A few weeks ago I ran screaming in the house, not really screaming, but insisting, “Hank. Come here! Look.”

He thought we had caught an armadillo in one of the traps we have been setting out for six months. It would be such a joy to catch one of the creatures who delights in ruining my beds and his sod. We have trapped one of the prehistoric roly-poly grubbers over the months, only one. But also six possums and two squirrels. More on the opossums another day.

However, it was no news on the armadillo front. I wanted my husband to look at a more important discovery: A tiny bell on my forsythia plant had opened. So tiny it was only slightly more than a bud, but yellow and promising, perched on a dead-looking frond. I was thrilled, but he — the husband — was disappointed.

This is the time of year for exciting botanical discoveries in my yard. Not just a stray bloom, but green leaves pushing through the frozen earth: Lenten roses, camellia buds, edgeworthia papyfera.

This is also the time of year when I lament my sorry laziness. Why did I not plant more daffodils last October? I always put a note in the calendar to do so, but seldom do I actually put the bulbs in the ground. Now I see clearly my omissions. Three tall yellow trumpets stand lonely guard at the base of my mailbox. How embarrassing.

This is the time of year, as well, when I think to rescue feral flowers and abandoned plants. Other more worthy people rescue cats and dogs and children, or the unjustly imprisoned. I used to be a professional rescuer of children — I taught empowerment disguised as reading and writing and thinking. And I hope those years of work will count in the great reckoning.

But these days, in semi-retirement, I seek out narcissus and roses and lilies that grow wild in ditches and pastures. I trespass on lonely falling down properties for a tiny magnolia under the big magnolia. I follow careful rules: Never take all the roots, all the bulbs or all the babies. Leave some for next year. Watch out for rusty barbed wire, snakes and men with guns.

I am not above rescuing lonely blossoms as well. The other day I was walking the big block from the square, down Third, and around College Street to the library, when I ran into a sidewalk slippery with pine straw. I knew I would slip and slide into the road where the cars roar around the curve, so I took a short cut through Lou and Miller Moelchert’s yard. No humans abide in the house nowadays, the house where color, good food, and laughter once reigned.

Shortcuts are always rewarding, and on this one, under the dim and dark of Miller’s pine trees, stood a tall bright-blooming camellia, gorgeous in its fuchsia glory, some blossoms low enough for a short woman. I was going to a friend’s birthday party later, and since this friend was also Miller’s friend, I knew both would be delighted if I cut a few blossoms and shared them among us.

In this lovely winter sunlight, I am longing for a day off from my exciting Prog-Arg job to ride out with my compadres to rescue the wild flora. To put on my boots and my gloves and travel the lonely roads of the county. To wield my shovel and suffer through the sore muscles.

Or I will come and help you, dear reader, if you are separating your iris or thinning out your Mahonia. Don’t toss out those crowded bulbs. Grant them a new home, with me.

Or tell me where you tossed them. I am not above rescuing treasures from the trash.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at



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