Purple deadnettle

I had a long day today and didn’t get home from work until almost 1 a.m., but the dogs and I went outside a few minutes ago to look for signs of life. I suspect their sensitive noses and sharp ears found more than I did, but I discovered three survivors in my back yard:

The false strawberry growing in the flower bed on the north side of the garage — which choked out my watercress and stifled my pineapple mint last spring but looked too pretty to rip out — is still hanging in there.

The sage I planted in my herb bed is still thriving.

And next to the house, I found an old friend: A small patch of purple deadnettle is growing right next to the foundation.

Deadnettle always makes me smile. It grows in the winter, little fuzzy green leaves with tiny, pale purple flowers. It’s one of the few plants with the audacity to stand up to the cold and bloom in the watered-down light of December and January.

I like it because it makes me think of my maternal grandmother. One winter afternoon when I was maybe 9 or 10, Grandma and I were out on the back stoop at her house for some reason, and Grandma called me over to look at something amazing: Flowers blooming in the dead of winter.

She had discovered a patch of purple deadnettle blooming next to her house, up against the foundation. She let me pick a fistful to take home so my mom could see those crazy flowers that bloomed in the cold.

Purple deadnettle is a member of the mint family that looks similar to henbit, except its leaves aren’t as frilly, and its flowers aren’t as bright.

When I count my blessings tonight, I will have to count purple deadnettle … and memories of a grandma who loved me enough to take me outside to pick flowers in the middle of winter.

Emily