Monday, April 11, 2011

My Garden is a Book of Memories

Aunt Kate and Uncle Frank and the Jones sisters
from Tanky's album.

Unless a garden is very new it is bound to hold memories of many kinds. Lately I've noticed blog posts that relate memories of gardens of loved ones, plants that were special either by where they came from or a tie to a long-ago garden that featured certain plants.

Some memories are of special occasions, happy times. My sister had gardenias in her wedding corsage for a second marriage.  I was a teenager. I pressed them in a huge heavy book between florists' tissue when she left them behind. The fragrance lingered for years. Now I have gardenia bushes everywhere and always think of her when they bloom.

Other memories are bitter sweet, like the Lycoris squamigera that my brother rescued from Mama's garden and the Kniphofia that a nephew rescued from that brother's garden before the properties sold after their deaths.

Many flowers in my garden are there because of childhood memories: we had thousands of daffodils at home, Gladioli, my friend Kathy's Mother's favorite; philadelphus; my mother's favorite lily the Regal. Others are here because they grew in the tiny suburban garden I had for 30 years.

This morning I noticed that the bud I admired on the Jackmanii clematis yesterday was gone. I've tried for years to bring that thing to flower. Yesterday I thought, the dog can't break this one off now -- it is too tall. Camera in hand I failed to take a pic because I might jinx it. Today it is neatly snipped off by who knows what. The plant is climbing a crepe myrtle the way Jackmanii clematises climbed my little trees in the other backyard. I gave it compost and everything!
Sad memories are tied to several flowering shrubs and trees in my garden: the magnolia that my son's friends brought from Atlanta in his memory; a deciduous magnolia that my co-workers brought when my brothers died.

There's even a memorial annual in my garden. I noticed big cotyledons of Melampodium emerging this week in a border and smiled at the memory of the 91 year old man who carefully dug seedlings and put in a coffee can so I could have a start of these little yellow daisies that reseed so well. Also from his wife's garden is an Oakleaf Hydrangea now in bud.

There's the Red Knockout rose from a friend that came with a little bamboo teepee with an iron monkey hanger in memory of the Monkeyman. The rose soon outgrew the bamboo stakes but the monkey remains in the garden. The rose always reminds me of Nurse Mary, the last of the Red Hot Mamas.

Knockout and Pink Knockout, April 10, 2011
Parts of my garden Honor rather than Memorialize. There are the cuttings that Miss Billie broke off and handed over with the admonition, "Here stick this in the ground. It will root." All the loropetalums here are seedlings from Miss Billie, who told me the one with green leaves would have white blossoms, which is does. Janie mailed many, many plants from Texas. Some of them made it despite my feeble care: Belinda's Dream and the Chicken rose and Red Cascade; various gingers. I finally coaxed the German Iris into bloom for the first time this spring. There are many others who sent bulbs or seeds in the mail. I treasure every one.

Bearded Iris and Belinda's buds. I could not wait for either to open fully. 


  1. I so agree with what you say, plants and flowers are wonderful at bringing back the memories of the person who gave them to you. All the cowslips that I have now are seedlings of just 3 plants that a very dear friend gave me just before she died. She always wanted me to have drifts of them, I wish she could see them now.

  2. My next door neighbors when I was growing up planted an ornamental crabapple tree when each of their daughters was born; now the trees are towering, flowering giants. (The crabapples drive my parents crazy, because most of them fall on their lawn and rot, but that's another story.) I've moved from place to place too much for any garden to have the kind of living history you so beautifully describe, but perhaps down the road...

  3. I cherish the memories my garden inspires. And I love reading about the memories in other's gardens. My garden would not be complete with the memories attached to it.

  4. That Iris is incredible! Wow! I too love the memories interlaced with plants. My Aunt Clara's rose, Aunt Bonnie's peonia, and my neighbor Roy's raspberries, and AJ's black eyed susans. It is good to remember these things and pass these memories to the younger generation.

  5. Nell, I really enjoyed this post!

    Many of my plants came from various friends and neighbors and relatives.

    I name them accordingly, Barb's Iris,

    Char's Iris, Grandma's rose, etc.

    I do the same with recipes....I name them after the person who shared them with me.

    Have a super day.

  6. Memories are so special to us all. People at times may say forget the past think of the future. So wrong, memories are part of our lives and stay with us forever, even the sad ones can be treasured. As for the future, we know nothing of it.

  7. So we in turn have 'Anna's Red' inherited from the couple who gardened here just before us - when this was their shrubbery and vegetable patch.

  8. Peony, Iris, Marigolds, Petunia amongst others bring back such memories for me. My grandmothers were a big part of my love for gardening and these were in both their gardens...

  9. I love to plant flowers in memory of loved ones and because they bring back those cherished childhood memories...

  10. Yours is a garden of beautiful memories. Thank you so much for sharing them with us. Beautiful.~~Dee

  11. It is wonderful you have the memories in your garden. And even better that they mean so much. I think most gardens hold memories, even from owners past. Peonies planted that last 60 years, trees that are 80 years old, if only the plants could share.

  12. I love this post--memories are all around me in my garden and are so much a part of what I put in it. Beautiful post.

  13. Oh Nell, How I love this post! Plants that are dear to those we love become dear to us for that reason alone. So sad about that clematis, but the soon to open iris and roses are sweet consolation.

  14. What a wonderful post! I grow roses because they remind me of my parents, who both died of cancer in their 50's. Gardenias were my dad's favorite but they are unreliable here, although I had them in my garden in SC. Our gardens are so much bigger then just gardens. Sometimes they are all the people who helped us grow to be gardeners.

  15. I really enjoyed this post Nell. Many plants in my garden have passalong stories such as you shared. I have a lowly Coleus that was passed from my Grandmother to my Mother to my siblings and me--every summer it is potted on my patio and is a living link to my family.

  16. Just letting you know, my garden is so fragrant because your gardenia is blooming profusely right now. When I get out of my car, the fragrance wafts up to put me in a good mood! It is just lovely! As always, I think of you.

    I love this post. I don't know how I missed it.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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