Tag Archives: memory garden

Dogwoods For Easter Morning

Each year my father lined us up, my sisters and me, in front of the largest of the four dogwoods, each dogwood holding down a corner of our front yard.

In our new white dresses with crinolines underneath, ribboned Easter bonnets, soft cotton gloves, and patent leather shoes we four young girls faced the sunlight, squinted and smiled at the camera.

A Rose For Mother’s Day

My grandmother and mother grew this rose and every spring I look forward to its appearance in my own garden. The rose of my childhood, my family used to wear this rose each year on Mother’s Day Sunday.

Virgie's Old-fashioned Rose

Virgie’s Old-fashioned Rose

It was Virgie, my mother’s first cousin and my gardening mentor, who passed along this rose to me, soon after I was married. The rose grew at my previous Wave Road garden and when we moved a few miles away to our current location, my daughter valiantly helped me fight thorns and dig roots so we could bring the rose to our new home.

[I shared a piece with my daughter when she and her new husband moved into their own home, one of many things that did not fit into the back of a station wagon when they later moved to California—yet I loved that she grew it for a time.]

VIrgie's Old-fashioned Rose

VIrgie’s Old-fashioned Rose

Virgie contributed not only this rose, but numerous other things that still thrive in my garden: Dusty Miller, Tradescantia (Spiderwort), Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox), Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant), Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea).

Other plants I have had to replace, but that she taught me to love are Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’, Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) and Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William).

One I regret leaving behind is Calycanthus fluorides (Carolina spicebush, eastern sweetshrub). Several gardens on last week’s garden tour featured sweetshrub.

So, anyway a tribute to family and to a family rose on Mother’s Day.

Virgie's Old-fashioned Rose

Virgie’s Old-fashioned Rose

Repeating A Garden Ritual

Vintage Flower Clippers

Vintage Flower Clippers

My husband recalls from elementary school being assigned to write a paper on the subject of grandmother’s hands. Too bad his original manuscript is lost to posterity, but it fascinates me he occasionally remembers that particular, somewhat sentimental, title.

Grandmother’s hands popped into my head yesterday when I was out in the garden performing a ritual of sorts.

Gladiolus After A Rain

Gladiolus After A Rain

Many a summer morning as a child I followed behind my maternal grandmother as she picked up her clippers from a shelf and headed to her cutting garden.

There among her neat rows of gladioli in assorted colors, I would helpfully point out the ones I thought she should select (probably any with a sliver of red), but like the kitchen, the cutting garden really was her purview and hers alone.

She would gather into her apron the flowers with blooms that were sufficiently open and would bring them back indoors to lovingly arrange.

I realized last year I have ended up with my maternal grandmother’s flower clippers and it occurred to me to take a photograph of them sometime.

Finally yesterday morning I went a step further. Following a heavy rain the night before, a few gladioli stood in need of rescue.



I retrieved my grandmother’s clippers from a shelf in the garage. There were three flower stalks and with each solemn cut I made a conscious connection, a pleasant one, back to my childhood.

Gladioli and Vintage Flower Clippers

Gladioli and Vintage Flower Clippers

And there it was—stuck in my head—my husband’s essay topic, grandmother’s hands. How many times had my grandmother’s hands held these little clippers, I wondered. How many times had she slipped the latch to free the blades?

Vintage Flower Clippers Belonged to Maternal Grandmother

Vintage Flower Clippers Belonged to Maternal Grandmother

The clippers made clean cuts after all these years and brought back nice memories. They are back on the shelf now, the clippers and the memories. Their heft I still feel in my own hand.

Gladioli and Vintage Flower Clippers

Gladioli and Vintage Flower Clippers

So grandmother’s hands? The writing prompt I best remember from early high school is A Red Leaf Takes A Tumble. Fortunately my effort on that is also one lost to posterity but I know I enjoyed exploring it. Do you have a favorite assigned writing topic?

Passing Along Plants, Recipes And Memories

After a few weeks hiatus my thoughts are returning to the garden, although the bitter cold of January still makes it nicer to be indoors than out for at least a few more days. And in the meantime?

Recipes and Memories

Recipes and Memories

I have always enjoyed cooking and began collecting recipes at about the age of ten. Keeping up with my favorite recipes has always been a challenge. No sooner do I have them organized than the kitchen drawer begins overflowing afresh with newspaper or magazine clippings and hand-jotted instructions from friends for various tasty delights. This must sound familiar?

As the new year began I picked up a project again that I had set aside many times before.  Two of my sisters have birthdays in January and this is the year I finally persisted to create a book for them of some special recipes and recollections about food and mealtimes we shared growing up together.

I had already typed up the recipes and written most of the chapter introductions.  Even so, it took about ten days to organize them, get the layout ready to get printed and proof; seven days later I had the books in hand. Three days later I was able to present the books, part recipes and part memoir, to my sisters and my daughter.  They all seem pleased. I told my sisters if they remembered things differently, they must write their own memoirs.

