All About Petunias


I want to know everything there is to know

about petunias.

I want to know their scientific names, their species and subspecies,

what kind of soil they like and if they come back year after year

or have to be purposefully planted each spring.

I know exactly when my fascination with petunias began.

It was the end of a long summer day.

I was sitting on the doorstep watching evening throw shadows

over the rhododendrons

when a frangrance so subtle I wondered if it was real

caught my attention.

A tall, dark purple petunia wavered between the wall and sidewalk.

I had seen these flowers before and they never meant a thing to me.

But now, this flower, who stood tall and leggy as if trying to watch

the parade of people and animals go by on the sidewalk,

and who had avoided the gardener’s pruning sheers,

revealed her power when she allowed night to fall.


Petunias grow best in ground that is

equal parts sand, silt and clay.

The way they arrange their petals so neatly

around a pistil makes them seem cultured and ladylike.

You wouldn’t know that any of them grow wild

and feed Buckeyed butterflies all summer long.

And you wouldn’t suspect that these demure little plants

who hang in baskets and window boxes

take over if they are free to grow as they please.


I dreamed that an ancient grandmother

with long, dark hair

held petunias in her hand and told me they would protect

against all kinds of ill will.

So the day after the dream I searched for the healing

properties of petunias and learned that their essence can be used

to make one’s mind keen and alert, they can lift a sagging spirit,

and help a person find her voice.

Grandmother knows it is time to speak

but for the life of me,

I don’t know what I can say that petunias have not already said.