December 15, 2008

Abraham Darby's Demise

The sad affair began in the spring when my friend Sandy introduced us. Abraham Darby had shown up on her California doorstep the week before with nothing but a cardboard box for a home. Despite his obvious poverty, he offered her a beautiful peachy-pink blossom and requested a place to stay. Though Sandy was impressed with his effort – how did he manage to produce a flower for her while inhabiting that little box? – the peachy-pink color didn’t quite fit with the cool pinks around her home. Not wanting to turn the poor guy away, she brought him over to meet me.
My color scheme wasn’t as restrictive as Sandy’s, and Abraham promised more of those wonderful blossoms. So I found a place for him near the northwest corner of my home. It was dark and damp there in the mornings, and he really deserved a better spot, but my space was rather limited while living in the northern half of a little duplex.
Abraham settled in and soon offered me more of his beautiful, fragrant blossoms. He nodded with delight as I sniffed and sighed and sniffed again. I found myself looking forward to seeing him each day. My husband rolled his eyes when I talked about Abraham. Was he jealous? My heartbeat did rise a bit when I walked past dear Abe, but I didn’t think that made me unfaithful. If I ever tried to get too close, Abraham quickly reminded me to give him some space. He was a just a bit prickly.
Sadly, our relationship soon changed. I guess I was expecting a lot from him without giving as much in return, and the stress made him vulnerable to illness. One day I noticed a few orange sores troubling him. I made the proper inquiries and brought home some spray that was supposed to cure his problem. Applying the medicine was inconvenient and unpleasant, but I loved him enough to do it regularly for a while. I changed from the delighted recipient of Abraham’s generosity to his caretaker.
Sandy heard of the problem and inquired regularly about her old acquaintance. How is Abraham today, she would ask. The medicine didn’t completely cure the problem, though regular application kept the poor guy from completely succumbing. As fall arrived, Abraham became sleepier and sleepier. He slept through the dark days of winter, and I hoped the rest would do him good.
Spring arrived, and Abraham outdid himself for our first anniversary. He handed me a beautiful bouquet with a tangy lemon scent. I smiled and hoped our future together would bring many more anniversary bouquets. But the sores soon reappeared in profusion. If I happened to bump into Abraham, I was quickly covered with orange filth. He felt embarrassed, and I felt guilty. I knew I should be spraying him more often, but the inconvenience kept me procrastinating.
In desperation, I moved him from his bed to a place where he’d be farther off the ground and could enjoy more of the morning sun. But the upheaval was like a nail in the lid of his coffin. By this point he was too weak to appreciate the warm, dry sun. I found myself sighing in sorrow instead of delight.
The time came for me to leave California and move far, far away. I briefly considered bringing Abraham with me and trying to better control his illness, but knew it would be a doomed effort. His disease had progressed too far, and I worried about him infecting others in my new home. I had to abandon him.
My heart was heavy as I left Abraham behind in a cloud of orange dust. He had given me so much joy, and I tried to focus on those memories instead of the disappointment, guilt and sorrow that troubled the latter part of our relationship.
I still think of Abraham Darby when I see a peachy-pink flower, though no other rose could compare with his magnificent blossoms. I remember his fragrance when I bite into a tangy-sweet slice of lemon pie. Occasionally I see his picture somewhere and am tempted to renew our relationship. Maybe the dry air here in Spokane would be a tonic to his health, and I do have a spot where he could bask in the morning sun. Maybe I'll call and invite him over someday, but I hesitate for now. He broke my heart once, and I’m not ready to risk it again.

Meet Abraham Darby

Added January 15, 2015 - I decided to give Abraham Darby another try a few years ago, and I haven't seen a speck of rust on him here in Spokane.  I'm so happy to once again enjoy his sumptuous flowers and citrus scent in the garden and in the vase.


  1. Dear VW, my heart was heavy for you in reading this sad story. Some plants simply do not seem to appreciate the love and devotion and opportunity to thrive in our gardens. Or maybe they are doomed to a short life by a higher power (e.g. Gaia)? Whatever the case, what makes your story truly sad is that because of the rust your Abe could not even live on as compost.

  2. Poor Abe -- I hate those "doomed lovers" tales! But I love Catmint's last line in her comment!
    I guess we gardeners must remember: To everything, there is a season ... and a time to be abandoned.

  3. that was a great post! you are quite a writer!


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