To illustrate the book I used photographs from the garden, featuring many pass-along plants from our relatives to complement the passed-down family recipes. Hydrangea, everlasting sweet pea, day lily, iris, woodland phlox and views of the meditation garden are some of the pictures included.

For appetizers and salads I used an image of peach-colored Appleblossom Achillea.

Achillea x 'Appleblossom' (Yarrow) and Shasta daisy foliage

Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow) and Shasta daisy foliage

For desserts I chose the luscious, creamy and fragrant gardenia.

Gardenia Blossoms

Gardenia Blossoms

It was time-consuming, but so satisfying to create this book. Recipes are piling up again though.

After this winter diversion now I am almost ready to get back out into the garden.  Where are those warm days?

A Memory Plant

Newly open in the garden today is an old-fashioned chrysanthemum, a sweet pass-along plant from a dear relative many years ago.

This chrysanthemum has woody-stems about 3 feet tall, but they are not strong enough to hold the flowers upright once they begin to open. I try to remember to pinch back the buds, but am too inconsistent to ever learn if pinching would keep the stems shorter and the plant tidier. A nearby rose and its other neighbors provide some support, but admittedly the chrysanthemum sprawls quite a lot.

To many, these characteristics would seem not to recommend it, but I do enjoy having this plant in the garden.

The blossoms are small but abundant.


The deep lemon-hued petals pale toward white as they unfurl. The cheerful blooms are long-lasting indoors and here in the garden they should brighten the southwest border for weeks to come.


My garden is full of memory plants. Like having a visit from an old friend, I always am glad to see this chrysanthemum.

Mid-September Blooms

One week before the autumnal equinox, large puffy clouds adorn the deep blue sky. It is a beautiful, sunny day, 79°F.

This Stargazer Dahlia is a cactus-flowered dwarf variety. Grown from seed and passed-along a few years ago by a dear neighbor, this lone survivor returns annually without any special attention.

Dahlia ‘Stargazer’

Speaking of survivors, this tomato was a surprise, surprise when I discovered it last week growing underneath a bird feeder. My next-door neighbor grows beautiful and delicious tomatoes and I assume a little bird thoughtfully brought this into my garden.

A Tomato Volunteer

A patch of zinnias is finally adding some cheerful color in a back corner of the property. Mixed seeds always seem to be mostly pink but finally a few yellow, coral and orange are blooming now.


Though most have faded by this point in the season, several Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) continue to display fresh blossoms.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort) are a very favorite flower but they have become so aggressive I have had to cut back, pull up, and repeat the same removal process over and over throughout the summer. The result is that many Tradescantia are still present and blooming. My former garden has very heavy clay and lots of shade and the tradescantia stayed very well-contained, but here it is too spready. This white blossom is an unusual one, most in this garden are blue or violet.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

The gardenia shrubs continue to be welcomingly fragrant. This is one of the Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’ that grow along the western border of the garden. The newly planted ‘August Beauty’ variety is doing well but it will be some time before it can provide much screening to hide the heating and air conditioner units.

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’

Roses are not my forte but this Rosa ‘Iceberg’ belonged to a special friend who passed away a few years ago. Several times I have almost given up on it but it did not give up. So here is this lovely bloom today as a special reminder of a special person. I enjoy that gardens can honor memories and cultivate friendships. Thanks for visiting my garden today.

Rosa ‘Iceberg’

Daylily And A Birthday

Daylilies have been blooming all over town this week and this morning I was delighted to see one of my Mercer daylilies has opened. The actual name of this hybrid is, for all practical purposes, lost (although the plant tag is surely stored somewhere safe, awaiting the transfer of all pertinent information, including the name, into my garden records). Update June 4, 2012: This was dug up from a field after I selected it so there probably never was a tag after all.

This daylily was bought in 2006 at Roger Mercers’ Garden in Fayetteville, NC. That year my sister, my daughter and I spent a fun morning exploring Roger’s daylily fields. We each came home with a variety of specimens, having had to make agonizing choices from among many enticing daylily offerings.

During the past year, first my daughter and just recently my sister have relocated to new cities, leaving behind their daylily selections from that day. But this garden, established in 2001, turned eleven years old today! If the picket fence added last year to this garden continues to keep the deer at bay, the Mercer daylilies will continue to bloom here as a nice reminder of a special day we three shared together.

Happy Birthday little garden!

Remembering With Roses

Old-fashioned Rose

Dappled by early morning sun, two rose bushes sit side-by-side against the white picket fence in the southern bed, gracing the air with gentle fragrance and memories.

Last year I wrote about the importance of the old-fashioned rose in my garden. Each year I look forward to the blooms. They are early this year by eleven days and as welcome as ever, these beautiful roses, passed-along and carried along deep inside of me.

The Garden Mid-May


The garden has been left largely on its own this week with very little intervention:  no deadheading, trimming, shaping, relocating, or new planting. But it has been under observation.

