Typically, my mom and I don’t name plants, but in this case, the moniker is perfect.
The first Mother’s Day after my mom moved to Kansas in 2008, I searched Hays for the perfect gift to welcome Mom to her new home. After scouring department store aisles, I gave up in defeat and stopped by a local garden center to buy a few plants so my trip wasn’t wasted. The moment I pulled up, I knew I’d found the perfect present. Its magenta color was gorgeous. In addition, that particular plant would remind mother of happy years in Southern California where a vibrant bougainvillea larger than this one grew up our fence.
I was right. Mom loved her new addition to the blooming pots in front of her house. Because it was in a planter, she could move it to best capture sunrays and yet protect this tropical native from scorching July and August temperatures. It thrived under her care and soon needed a larger home. Mom replanted her “baby” and nurtured those scarlet blooms.
By the end of September, she wondered what to do to protect the stunning foliage from harsh seasonal elements. It seemed a shame to let it freeze after it had grown and produced so many beautiful blossoms. Inside wasn’t an option due to poor natural lighting. After asking around, Mom found a spot in the Ag greenhouse and donated winter rent to house her treasure.
After the last frost date arrived the next spring, Mom ransomed her baby, reinstalling it on the east side of her garage. At first, the woody stem appeared dead. Both of us mourned and planned to find a replacement. Fortunately, we procrastinated long enough that little green shoots had a chance to develop and inspire a name for this seemingly expired plant—yes, that was the first time we called it Lazarus.
For the next three years, Mom shuttled the increasingly larger Lazarus into shelter each autumn and retrieved it each May. It did so well under her care regimen that mom repotted it at least one more time. After she brought it home each spring, she’d trim it to a stub and wonder if it’d come out of it. By August, that nubbin turned into a full size bush of flaming color and reminded us why Lazarus was the perfect name.
This last fall, Mom’s standby wintering spot was unavailable. We hashed over choices, none of which seemed suitable. Just before the first freeze, we transported it to my sunporch where we hoped it wouldn’t get too cold.
By late November, Lazarus dropped every leaf and looked truly dead. I broke the bad news and left the ugly remains on the porch until spring when I planned to pull the goldfish trick and replace mom’s plant before May. I intended head to the greenhouse in a few weeks to buy a similar sized bougainvillea to put in her big pot.
I should’ve known better. After five years of Lazarus returning from the grave, it happened again! That dead-looking skeleton sprouted green shoots at its base the second week in April. As much as I hated calling Mom last fall to tell her miracle was dead, I couldn’t wait to announce this unexpected resurrection. I don’t know how long Lazarus will be with us, but I’m shooting for passing it on to one of my daughters after I’m gone.