Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life's a Garden. Dig It.

When I was a girl, my mother always had huge, glorious flower and vegetable gardens that she tended from Spring through Fall every year. She lovingly tended each vine and branch, and the results were breathtaking.

When I was in college, I planted some bulbs and some wildflower seeds outside my little house, and I started to learn the difference between flowers and weeds. My little scratched-out patches of dirt never looked ANYTHING like Mom's glorious growing masterpieces, but I started to understand how satisfying digging and planting and cultivating could be.  Never mind the weeds - there were actual flowers in there somewhere, and I had grown them!

After James and I got married, we bought a house, and I thought NOW was the time to buckle down and become my mother's daughter (flower-wise, at least). My feeble attempts were quickly scorched by the blasting summer heat of Sacramento though, combined with my ignorance and a scary case of asthma that kept me inside (and out of the smog) way more than I would have liked. My asthma is why we moved to Oregon, in fact.

Ah, Oregon. Green, green, beautiful Oregon. Everything grows here. Drop a seed and get out of the way. It's been a perfect place for me to experiment with and learn about growing a wide variety of flowers and plants. After seven and a half years of trial and error, I'm starting to get the hang of it at last. I've learned by doing, I've learned from the wonderful interwebz, and I've learned by asking advice from my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends who garden - really anyone who digs in the dirt. One of my favorite things about gardening is how many things in my yard remind me of people I love. A patch of flowers here, a little statue there. Contributions from and reminders of folks who are rooted (pardon the pun) in my heart. When I step out into my garden, I'm surrounded by family and friends:

 The seeds for these black-eyed Susans came from my mom's garden. They make me think of her and of Kansas, where I grew up.

 Mom brought me these hostas as well. She pulled them out of her garden, wrapped them up, and packed them in a suitcase several years ago. I have a hard time keeping the snails away from them, but I love them so much.

Mom ALSO brought me some of her Stella D'Oro lilies - her favorite. Aren't they cheerful?

 This bee balm (monarda) reminds me of my sweet mother-in-law. She has tons of the stuff in her gorgeous yard in Kansas, and she bought the starters for my patch when we visited a plant nursery during her visit several years ago.

She also bought me this beautiful bench, which I recently scraped down and re-stained. This thing has held up incredibly well through lots of rainy Oregon winters, and I think of her whenever I see my kiddos swinging their little legs as they perch on it, surveying their kingdom.

 My dad built me this beautiful arbor to wind my grapevines around. He took such care with it, and it, too has withstood rain and wind and snow and heat and crazy grapevines that grow nine miles an hour and have to be beaten back with a stick.

 This pretty little touch came from my sister-in-law, Denny.

 My neighbor planted this Wisteria before she moved away. It has taken the fence over completely, and it sure is pretty when it blooms.

 She gave me these, as well, and they have faithfully grown in my front garden for seven years now. Carrie was my first real friend in Oregon, something I'll always be grateful for.

 My hydrangeas remind me of my best friend, Laura, who lives in Kansas. They're her favorite, and she had them in her wedding, where she married James's best friend, Elliot. Pretty cool, how that worked out. :) Laura and I met in college. She introduced me to James. We still talk on the phone a couple of times each week, and I love her so.

 My sister, Olivia was with me when I bought these little boxwoods, shortly after Miss V was born. We always have so much fun when she comes to visit.

And this beauty is the tree that stands in our front yard. Whenever it blooms, I remember when, having just moved here, James came to me, urgency in his voice, with the list of trees the city said we could choose from. It was "first come, first served", and there were only a few of each variety available, so we quickly looked them all up, chose the one we thought would be prettiest, and sent our list back in, right away. It was the tallest one on the street when it went in, and we continue to love and admire it as it grows taller every year.

My gardening skills have come a long way, and I have so much left to learn, but when I step outside my house, into my ever-evolving personal Eden; when I watch my children picking the flowers, marveling at the little creatures that live amongst them, and generally enjoying all those gorgeous, growing things, each reminder of the people who have contributed plants, wisdom, and time makes me smile with a memory. I think that's one of the true joys of gardening - living reminders of love.

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