(originally published in Circa Review)
Evelyn Winthrop’s blue hair quavered over her long slender neck like a Scabiosa blossom in the late summer breeze as she gathered together the most vigorous members of The Newbury Garden Club. “What are we going to do about Regina’s garden?” she demanded. “The house has been sold and the new owners are liable to rip out her prized lilies and put in one of those hideous jungle gyms.”
Planting a riot of yellow and orange nasturtiums on Regina Moretti’s grave had not been sufficient for the ladies of the club. All summer, they had dodged a swarm of real estate agents to kneel in Regina’s herbaceous border and mourn their friend as they weeded.
“It’ll kill Regina to have little feet trampling her neat beds,” Miranda Roberson sighed. The assembled faces turned to Evelyn to gauge their reaction to Miranda’s blunder.
Evelyn had been the one to find Regina’s body that awful March day. A massive stroke had felled the plantswoman into a bed of Winter Aconite poking their sunny yellow faces through the snow. By the time Evelyn arrived, a fresh layer of snowflakes glittered Regina’s eyelashes, a pale blue slick of frozen milk ran across the brick path and the Japanese Iris Regina bought for the luncheon table had succumbed to the frigid air. When the authorities came to retrieve the body, Evelyn was sitting on the steps repeating, “The car is still running in the driveway. She was coming back for the bags.”
Evelyn shook her tight curls as if to shake the memory of Regina’s cold body out of her head. “Yes, Miranda dear, Regina would have been quite put out,” she said with a shadow of a smile. “So, what are we going to do?”
That afternoon, the women reconvened wearing their muck boots and gardening gloves. “Okay ladies,” Evelyn said as she dropped a pile of black plastic pots in the center of Regina’s yard. She looked up at the black clouds rolling in from the West. “We don’t have much time. Everyone choose one special plant and say what it means to you.” Evelyn brushed a tear from her lashes. “I’ll begin. I’m taking the Winter Aconite out front because it was blooming when she died.”
“I’ll take the Julia Child Rose because she always put its blooms in her guest bath,” Miranda said.
“I’ll take the peach Tree Peony because she taught me how to protect them from frost,” another member said as she grabbed a pot.
“I want the Rosa Rugosa by the walkway, just because it’s beautiful,” another whispered as she pulled on her rubberized gardening gloves. The ladies each gleaned their selection then, without any discussion, divvied up all of Regina’s prize-winning lilies.
The next summer, the new owners installed a pool in the yard, and the town was resplendent with lilies.