High school is like a garden

Last night, I attended my high school reunion. It was not the festive party with hugs and handshakes for which we had all hoped. This year, we met online. Nevertheless, as old friends do, we shared stories and laughter and toasted to those we missed, all through a video screen.

Early this morning as I was watering and weeding, thinking about my classmates and their stories, I realized high school is much like a garden.

The first year is a blending of neighborhoods, rivals and old friends, all learning to get along and form a new unified team filled with spirit. Isn’t this like building a garden?

We gather plants from the garden center, a friend or catalog then toss it all together and expect the plants to grow and bloom.

As my class reminisced about favorite teachers and beloved principals and how under their guidance we began to flourish, I am reminded that this is also true for plants. A gardener gives each plant attention and the right conditions so the plants will begin to grow and thrive.

High school is where we begin to find our people. Drama geeks, jocks, science nerds and bookworms all find their people. Plants are no different. Sun-loving, shade-thriving and drought-tolerant, plants want to be with those who share the same needs.

This doesn’t mean everything has to be the same. The tall Solomon Seal complements the curly ferns which complement the creeping ajuga, all very different but beautiful when planted in the shade and nurtured together. My sunny bed is filled with coneflowers, blackberry lilies and coreopsis, all different and appealing by themselves but quite pretty together.

Then there is timing. Students have their season to shine such as track, baseball, cheerleading, chess club and band.

Flowers each have their own season to display their beauty. Daffodils and tulips in the spring, followed by peonies and irises, then black-eyed Susans in the summer and mums in the fall. Each has its time to shine, all coming together to support the overall beauty of the garden.

Remember in high school those silly titles? They work for the garden, too: Most Popular, coneflowers; Most Likely to Succeed, daffodils; Classic Beauty, roses; Most Annoying, poison ivy; Shyest (that was me), tulips (since it’s my superlative I’ll pick my favorite flower); and Most Athletic, trellised Clematis.

Of course, as in any team, in the garden, you need the foundation plants. These may not be the showiest but boxwoods, Japanese maples and spruce bushes provide the backdrop and base of the garden throughout the year. They don’t get the accolades of the blooming roses but they provide a solid base allowing the others to shine.

Clumps versus cliques. Yep, in the garden, there are those plants that given the right soil, light and water will spread among the space and move throughout the garden.

Of course, occasionally they need to be trimmed or redirected, but don’t we all? Other plants grow in clumps and never spread their roots. They wait until the gardener takes the time to divide them and create new plants. Funny thing, as happy as they were in their clumps, they adjust and grow even bigger when divided and introduced to a new space.

High school was long ago, but these are lifelong relationships, some close, others occasional but still meaningful. I guess you could say they are the perennials of my life, the foundation plants that gave me room to grow and room to shine.

Like any garden, my perennial friends have increased over the years and there are annuals who pass through and dazzle for a season.

High school roots run deep and just like the plants in the garden when transplanted to new gardens, you travel with a bit of familiar soil that promotes your growth wherever you are.