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The monthly theme of “Blooming Ideas” made me immediately think of my mother and her flowers. It is an appropriate topic for the spring season and Mother’s Day.
As if she didn’t have enough to do, what with the eight kids, cow milking, baling hay, laundry, cooking three meals a day, she maintained a very gorgeous flowery yard. She wasn’t unique in this endeavor. All of her friends and peers had carefully tended flower beds, too. She learned it from her parents. I loved visiting my grandparents in the summer for many reasons, but one, in particular, was that Grandpa had planted a section of flowers by his house that was specifically for grandchildren to enjoy. It was a big bed of pansies, and he showed us how pansies had a little face. And we could pick some of them! We totally loved that we could hold them in our hands and play with them. Also, did you know that snapdragon blossoms can be manipulated to look like they are talking to you? And they’ll sing you a little song, or just say hi? My grandpa…
But, my mother’s flowers were strictly to be admired. No picking…She had flower beds that went all around the house, next to the foundation, and she had flower beds that lined the inside of the yard fence. Each yard gate was framed by lilac bushes, and the end of the garden plot was defined by a huge bed of poppies, daisies, and bleeding hearts. Mind you, this flower abundance was mostly annuals. Some of the plants, like the big old poppies, and the irises were perennials. But the bitter frosts we experienced required her to dig up the bulbs for the tulips and daffodils each year, and store them in the basement till it thawed enough to replant them.
The trip to the greenhouses was not to be missed! There were two in our valley run by families that made their living because of this community-wide gardening mania. Mama knew exactly what she was after: petunias, pansies, and marigolds for the flower beds. Then, we also got tiny little cabbage plants, and cauliflower plants, and seeds: peas, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, and lettuce. We’d saved potatoes that we cut up and planted, and the rhubarb was also perennial. I’m telling you: green thumb woman!! Between the elevation and our northern latitude, we had too short a growing season for tomatoes or corn. She got supplies of these every summer for canning from a fellow who’d bring up vegetables and fruit from the orchards and fields in northern Utah, where the altitude was lower and these foods could grow.
Then, we’d get home with the green treasures and the planting would begin! I can picture her on her knees, holding the trowel, a bucket of water with an old plastic teacup floating in it on the lawn next to her. First, make a hole with the trowel. Then, pour in a cup of water. Lift out the petunia plant from its little section, and set it in the wet dirt. Finally, push all the dirt back in around the plant leaving just the flowers and a couple of leaves showing. Within a month, the flower beds would be filled in with blossoms so that you could hardly see the underlying soil. No, children were not entrusted with this. We, however, were allowed to plant peas, radishes, turnips, and potatoes. She was in charge of carrot and lettuce seeds. Everything bloomed and flourished and produced right on schedule! There is nothing as yummy as fresh peas and carrots in cream sauce! Or tiny creamed potatoes with pearl onions. Or baby lettuce salad…She was a gardening and culinary champion!!
If we wanted to give her a gift, then we’d wander up the fields to a place we called “Flower Hill.” It was a little rise that didn’t ever get planted with crops and was inconvenient to mow, so it was a tiny wild section in the middle of the farm. It was just grass and flowers. The cows would graze there, but they just facilitated the growth with their (ahem) “contributions” left behind as they wandered through. During spring and summer, Flower Hill went through the seasons of wildflowers. First, there were buttercups, and tiny little hyacinth looking flowers. Next, sego lilies would bloom, and what we called May flowers (no idea what they really were…) and Indian Paintbrush, and finally wild sunflowers. So there was always something to make a bouquet we could bring to our mother. And she always appreciated them and put them in a little cup of water on the counter. Flowers…they always remind me of her.
These are some photos of the garden and the flowers. The row of yellow and white ones are the end cap of the garden plot. To the right of that photo is her rhubarb plant. The middle view is the length of the garden, from the flowers to the back fence. And in the third photo, she is showing off peonies or bleeding hearts and in this photo the plants on the left are irises. (Sorry the resolution isn’t better. )