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Proust had his madeleines; a sprig of lilac transports Editor-in-Chief Matt Bean back to childhood in April’s editor’s letter

Matt Bean  – October 15, 2019

The lilac bush outside our house bloomed each spring with a heady perfume that enveloped the yard. We were children then, and not much interested in gardening, but if a plant could ever embody a human emotion this one, for me, was an extension of a mother’s love: unconditional, intense, complete. 

I had meant to write this month about so many things—the fantastic Spa Survey of the West, the debut of our pantry column by our new Assistant Editor Maya Wong, and our After the Flow piece about Hawaii. But when I read Meet the Female Farmers Leading a New Generation of Flower Power, I could think of nothing else but how that indelible sense memory was created for me on Melody Lane.

Each fresh season my mother crouched with my sister and me, guiding our chubby fingers toward the pillowy clusters of indigo buds. I can still hear her whispering in our ears the lessons of life and care and love. Even now that smell—and just the mere memory of it—reminds me of her, and I am overwhelmed again. There is no other person—and by the powers of association, no other flower—that has such immediate access to my heart. 

Why this plant? Why a plant at all? The story penned by Mike Irvine and Thad Orr explains why—showing that gardening isn’t just soil and seed but also soul, in such a primal way. Sharing a spade or a sprig with your family is a story of growth, the fundamental process of life at the simplest level. The value of that gift, created together or handed down, can span lifetimes and outlast all other heirlooms. Those lilacs (and the irises we still have from my grandmother) are a direct line back to the women who raised me, an emotional shorthand hardwired into the human condition. 

We’ve heard from many readers about their deep love for our garden content, and in this issue we begin the process of expanding our coverage there. Reach out with your own stories, if you like, and let us know what you’d like to see in these pages. And I hope this spring you’ll take the time to plant or share some flowers with the people who matter most to you. It is a ritual that is repeated throughout time. Shouldn’t you write your own chapter?