It all started back in 1994 when we built our home. The house stood alone in the middle of a huge field that used to be a pasture. Not one tree, flower or shrub was there. I had a blank slate. My cousin Rita shows up with an armload of plants as a ‘yard warming' gift. She and I are more like sisters than cousins. We grew up together and have been extremely close all of our lives. She knew that I wouldn't let this empty yard stay that way long, so she came bearing gift plants.
These plants were not nursery specimens in shiny black plastic pots. She didn't go out and max her charge card for plants that were just pretty faces. This was an intimate gift that can only be understood by the recipient. They were gifts from her own yard, soil still attached, and in various plastic bags and old cardboard boxes. She brought me a bit of our family history.
There was the chartreuse colored Gold Moss Sedum that we remembered from our Grandmother's old Victorian home, and Violets that carpeted her yard in the spring. We both had fond memories of playing near both of these plants. It was like having a bit of Mama Hall right there at my new home. She also brought me white bearded iris and Flore Pleno daylilies from her own gardens. It was a loving and thoughtful gift, and just what I needed to start building my gardens with. She knew that I loved things with meaning, and not just things. The gift was perfect, and cherished immediately.
Fast-forward a few years to 2001. The yard was respectable, but nothing special. I had added some purchased trees and shrubs. There were the obligatory pots of various annuals gracing the entryway, and some perennials here and there. The yard was neat and tidy, but I had concentrated on the interior of the house, not the gardens. That year, two things happened that changed my gardens forever. Mom sold the family farm where we grew up, and I found Dave's Garden on the internet.
Dave's came first in early January, when there was nothing but mid-winter gray outdoors. I was thrilled to be able to talk about plants with others just like me, and soon friendships were formed. We discussed growing different things, and planned our gardens together. It was logical that plants were exchanged, and Kathleen sent me a rose bush. This wasn't just any rose, it was the antique variety, Bonnie Prince Charlie's Rose that grew in her own yard. I planted it near my back door, the fragrance when it blooms greets me each morning and evening, and I think of her each time I smell it. My friend Kathleen is here in Kentucky with me, because I see ‘her' rose every day as the seasons change. Kathleen and I have become much more than gardening friends, her rose is like a gift from a beloved sister.
Mom sold the farm that year too. Now, I'm not one for holding on to things when the need is gone, and it was time for the farm to pass into different hands. But there were a few things that I felt like should stay with the family. So, I headed out one day to take some memories and bring them home.
There was the huge old Coral Honeysuckle that had been a part of our family for nearly 100 years. Pieces of it lived here and there all over Kentucky at one time or another. My Uncle Dick brought some of it from Louisville many years ago, and planted it at the farm for Mom. Sadly, he is no longer with us, but I think of him, and all of the others who enjoyed this plant in my family each time it blooms. What I like about this particular plant, is that it is actually the same honeysuckle that has been in my family all of these years. Since it was propagated by cuttings, each plant is truly a part of the original one that my ancestors planted years ago.
I also took a pink hibiscus, or mallow plant that Uncle Dick had planted, and a Sweet Gum seedling from the fencerow. The pink hibiscus blooms each summer, and the Japanese Beetles cover it. I fight those little green villains with a vengeance. The hibiscus leaves get tattered and full of holes, but the flowers continue to open, and look like stunning pink dinner plates despite the insect damage. The Sweet Gum seedling was just that. A tiny little tuft of star shaped leaves on a matchstick stem. It was the offspring of the giant that shaded the edge of the eastern fencerow. As kids, we loved to collect the round stickery balls for craft material. The little seedling is now a good eight feet tall, and will soon be the centerpiece of my front yard.
Both are full of good memories, and I'm glad that I brought them home with me.
I have the yellow bearded iris that came from Keith's grandpa's home. Gramps loved gardening and growing things as much as any person on earth. The iris are tall and gangly. They tend to blow over in strong winds. And they came with the surprise addition of Creeping Charlie to my yard. I wouldn't have it any other way. We have a piece of Gramps that lives on in our gardens.
As the years have gone on, more plants with memories attached have found their way to may garden. There's the miniature purple iris that my dear DG friend Ellen gave me at the very first Roundup in Crossville, TN. It has multiplied many times over, and I have divided it for friends myself. I think of Ellen each spring as it blooms. Ellen has become a dear friend, and it's about more than just the plants. It's like having another piece of my family blooming in my garden.
Many other plants with memories attached have found their way to my gardens. I have the bowl full of Hens and Chicks that came from a start that Yardbird brought me one year when she visited my home. I think of her each morning when I see it next to the steps.
There's the beautiful Galaxy Explosion daylily that my friend David bred and registered, and the Riesenstraube tomato seeds that came directly from our very own Dave. I have a beautiful garden full of plants to attract butterflies that came from seeds in a giant DG swap. This year also brings Monarda from Kathy Ann and Lavender4ever.
My gardens are full of friends and relatives looking over my shoulder as I tend them. Some are here in memory, and others are as close as my computer or phone. From the road, it might appear that I'm tending things by myself, but in reality, there's a crowd here. We're all celebrating gardens, family, friendships and memories.