The Surprise Garden


It was August of 1994, and I was preparing to order bulbs for fall planting when a young girl named Kerrie, who worked in the office next to me, asked if she could order some.  I only knew her slightly but she knew I loved flowers and knew a little about them, so she asked me to help her choose and, of course, I was delighted to help.

As it happened, Kerrie lived in Providence, and her landlord told her she could plant a flower garden if she wished.  There had been a flower garden there once; however, it had become overgrown with tree roots and weeds. Kerrie had her work cut out for her.  The only plants remaining there were two very old rosebushes.  They did produce beautiful roses, she said, even though they didn’t get very much sun any longer.

We chose spring bulbs, knowing they would bloom before the leaves of the trees shaded the area, perennials would have to be shade lovers.  Kerrie filled out her order and handed it to me that same day with her check.  I tucked it safely in the bulb catalog and was putting it into my desk drawer when someone else asked to see it.  I transferred Kerrie’s order to my purse and when later that day I took it out, I noticed her address.  That’s strange, I thought.  That couldn’t possibly be her address.  I began to feel goose bumps, like I never had before.  My heart was racing as I ran to Kerrie’s desk.  “Do you really live at 41 ½ O’Neil Street , I asked?” She looked at me in such a peculiar way, not understanding my excitement, so I hastened to explain.

When I was seven years old, my grandparents bought the house at 41 ½ O’Neil Street .  I spent a great deal of my childhood there as we lived just a short distance away.  My grandmother, (her grandchildren called her “Nonna”) had a passion for flowers, plants and all growing things.  She let me “help” her weed and plant in that garden.  I’m not sure if it was intentional, but her plants attracted many butterflies.  Her garden was just filled with butterflies!  I remember her telling me one day, that the white butterflies were special.  “White butterflies are souls of loved ones who have gone to heaven” she’d say, “and they come to visit us this way.” I can remember her roses, tall phlox, hydrangeas, and most of all her peonies that smelled even sweeter than the roses.

When I was grown and had my own young family, Nonna shared her perennial plants with me, including the peonies.  She was so pleased that I loved gardening as much as she did.  I’ve moved the peonies with me and they flourish still in my garden.  I have shared them with relatives and, of course, my children, and they will always be a remembrance of my grandmother.

In the fall, Kerrie prepared the garden and she and I planted the bulbs, and added some perennials and anxiously waited for spring to see the blooms.  It was an incredible experience to be planting in that garden again.  It brought back so many memories.  Kerrie was excited with her garden and I was thrilled to be part of that excitement. 

I think, knowing my grandmother, she must have wanted her garden spruced up and found a way to accomplish that.  I suppose most people would believe that it was a coincidence that Kerrie moved to that address and asked if she could plant a garden.  When her landlord agreed, it was coincidence again that she would ask me to help.  Kerrie has been inspired to grow flowers, that’s enough for me.  As for me, I treasure all the butterflies I see, but whenever I see a white butterfly sipping nectar from my flowers, I always ask, “Nonna, is that you?”

Marie Lasorsa, 

July 7, 2004