How I wish to catch again the bright burst buds of our camellia in flower,
Candy-red explosions on the west wall of my childhood home’s driveway in Ennis, Co. Clare,
In April — or a good year, March — watch its riot draw the eye of those toing and froing along the College Road into town.
On visits I prune it,
And hack away the invading, greedy hands of the Tobins’ escallonia and griselinia.
I give it space, clear its base of weeds and dead leaves.
It’s given its feed of Miracid — brief respite from the limey Burren soil my father dug into the bed all those decades ago.
Setting it up on summer and Christmas sojourns, thinking with satisfaction:
She’ll flower in spring.
But in nearly ten years I haven’t been there to be greeted and exalted by her life-awakening bloom.
Old Gerry Browne, stooped, scurrying off to one o’clock mass at the Friary cries in to my mother that her camellia is exquisite,
A compliment indeed, for the Browne’s garden up the hill is an immaculate display no matter what the season.
During phone calls, along with the other news from home that I, sleuth-like, extract,
I ask about the camellia:
How are the buds doing?
Is it flowering yet?
I saw it was frosty; are they lasting?
Every year I vow to take an Easter trip to Ennis, to College Road,
But somehow my rickety plans never take root.
As they say: life happens.
I console myself by seeking out in my adopted city camellias in flower;
A visit to Fernando VI’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Paseo del Prado, Madrid.
Although over here the calid Spanish winter sun coaxes blooms by mid January,
And just past St Bridget’s day the flowers have gone.