Dogwoods and Lenten Roses

As a child, I was taught that the wooden cross that held Christ was constructed from a dogwood tree. Its role in His crucifixion cursed the tree to where it would never again grow large and wide. However, the tree was also blessed for its role and produces cross shaped blooms that are indented to signify the nails that pierced Him. The center of each bloom holds what resembles a tiny crown of thorns.

I’d never seen a Lenten rose until a few weeks ago. These Lenten roses aren’t really roses at all. Instead, they are Hellebores—a perennial plant that gets its common name because it blooms during Lent. I found them rather interesting and picked up a few for a planting project. They are one of the few shade-loving perennials that remain evergreen and bloom during winter. They can be found in a variety of colors. Their leathery leaves are deer and rabbit resistant.

Lenten Rose

These plants won’t do much their first few years in the ground. They require time to establish their roots. But patience is key. Inconspicuous at first, they will eventually become the main attraction of any shade garden spreading out wide and producing an abundance of blooms. Similar to ivy, they sleep, creep, and eventually leap!

Most of us want all the beauty life has to offer now. Still, like Lenten Roses, we also require time to establish our roots and settle in where we are planted. Those milestone moments that are most cherished often take years and patience to attain.

Relationships take time to grow. Like Lenten Roses, most will require both sunny days and darker moments to evolve and survive. Things of great substance usually require much time to develop. I have found this to be true of great meals, fine wine, relationships, and definitely a great garden.

I used to dread Lent when I focused on what I chose to sacrifice at the time. I now embrace Lent realizing that the patience I must exhibit during this period works out things in me that really need to go. I no longer view it as a period of deprivation but rather a season of spiritual and mental growth. Patience is essential if we are to grow into our purpose and thrive. Waiting is often frustrating and uncomfortable. Thankfully, like Lent, our frustration eventually comes to an end.

Here’s to peace, patience, and reflection on this Good Friday.

Thanks for joining me in the garden.

Devotional prompts: John 19: 17-29, Matthew 16: 24-25

Hidden Potential

For the twenty years I’ve lived in my home, I assumed the trees in my backyard are some variety of maple based on the shape of the leaves and their brilliant fall color. Only recently did I realize that they are instead American sweetgum. This is rather amusing considering my yard is scattered with their brown spiny seedpods.

I noticed birds picking at the seedpods a few days ago. Apparently, they provide quite the buffet. That’s when I realized the seedpods were hanging from my maple imposters. All these years, I thought those brown balls were just wandering over from my neighbor’s yard.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I did a bit of research. First, I was perplexed when I found that you can purchase these same seedpods online. Pinterest has several uses for them. There is quite a demand for something I consider yard trash.

More importantly, I learned that the seeds found in these pods contain shikimic acid—one ingredient in the prescription antiviral Tamilfu. As a pharmacist, I find that fascinating. What I consider a nuisance is loaded with healing potential. The sap from this same tree is thought to have antiseptic and antifungal properties as well.

My newfound discovery makes me wonder what other things in life are right in front of me that I’ve underestimated and underappreciated. As creatures with our own prejudices, I think we often fail to see the hidden potential in things (and people) unless we are forced to. Some people readily see the positive in everything. Still, for most of us, it takes a bit of work.

Gardening has taught me that there is usually far more to everything than I can physically see. In these challenging times, let us seek to find the hidden potential in all of us.

Devotional prompt:  The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. Psalms 146:8 NKJV