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|OT Lily Conca D'or|
I've been seriously gardening now for going on 25 years, ever since I quit my full-time job, became an at-home mom and decided to do something with the two acres of hay field we had surrounding the house. I didn't know a thing about Fine Gardening or even Not So Fine Gardening; I just knew I loved flowers.
As a kid, growing up on the farm, I adored my mother's flower beds, though I did next to nothing to help her maintain the narrow strip of plants growing right along the driveway and the borders around the farmhouse. Whenever I had a spare moment in the summer after chores on the dairy farm, I was out riding my bike or horsing around somewhere else.
Despite working what would equate to two full-time jobs, Mom always took time out to tend her flowers. I can remember her deadheading and weeding, staking and pruning her flowers even after a long, hot, grueling day of baling hay was over and the cows were all tucked in for the night. We would all be exhausted from the day's work, but she would be out there until dark and the mosquitoes drove her inside.
My father's take on flowers was a lot less enthusiastic, 'They're all weeds, you can't feed them to cattle; what good are they to anybody?'
With help like me and encouragers like my father, it's a wonder Mom had any flowers at all. She had a friend named Bea who had a large flower garden and used to share her plants with Mom when she lived up the road. But then Bea and her husband, Bert, moved FAR away to Denmark...(that's Denmark, WI, not the country, ha) though as it was a 40 mile drive to visit, I guess it may as well have been a different country.
Living on a farm back in the day, we just didn't get away from it that often; by the time the morning chores were done and the noon meal eaten and cleaned up, it was 1PM and to drive 40 miles to see their friends took almost another hour (this was a major trip for us) and then we had to be back home by 5 at the latest to eat supper and get back out to the barn to milk cows. This left about two hours to visit their friends and play Sheepshead.
Despite the time crunch, my folks and Bert & Bea used to try to visit several times a year, taking turns going to each other's houses, always on a Sunday which was SO boring for me. I had to go along because I was too young to stay home alone and they wanted a fifth person to play cards with as 4-handed Sheepshead was not challenging enough. 'Five-handed Jack of Diamonds is partner' was better and that's where I came in handy, Karen can play cards with us old folks--(oh, I hated the game when I was seven years old!)
As a result of Bea's generosity, Mom's flower garden grew to contain quite a few different plants, many of the descendants of which are growing in my garden today, and when I see the Missouri Primroses, yarrow, creeping phlox and the pinks, just to name a few, I think of Bea fondly. She passed away over ten years ago, but her flowers are still thriving here and at my mother's.
Mom didn't know what the botanical names were, she just loved the flowers Mom's garden was always a riot of color, she loved annuals from seed at the grocery store: four o'clocks, moss roses, petunias, bachelor buttons, castor beans, daisies, cosmos, marigolds and gladiola bulbs. Every color, every form, all jumbled together, it was and is beautiful.....Mom still gardens at age 89 though she downsized to just the beds in front of the house. I start the annuals for her in the spring and she tends them just as carefully as ever.
When we built the house in 1978, Mom said I had to have something around the front to make it look less bleak and while I was at work one day, she came down and planted some of Bea's flowers right out front. I thought it looked really nice, but didn't have time to tend it much, so over the years, Mom would come down and putz with my front border every so often.
When I quit working after Joel was born, I became seriously depressed. Depression was always lingering in my life, but a non-functioning thyroid and post-partum depression pushed me right to the edge. The one thing that helped me, besides medication, was my flowers, they were so pretty, just like Mom's. I became more and more interested in flower gardening and thought I was doing pretty well, but I was in for a rude awakening. We had put in a little round bed encircling a tree and I planted several different kinds of petunias in vibrant colors and a little of this and that and thought it was really pretty, that is, until one day a neighbor lady, out for her daily walk, stopped in to visit.
I proudly showed her my new flower bed and she said, "Oh, well, now, isn't that something.....?" but it wasn't the tone of voice I was hoping for; rather condescending or more of a 'Look, I just stepped in some poop," enthusiasm.
I was kinda hurt and confused, but she cleared it up for me right away. "My daughter has a beautiful perennial flower garden in her backyard," she said, "And she sticks to a color palette and pays strict attention to the plant's form, not this mish-mash of annuals and perennials and what all you have going on here. I mean, don't get me wrong, this is ok. I guess you're off to a start, anyway."
Ouch. I thought I'd ARRIVED, not merely begun my journey! She was the first Color and Plant Snob to cross my garden path. I was crushed at first; her words really stung. What I thought of as my pretty little garden was diminished in less than five minutes by a garden critic telling me it wasn't 'right'. Somehow the cheery petunia faces smiling up at me from their homes next to the glowing marigolds looked tacky now and I felt stupid; like I should have known better than to plant something like THIS to offend the eyes of passersby.
As the years have gone by, I have continued on the 'start' I had and have learned a bunch more about gardening, or at least I like to think I have, and yet I remember the day so well. I guess I should be mature enough to say I thank the lady for her insight and for critiquing my efforts and 'forcing me to grow as a gardener' and all that crap, but you know what? I still don't appreciate what she did. Her helpful criticism almost made me want to quit gardening as I was so unsure of myself in those dark days and gardening was the one thing I had that lifted my spirits.
|"Yellow is not allowed in my garden."|
So, where was I going with this? OH, yeah.. I have had some visitors to the garden over the years complaining about my color scheme. Well, not 'complaining' --yeah, ok, I'm probably being over-sensitive--but commenting, "You have so much yellow and orange and red and EVERYTHING in your garden. In MY garden, bright colors are not allowed, especially yellows, reds and oranges!! I stick to only pastel pink or purple or white or blue, blah, blah, blah, no hot colors, only this or that or the next thing."
I usually smile and nod, ok, good for you, you grow your favorite colors and plants, that's nice, I'm happy for you. But why do you need to tell me my color choices are horrible?
There was a t-shirt popular some time ago, 'Friends Don't Let Friends Plant Annuals' and I had so many comments on that too when people would tour.....'Ugh! Look at all these annuals!" What are you, a glutton for punishment? Don't you know annuals are a waste of time and energy? You grow them for three months and they die!" Once again, thank you for your concern for my waste of time and energy, but I love them!
|"Ugh, look at all these annuals!!"|
Seriously, what concerns me is this: 25 years ago, I was badly depressed, with little self-esteem and finally found gardening to be something that took me out of myself, out of doors, and much nearer to God and made me a better wife and mother. My first random garden visitor had nothing whatsoever positive to say about my effort, in effect making me feel like a failure. I almost quit gardening that day. But I didn't. What if I had? What a shame!
We never know how our words may help or harm a person on their journey through gardening or life...whenever I see a back stoop with a geranium in a plastic pot or a grand property overflowing with manicured gardens, I feel the same appreciation for those wonderful gardeners out there who wanted to make their little piece of real estate a bit more like heaven and share it with the rest of us.
To all my fellow gardeners, whatever color or type of plant you grow, I salute you! And Mom.........Thanks to you, bring on the color! I love you!
|Yes, it's ORANGE! and I love it!|
And don't forget--- to see other wonderful gardeners, head over to Fertilizer Friday with Tootsie!