At this point the plants are like good friends I met because we happened to live in the same town. Rhododendrons actually grow all over the United States, but I found it strangely satisfying to learn that one breed in particular, the rhodedendron catawbiense, grows mainly in the southern Appalachian mountains where I live — and that a nearby area called Catawba was named after them (or vice versa). Boom.
Realistically, you don’t have to know a thing about the local flora to appreciate its beauty. But it helps dig your metaphorical roots even deeper when you do. When you know what grows here and what doesn’t. When you’ve identified native plants that have thrived in this soil for centuries. There’s a reason we call the process of settling in “putting down roots” or talk about “blooming where you’re planted.”
This summer, having just moved to a new neighborhood, I’m paying attention to when the dogwoods bloom in my yard, observing how quickly the wild violet runs rampant through the planting beds and how little it rains now that I’ve planted viburnum and want it to. I plant like it’s the Hunger Games — throwing a bunch of stuff in the ground together and seeing what survives. But my newfound gardening habit gives me more reason to pay attention to the sun, the rain, the temperature and everything else that makes me love it here.