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I have customers that come into the garden center looking for the perfect shrub. “It should only get three or four feet high, and it has to grow in the shade” they begin, “and it has to be evergreen.” As I start to walk toward the nursery with them, they inevitably add, “Oh, and it has to flower all summer. Something showy for my foundation planting.”

If you have a plant like this that grows in a zone 6, contact me immediately and tell no one else until we patent it. Seriously, I’m good with the “three or four feet high” and the shade part, and can even think of a few that are evergreen and bloom. (Yak Rhododendrons or ‘Otto Luyken’ cherry laurel immediately come to mind.) But as far as showy flowers all summer? No. At this point I usually convince the customers to use an early flowering evergreen along with a hydrangea for showy color the rest of the summer.

Sing it with me: You can’t always get what you want.

And if we could always get the plant we want, if we could have that ever blooming evergreen, would we appreciate the plant as time goes on? Maybe, maybe not. I love the Knock Out rose, and value those bright, dark pink blooms all summer long. And I never take for granted my long blooming perennials.

But as my Epiphyllums come into flower, I know that I treasure these flowers even more because their beauty is fleeting. The buds develop over a few weeks, and the flowers are open only for a day or two.

A homegrown tomato tastes better because we can only eat them for a couple of months a year. Crenshaw or Casaba melons only show up in my supermarket at summer’s end, and I cherish a sweet, ripe one all the more because I can’t eat them very often.

I guess the key is to cherish it all, the long lasting and the fleeting. If you want what you have, then you can always get what you want, at the same time working for something more…

It's been a good summer for Epiphyllum flowers.

It's been a good summer for Epiphyllum flowers.

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