In the winter I miss getting outside and breathing in the fresh air, the warmth of the sunshine, the feel of the dirt. While all of these are a wonderful part of gardening, what I find that I miss most are my plants. Like me, my garden is, let’s just say getting older and while I love all the plants in it, a few are like old friends who have either been with me from the beginning, or have a family connection that they could never be replaced.
While on a casual walk in my garden, I could tell a story on almost every plant in it and usually every day while working in my garden, I am reminded of the stories that are behind each plant. I have unintentionally along the years, made this garden a very part of me. There are the plants given to me from friends, the many saved ones that I bought just because I couldn’t let them die, the ones that put in the wrong place and when I have tried to move them have steadfastly held their ground and refused to be moved, the tough guys who keep on keeping on no matter what the weather throws at them. I could go on and on with the personality and story of each plant in my garden.
Then there are the sentimental favorites……….
To the left of the bench is an old, unassuming privet shrub. Not a shrub I would have intentionally bought since they are an invasive shrub in our woods, but this one is different. My mom and dad had around 8 acres and an older home, land that was mostly woods, a small front yard and a big glade down at the bottom of the property with a pond. Up at the house and in front of the porch was a hedge. An unassuming privet hedge to be exact. My dad tended that hedge like it was the only plant on the property. In fact, besides him, he let just one of my brothers be the only other person to do the honors of cutting even a leaf off of that hedge. Why? I really don’t know the why of his attention to this hedge because although my dad liked the outdoors and nature, a gardening nut he was not. After dad passed away, mom sold the property to a fellow who was going to tear down the house and put a couple cabins on the property. Nice fellow, but he wasn’t interested in saving any of the plants, but he did let me dig up what I wanted before he started demolition on the old house. The first plant I wanted to take home was one of the shrubs in the privet hedge. It took a lot of digging with the maddock because this was an old hedge, but I got a good start on one. It was a small part of dad who was no longer with us and the old home that was soon to be gone also. Now I get to trim the shrub….hope dad thinks I’m doing it justice.
Mom’s lilies. I don’t know where she got them from, but she planted them square underneath a split rail fence. A split rail fence that dad wasn’t particularly fond of weedeating around anyhow and then you throw in a row of lilies that mom loved and didn’t want cut down. He cussed under his breath every time he mowed but he was careful not to harm the lilies. 🙂 So, I dug some up and brought them home. They remind me of how much my dad loved my mom.
The daffodils. Down the hill from mom and dad’s house was a glade where dad had a workshop. If you followed the contour of the glade, it wound around and to the end of it is where mom put a pond and where there was a really old, scraggly apple tree. The kind you see on old abandoned farms. All around the tree and up the hill and to the pond were hundreds of daffodils. The old timey kind that are small with a single bloom. They had been there probably as long as the apple tree and I couldn’t bear for anything to happen to them. With shovel in hand, I dug up everyone I could find. They are usually the first daffodils to bloom in my garden and I have them scattered all over. Each year now, they bring back so many happy memories of spending time on mom and dad’s land.
Grandma’s rose. Of 4 grandparents, I only really knew one. My mom’s dad. My other grandfather passed away when I was little and both grandmothers had passed on before I was born. My family is from southeast Kentucky and when my brother and I took my mom back to the old homestead 10 or so years ago, being the gardener, I noticed an old rose growing in a thicket of overgrown bushes and weeds. Mom said she remembered her mom having a rose there years and years ago. I took a few cuttings, planted them in some moist sand and compost when I got home and lo and behold one of them took. It blooms in the front yard and is a reminder of a grandmother I would have loved to have known. She was a great lady and a gardener. How I would love to have been able to ask her gardening questions or just talk plants with. I think she would be happy her rose is still blooming after all this time.
Mrs. Roberts rose. When we first bought this property 26 years ago, we lived in an old, small farmhouse at the bottom of the hill. The family that had built the house were the Roberts and from stories that neighbors and Roberts family members have told me, Mrs. Roberts was quite the gardener. At one time, she had even tried to grow rice in the fields across from the house. The huge rose at the old house grew in the front yard. Being so old, I didn’t know the variety of it so I called it Mrs. Roberts rose, but it bloomed profusely and never had a problem with disease as most roses do. It’s a soft pink color and somewhat fragrant. We sold the house to move up on the hill and the lady that bought the house was going to remove the rose and wanted to know if I wanted a start. My little start is now as big as the old original. It sits in the front yard where it has a view of the pasture where Mrs. Roberts tried to grow rice and is quite happy blooming where planted.
Mary’s Iris. From my sister. I have other plants from my sisters but these iris were one of the first plants that I planted up here on the hill. They’re just the old fashioned bearded iris, but they spread and are so easy to grow, that they gave me easy color and bloom when this hillside was quite bare. I think my sister knew this when she picked the irises to give to me. I had my hands quite full at the time and didn’t need a persnickety plant to start my garden with. We don’t live close and they’re just a little bit of my sister and how we still look out for each other.
The peonies. Years ago, I had ordered some peony tubers and planted them at the old house. I had later seen a picture of my husbands grandmother standing next to a peony hedge she had beside a walkway and thought how beautiful a hedge of peonies make. When we moved up here, I dug up the peonies at the old house and also got some from my mother in law and planted a “hedge” in front of a retaining wall across the yard that divides the two sections. I had no childhood history of peonies but that photo and the timelessness of the beauty of peonies inspired me to start my backyard garden and give it structure. Besides, they smell so good!
I hadn’t noticed before writing this post, but looking at the top picture with the bench and this one, I have grouped many of these sentimental favorites all together. The rose, daffodils, irises and grandma’s rose are all in one group out front and dad’s shrub, lilies and the peonies are all grouped together out back. I had not planned it…..I guess I unconsciously wanted to keep them all together.
There are a few more plants that are sentimental favorites but I reckon by now, if you’re still reading, this is getting quite long and the others will be for another day. I can’t imagine my garden without these friends. They are ties to my past and daily reminders of family and good memories that live on through these plants.