The landscaper said those shrubs were at the end of their life, recommended they be pulled out and replaced. That was six years ago. Yesterday I trimmed off a foot of new growth, lush and green with tiny fragrant white flowers. I let them grow in peace for five, seven, ten weeks between trimmings, as long as I can get away with. They receive water at least twice a week, sunshine nearly every day, and they’re more full of life now than they were when they first came under my care.

The silly man was wrong, just like the one who wanted to take a shovel to the space around the fan palm in the front yard, turn over the soil, bury everything and start fresh. The cold of winter had decimated most of the vinca, it’s true, yet a couple of small patches of blooming flowers remained. Pre-quarantine, I intended to fill in the empty spaces with zinnias, but I never made it to the garden center. Instead I carefully cut away what had died, covered bare dirt with scraps the squirrels had knocked down off the palm trunk, and waited. Yesterday I made another of my regular passes around the base gently extracting the delicate vines that thrive beneath shade and tugging out clover that had popped up between the new vinca sprouts that have developed from the remains of those plants I brought home two years ago. On the side where the winter wind was harshest, a new flower has bloomed, and familiar-shaped glossy leaves are slowly replacing those once-bare spots.

How long is a life good for? As long as one’s able to endure. Like the poor hibiscus that was planted in a too-shady spot, the one whose leaves were always turning yellow and dropping off, the one I cut back to a skeletal stump, mistakenly thinking a hibiscus might behave like a rose. I never got around to digging it up last year, thought I’d do it in the spring. But then tiny leaves began growing again on those scraggly bones, and now, in the middle of a stifling summer, amazingly that bush is reborn, as tall as me once again with the occasional exquisite red bloom.

So I won’t bother it now, and, no, I won’t take down those trees twisted into the narrow space along the side of the house, same as I refused to give up on the relocated young queen palm that looked more brown than green for almost a full year. This life is harsh enough without us pushing toward a premature end.

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