The Bloomin’ Bulbs Competition
Spring. The time of blooming bulbs and happy thoughts. And the annual competition with Les. He has been my good friend for many years. Several of the plants in my garden were gifts from Les and his wife Sandra. But in early spring, we’re garden rivals locked in a fierce battle. Who will win The Bloomin’ Bulbs Competition this year? Who’ll be the first to enjoy butter-yellow daffodils, their trumpets waving in the spring breeze? Blue scilla, tiny flowerheads nodding at the ground below. Hyacinths, in white, blue and pink, their fragrance sweet on the air. And tulips, of course, in so many cheerful colours. Who will be the first? It’s our gardening equivalent of the Stanley Cup. The Super Bowl. The Olympics. All rolled into one. Les lives in downtown Toronto, where Lady Spring tends to put in her first appearance. If he wins the competition, I will bitterly complain that the temperature difference gave him an unfair edge. If pushed – but only if – I will admit that there are indeed a few mitigating factors. Though the temperature is warmer in Les’s part of town, his garden is several feet from the house, so gets no warmth or protection from it. Also, it’s partly shadowed by trees, so never gets a full day of sun. My bulbs, on the other hand, get full sun and are planted close to the house, giving them both warmth and protection even though our home is northeast of the city. All of that makes it a fair fight. But I only mention that fact when I win. When I lose, I cry foul.
Patience is a Virtue
This competition is serious business. A spring garden competition is no place for sissies. And so, every spring morning I wake with the birds, anxious to get out into the garden. Down the stairs and out the side door, eager to see if anything is blooming. The first several days are always a disappointment. The flower heads of daffodils get fatter, but there isn’t even a hint of colour. I head over to the back garden, check a patch of crocuses. Crocus is normally the first to bloom. Nothing yet. A day later, Les phones to announce that he has snowdrops blooming. I’m devastated. "Snowdrops!" I splutter. "You never admitted to having snowdrops. In fact, how do I know if that’s true? I need photographic proof!" "Not to worry," Les replies. "Snowdrops are winter flowers so, technically, they don’t count. Ours is a spring blooms competition." "Hmmph," I reply, mollified. "Okay then. Snowdrops are winter flowers. Good to know." "Have a good day," Les says cheerfully and hangs up. I regard this exchange as a splendid example of decency, integrity and honour. The next day, I notice that the daffodil heads are showing a bit of yellow. This sets my heart a-flutter. But closer inspection reveals that this isn’t the full-blown yellow of a daffodil in bloom, but a kind of chartreuse – a greenish-yellow – meaning that the flower isn’t quite ready to bloom. For a very brief moment, I wonder what would happen if I use a hair dryer to warm the plants’ roots. I’m tempted. Lord, how I’m tempted! But that would be cheating. And I won’t lower my standards. Instead, I urge the daffodils "Hurry up! Hurry up!"
There’s a message and an attachment. I have a premonition. I open the attachment first, and see daffodils and scilla and tulips in yellows, pinks, reds and blues blooming in Les’s garden. It’s a veritable riot of colour. I want to cry. Then, I read the message. "So sorry about this, chaps, but we are awash in spring blooms." There’s no question. Les has won The Bloomin’ Bulbs Competition. I’m humiliated. I must now graciously concede defeat. It’s the decent, honourable thing to do. But just as I’m about to send a surrender message, something in the picture catches my eye. "Are those…? No, they couldn’t be." I look closer, enlarge part of the picture. "Have a look at the photo Les sent us!" I holler to my husband, who’s working on a script just a few feet from me. He looks at the computer screen. "It’s really beautiful." He tries to cheer me up. "Guess this is what happens when you have a garden downtown." "No. No. Take a closer look. What’s wrong with this picture?" He leans in, stares at the photo, pauses. He shakes his head, roars with laughter. "I don’t believe it." There’s a look of open admiration in his eyes. Not for my detective skills, but for Les's clever, mischievous deceit.
Win, Lose or Draw
Les answers the phone on the first ring. It’s as if he’s been sitting there, just waiting for my call. "Good morning, Cynthia", he says innocently. "I guess you got my photograph. Ready to concede defeat?" "I nearly did," I reply. "You had me fooled for