! We had a holiday ornament for home and work, making for “A Holly Jolly Christmas”, just as Burl Ives crooned in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
In 2015, following Polar Vortex #2, there still was no sign of life in my holly, so I took a saw, and, though it cut me to the quick, I lopped it nearly down to the ground. The roots were huge and I figured, I’d deal with that another time. I cringed when I saw the results of my handiwork with the saw, but what else could I do?
But, on a hunch that I might still possess a green thumb like back in the day, occasionally I parted the barberries and peered into the garden at this abomination. Within a few weeks, a few tiny pale green tendrils poked out of one gnarly branch. There was a glimmer of hope that I had started something. I hurried to Meijer to buy more Holly Tone, heaping it on in big scoops to nudge this work-in-process project along. I inspected that resurrected holly bush weekly during the Summer of 2015, and, slowly, but surely, shoots came alone, then slim and supple stems appeared, accompanied by shiny leaves filling out the bush and making it look presentable. Those branches grew, reaching toward the sky, growing sturdier by the day.
Today, it is no mere shadow of itself, but a viable holly bush, albeit minus those prized red berries. You see – I don’t know if the male or female holly … or both … survived. But, I admire its/their tenacity, and I’ll give it a few more years to bear berries, because, as we all know – good things come to those who wait.
[Image by J. Monter on Pixabay]