Lynne, my dear friend and client, died suddenly and peacefully on Memorial Day. Lynne loved her garden and buying plants for it. Yet her favorite plant, which she protected wherever it grew, occurred in wild abundance on her land. The pink lady-slipper (Cyprepedium acaule) is a native orchid that blooms atop a leafless stem in mid to late May. The flower resembles an inflated pink pouch with dark pink veins.
A day or so after her passing, I asked her family if I could take one last walk around her cherished garden, and they kindly agreed. I ambled along the wood-chip paths made from downed trees on the property. Lynne and I had designed these paths to follow winding deer trails that already existed, and Jason Funk installed them. (Jason, now in the Peace Corps, has a profound empathy for nature and a powerful work ethic.) We loved working together, the three of us, and each step I took reminded me of these happy garden days.
In the next moment, I saw it–the last lady-slipper of the season, perhaps slightly faded but still in flower. It grew by the path with Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) and lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) on a dry acidic slope. Surrounding trees, including hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), white pine (Pinus strobus), red oak (Quercus rubra), and sweet birch (Betula lenta), created dappled shade–the right amount of light for a lady-slipper to thrive. My sense of loss at Lynne’s death had been sharp when I started walking on that little path, but when that lady-slipper nodded at me, I knew Lynne was here, and I felt better.