May 12, 2008

My Mother's Garden

Ever since I can remember, my mother has been an avid gardener. All of the women in my family are, in fact. The garden was considered the woman's domain, and no one -- not even the children -- was allowed to move so much as a spadeful of dirt.

This used to upset me when I was younger because I often wanted to have a "bit o' earth" for myself, just like the heroine in my favorite book, The Secret Garden. I even remember once, when I was about five or six years old, asking my mother if I could "plant" a rock garden in front of my playhouse, like the one I had just read about in one of the original Paddington Bear books. Much to my surprise, she said yes. Then the next day, I awoke from my nap to find that she had already been to the nursery, bought the supplies, and installed the rock garden herself.

So, it wasn't until today, twenty years later, that I finally have a garden of my very own, and, like my mother, I am very protective of it. But although we never gardened together, I still inherited her green thumb and absorbed everything I know about gardening from her. Now, whenever I have a question about pest control or soil amendments, I call her right away, and she takes the time -- sometimes it takes hours -- to find the solution. In a way, I suppose she is still tending my garden remotely. Which is fine by me, because now that I have a garden of my own, I finally appreciate all of the little horticultural miracles she's performed in hers. She's probably the only gardener outside of Italy who can get rosemary to grow to a large, perennial shrub.

Because I usually visit at Christmas or in the late summer, I haven't seen her garden at its peak in years. But this past weekend, it was on the Quapaw Quarter Garden Club's tour of homes, and my cousin Matilda took pictures before the guests arrived, showing every room deck-out with cut flowers and the garden absolutely overflowing with fecundity. I still don't know how she gets everything to bloom all at once, but I do know that next year I'm going to have to be sure to visit in early May.

Cousin Matilda's pictures from the Quapaw Quarter Tour of Homes:

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