I was perplexed. It was mid-May and no sign of the portulaca.
I don’t know much about portulaca. For one thing, I am not quite sure if, like deer, portulaca is the same for singular and plural. It believe it is, but my wife always calls them “portulacas,” or even “portulaccis,” which I am pretty sure is incorrect. I’ll let you tell her.
Portulaca is a flowering plant. We have it all along the white picket fence in front of our house. When in full bloom, it is spectacular. A vibrant display of bright, multi-colored flowers.
Technically, portulaca is an annual. But it comes back every year, which makes no sense. At least to me, a guy who is anything but a botanist. I am not even sure I deserve the title gardener.
What I’ve been told is that portulaca reseed themselves. Their eentsy black seeds fly through the air and plant themselves in places with a minimal of dirt. Even during the summer, you will find them growing several feet away from the flower bed, the seeds having flown to a new location on the breeze. Those familiar with portulaca say they “jump.”
And they also come back year after year.
And that’s why I was scratching my head in May wondering where they had gone.
I had no idea what was going on, but I knew someone who might, and there he was walking toward me on Butler Street.
I know just a little more about Phil Fullmer than I do about portulaca. We’ve been friendly acquaintances for more than 50 years, but have actually spoken more to each other in the past three years than in the previous 47. That’s because Phil is retired, or so I assume. And I am often tending to my wife’s flowers (tilling soil, watering, wedding) during the summer months when I am not at the college.
A few times a week Phil will pass by during his daily constitutional and we take a moment to chat.
From the hat he donned one day a few years ago, I learned he is a Cleveland Indians fan. A long suffering Cleveland Indians fan, as are all.
Another day, during the height of portulaca season, I learned he knows his portulaca. He has them in his yard and has made a bit of study of them.
So, when I asked if he had any idea why they weren’t growing, he did. He blamed the winter and spring weather. Not to worry, he said. Just keep watering the ground and they will appear. They did. And the were as beautiful as ever.
Phil was not so optimistic about his Indians. He kept saying he was waiting for them to fade as they always seemed to do.
On this point, of course, he has been wrong. So far. For his sake, I hope he continues to be.
Not that I’d hate to see the Cubs win. That would be incredible. But I do not know a single Cubs fan I can turn to when the portulaca aren’t growing.