One of the few trees that did not live in my childhood environment in southeast Kentucky was the bald cypress. Now isn’t that a strange name for such a lovely tree? This is the story of a tiny seedling that I knew nothing about, one that was guaranteed not to grow here in the flatlands of western Kentucky.
I was as good as gold. I did everything the adults told me to do, particularly if the directive came from Aunt Bett. Somehow that little woman put the fear right into my soul. However, there was one day when I broke a rule, faced the wrath of Aunt Bett, and learned how to whistle all at the same time.
Did you ever have a dream in which you find yourself in an unknown place, explaining facts about something that you know absolutely nothing about to an audience you can't even see? Sometimes I feel that way about my garden, because until now, my garden was purely accidental.
I really hate to make mistakes that last for decades and simply cannot be corrected. I have made a few in my lifetime, and the one that I am going to relate to you might never be resolved. I guess I will just have to live with it.
The kids at school said there was a bear on my side of the mountain. They said it was on the Virginia side but they reckoned that the Virginians had run it clear across the mountain and now they just knew it was on my side.
I grew up in a family of hand quilters. I didn't like to quilt but I surely did love to dye the bleached muslin that was pieced into the quilt. It went right along with all the discoveries that I made with my great Aunt Bett.
It grew on the rock wall in front of my grandmother's yard. Behind it lived the mysterious faeries and gnomes who flavored my bedtime stories. I learned early that it was called Ivy, and my aunt had been named for it. I left treasures as gifts for the little people who lived there, the feather of a blue bird, a tiny marble of red glass, and an occasional cookie. I watched closely for any signs of movement.
When I was a child, I thought the best parts of a wedding were the bride's dress and the stack cake. The trouble was, I wasn't allowed to touch the beautiful dress with my grimy hands, nor was I able to swipe the apple butter that dripped down the sides of the stack cake.
When I was little, I watched the Perry Como Show on our tiny new black and white television set. His sponsors offered his audience a live palm tree, and I had to have it. I was only 8 years old, but that was the beginning of my love affair with Perry and his palm tree.
About a week or two before Christmas, my Dad would say, "Anybody want a Christmas tree this year?" That was the signal for a trip up the mountain to find the very best Christmas tree that would fit into our living room. It also was the signal for those left at home to get the decorations down from the attic. But one year, no one had time to get the tree down from the mountain or the decorations down from the attic. What was a little girl to do?
Habits, good or bad, are formed early. Take brushing teeth for example. If I tried to tell you how many times I brushed my teeth during my long life, this page would not hold all the numbers. The same goes for seeds I have collected. This article would not hold all the numbers, because it was a habit I learned early.
It all started with the realization that I was unable to eat anything that had lived, breathed, listened to, or looked at me. If it had eyes, it could see me, and there was no way I could eat it. Nobody was going to talk me out of that one, not even on Thanksgiving Day.
You were told from birth that it made you sniffle and sneeze, and you're sure it also causes the tears to flow. At the same time, it is such a beautiful sea of gold in the field next to yours, you have no choice but to admire it. Here is another look at Goldenrod.
It was my birthday and there was going to be a surprise party after school. I could keep a secret as well as anybody so it was one of those "I know but no one knows I know" things. But as it happened, that was the day I decided to shave my head and run away from home.
I am taking you for a ride in my time machine, back to the late 40's when there was no concern about invasive plants. The older members of my family believed that plants had a reason for being. Even near the graveyard moss was a great place for an afternoon nap!
I am glad I didn't know the dangers of chewing on the twigs of the sassafras tree when I was a child. One small twig would last for hours, and since candy was not always available, I stashed sassafras twigs just like a little one might hide his Halloween candy, far away from hungry eyes.
I have lost my ability to identify wildflowers. I used to know all of them and what purpose they served, but until I am reminded by a scent or by a blossom, I don't always remember. That is the trouble with getting older, I think our memories are simply too full, and we ought to find a way to push a button and rid ourselves of unnecessary information. Take sorrel, for example.
There was a plant that grew in the flat fields that sometimes could be found in the mountains, but it was more commonly found growing wild alongside the dusty road that ran in front of Aunt Bett's house. Whenever I wanted a chunk of chewing gum, all I had to do was break the stalk and find the hardened gum inside. Well, it wasn't really gum, but it was the next best thing.
Goldenseal became a part of early colonial medicinal care with the birth of our country. Those European settlers learned of it from the Iroquois and other tribes. It has not lost its antibiotic qualities, but I wonder if we have lost the ability to properly use them. This is an Aunt Bett story from years ago.
I asked Aunt Bett why we couldn't pick that beautiful white flower that bloomed in the evening and on into the night. She sat me down right then and there and told me the story of near death and destruction brought about by the misuse of the Devil's Plant. And she made me promise to never touch Devil's Plant no matter what, 'cause the devil got ahold of anybody who did.
With a name like "turtlehead" a plant must have something positive going for it. Here is the story about a little-known wildflower whose medicinal uses are much older than we are. It is the one plant that is almost exclusively relied upon by the caterpillars of the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly.
Every spring I swear I am going to get rid of that tansy. It is contained within a rockwall beside my driveway. It doesn't know it is contained, though, because every spring it escapes through the rockwall and below the rockwall, then makes its way across the side yard.
Ahhh, the lure of the soft white flowerheads that bring to mind a kitten's soft, delicate paws. We think such a sweet name would be given to a delicate plant, but no, pussytoes are strong and persistent. Maybe that's why I love them.
Remember how it was when the guy you had been madly in love with for weeks suddenly looked at you and smiled? You were so giddy with joy, you practically fainted right where you were. Well, years ago, that kind of feminine reaction to rapturous excitement was called "swooning". Aunt Bett had a sure cure for a swoon.
Over time little known plants were often targeted as miraculous cures for one thing or another. Skullcap is one of them. For some time it was publicized as the only cure for rabies, rabies in people, of course, not in animals.
Garden trends come and go, some leaving behind anger and frustration, and others teasing us with their promises. I am withholding opinion about the Topsy Turvy® planter until those little peppers and tomatoes make their way onto my dinner plate. But so far, it's looking very good.
Sometimes a glimpse or a scent will carry us back to another place, another time. My friend recently gave me rootings from a plant that grew in the mountains of eastern Kentucky where she had been visiting. They were young plants with an abundance of large leaves, but no blooms. It did not take me long to remember my mother's oakleaf hydrangea.
Heavily laden with black coal dust, the orange ditch lilies stood tall and proud along side the winding mountain road. With the passing of every coal truck, those tall lilies swayed from one side to the other, but they remained standing as they had for hundreds of years. The tawny colored ditch lily was the grandmother of the lovely multicolored daylilies that adorn our gardens today.
Culver's Root scared me to death. Well, even when I was little I was a history buff, and I knew that it had killed Cotton Mather's little girl. Nobody was ever going to get me anywhere near culver's root. If I had to die, it was not going to be by the stalks of a tall skinny plant.
It was my most favorite blue flower in the whole wide world, and Aunt Bett wanted to fix it for supper. I pouted, I pleaded, and in the end I refused to eat it. Just imagine, it was like eating Peter Cottontail or Kitty Fluff. How could she do that to my favorite blue flower? This the fourth in my Aunt Bett series.
I am a pack rat. I don't have to say it 20 times to know it is so. I keep treasures, and if I forget they are there for a couple dozen years, it's only because I haven't needed them yet. Here is an idea that might inspire you to use all those old seed catalogs that you have stashed in every dark corner of your home.