The focus has shifted from irises.  Other interesting perennials are beginning to stand out.  Some look lovely where they are; some are obviously drifters that would never have been placed where they currently call home, inserting themselves into others’ territory; and others stand abandoned, their intended partner plantings lost due to deer damage or drought or perhaps to shifts in sun and shade patterns within the garden.

As part of the garden renovation begun in January, the garden has been enhanced with a Blue Point juniper hedge, a 4-foot picket fence and a meditation garden with a labyrinth.  These major projects have given the garden a boost of character and charm and made the garden a serene and peaceful place to enjoy.

Next up is to evaluate, restore and improve the conscious design of the plantings, with consideration to texture, color, plant heights and growing seasons.  Many of the existing plants have been in the garden since 2001, with most of those brought along from a previous garden.  Many are pass-along plants that hold special meaning and memories of people, times and places. This next phase of the garden’s redesign will aim to rein in the wayward and the aggressive ones, but also to highlight these wonderful plants that feel so much like old friends.

In the Garden Today

An Old-fashioned Rose

Blooming along with the irises this week is a dear favorite, a fragrant, old-fashioned rose. An almost too-late pruning has reduced the number of buds this year.  This type of rose blooms once in the spring, with only an occasional flower appearing in the fall.

This is the rose of my childhood, always blooming in my hometown at Mother’s Day in the yards of my mother, my grandmother, and my mother’s older cousin.  My mother’s cousin was a sweet and funny woman who became my garden mentor. She passed along a section of her rose for my very first garden, where it thrived year after year on near-total neglect.

When I moved to this present garden, the rose moved too. As coincidences happen, the day of this lady’s death, at age 96 or so, occurred on the day of the move.  The rose, as well as other pass-along plants she shared with me, today hold lovely memories of a special relationship built on kinship and gardening.

Spiraea Buds

Spiraea Buds 1-27-2011

Spiraea Buds 1-27-2011

As January nears its end, the spiraea buds tease and promise.

Based on its blooming history, this shrub, also known as bridal wreath, may start opening in another four weeks. It has been a much colder winter though overall, so one can’t be too anxious.

Family: Rosaceae
Subfamily: Spiraeoideae
Genus: Spiraea


Spiraea 1-6-2011

An unidentified egg case, observed dangling from a spiraea branch several weeks ago, is no longer around.

This spiraea was a gift from an elderly relative many years ago for my previous garden. It was one of many transplants from that garden that has found a new home here, bringing memories of people and place.

Gardenia Curiosity

This colorful seed pod, discovered yesterday on a nine-year old gardenia in my side garden, is an interesting surprise and a first.

The gardenia itself is a pass-along plant, rooted by a former next-door neighbor and gardening enthusiast. Last year in a happy, reciprocal interchange, I was able to root a cutting for her to add to her new yard. Gardens are full of nice memories, marking moments of times past, even as they point to the future and to renewal.

Today it’s gray and wet and 43 degrees.  Distinctly heard thunder, so will it snow within the next two weeks, as the old wives’ tale predicts?

Remembering Gardens and Gardeners

Garden View January 2011

This current garden, so in need of rejuvenation, has been in place since 2001 when our house was built. As the house was being readied, in the back yard of the mere quarter-acre property, beds were laid out on three sides at the perimeters. Significant soil improvements enabled me to easily and successfully transport a great number of plants from my previous garden. Thus the new garden was quickly established, even though it was during a serious summer drought, and with few actual purchases at first.  It does not look like much now, but has at times been quite colorful and interesting.

Garden View April, 2006

Structure will be a key focus of the garden’s redevelopment. I’ve never been pleased with the structure of this current border garden, sitting so exposed as it is in the suburban closeness of vehicles, concrete drives, and air conditioners. But the plants themselves are dear.  This is my memory or heirloom garden, full of plants that brought with them the history of my original garden in rural Orange County.

Sadly few pictures exist from that original garden, none close at hand anyway; nor does the garden still exist.  This fact may make it easy to idealize that space a bit now, but deservedly so. It was occasionally spectacular! It was my first experiment with a perennial garden, marked with winding, sloping paths that led to different sections of the half-acre yard.  Sitting among mature pines, bordered with rocks, some spaces were getting sun for the first time in years after storms had felled numerous trees.  These played host to phlox, daylilies, and irises.  Still there were plenty of shady niches for woodland plants such as Jacob’s Ladder or bluebells, and the azaleas thrived and birds found homes.

A special relative from my home town, an elderly, wise and funny woman, became my gardening mentor.  A visit to her house nearly always ended outside among her rambling, treasured plantings of sasanqua, rose campion, spiderwort, old-fashioned rose, spirea, pussy willow and crabapple trees; and on the trip home the car was full of cuttings she had generously shared.   Another dear friend contributed plants, some of which were divisions of natives she had rescued during construction of Jordan Lake.  My daughter participated as well, sketching garden plans and recording planting sequences.  That first garden just coalesced into a gratifying unity of nature and dear people and there I felt a special sense of place.