Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Beauty Blooming All Over

 

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. )

There are 7 comments.

  1. Aaron Miller Member

    Do you do any gardening these days? If so, how does it compare? 

    Also, if you don’t mind the question, is that land still in your family? Does someone still work it? 

    Not many years ago, I helped look after an old rancher with dementia. He had lived on the land his whole life and never even travelled far from home. His family was one of my hometown’s original settlers and my school was named after them. But when he passed, there was disagreement and money needs among the next generation. So they had to sell the land. It seems harder to keep land like that in a family these days. 

    • #1
    • May 13, 2019, at 1:27 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Do you do any gardening these days? If so, how does it compare?

    Also, if you don’t mind the question, is that land still in your family? Does someone still work it?

    Not many years ago, I helped look after an old rancher with dementia. He had lived on the land his whole life and never even travelled far from home. His family was one of my hometown’s original settlers and my school was named after them. But when he passed, there was disagreement and money needs among the next generation. So they had to sell the land. It seems harder to keep land like that in a family these days.

    My mother died 13 years ago in June. My brother owns the property where her house sits, and the big red barn. He had to sell the cows and quit being a dairyman before she died. He now sells equipment to “big” farmers. A couple of my sisters live there in the community, on adjoining properties, so it is being watched over. My brother rents the land to others to grow crops. When my dad died, at age 61 (too young…leukemia) my brother was ready to take over the farm. Some relatives asked (in a somewhat provocative way), “Well…I see your brother is inheriting the whole farm. None of you girls are getting any of it?” And we replied, “Yes, and we’re soooo glad he wants it! You’ll notice that none of us (six sisters) married a farmer!”

    In that location, it is very difficult to find a cost-effective market for the milk. Our grandparents started a cheese factory about 100 years ago. But, since then, it has gone out of business, and there just isn’t any profit in hauling the milk100 miles (closet creamery) to a market.

    BTW: I LOVE to garden. I have a lovely raised bed of tomatoes about to turn red right now, here in the Mojave Desert. We’ll get zucchini, and green peppers, too. Everywhere we’ve lived, I’ve gardened. I call it : FREE FOOD FOR POOR PEOPLE! I definitely inherited her green thumb.

     

     

    • #2
    • May 13, 2019, at 4:11 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Homemade < Homegrown. 

    • #3
    • May 13, 2019, at 6:29 PM PST
    • 1 like
  4. Aaron Miller Member

    Cow Girl (View Comment):
    I LOVE to garden. I have a lovely raised bed of tomatoes about to turn red right now, here in the Mojave Desert. We’ll get zucchini, and green peppers, too. Everywhere we’ve lived, I’ve gardened. I call it : FREE FOOD FOR POOR PEOPLE! I definitely inherited her green thumb.

    Glad to hear it. I’ve never tried a raised bed, but I love a garden. We grew a variety of vegetables when I was young, but for some strange reason wasps would sting the tomatoes. Maybe they were going after other bugs inside? These days, stink bugs are the greater threat. Anyway, my favorites were okra (fried) and acorn squash (dessert), but we also had greens and radishes. 

    Today, I’d say nothing beats a kumquat bush. Being able to pluck breakfast off a tree and eat it without cooking or peeling is one of life’s simple pleasures. I’m told chicken eggs can be similar. 

    • #4
    • May 13, 2019, at 6:52 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Glad to hear it. I’ve never tried a raised bed, but I love a garden.

    I have to use raised beds here in the Mojave Desert because there really isn’t much soil. A few inches down as you dig, you’ll hit a layer called caliche–it’s like cement. So, containers or raised beds are about the only way to have enough dirt to grow anything.

    • #5
    • May 14, 2019, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member

    “Texas soup” (hard clay) is a pain as well, but in the piney woods near the Gulf we have some wiggle room.

    Just about anything that can handle the heat can grow around Houston if watered — oaks, palm trees, ferns, cacti, succulents, fruit trees, etc. But the soil is much better in coastal Alabama. 

    I used to pull branches off my grandma’s red hibiscus, stick them in unfertilized soil without watering, and watch them grow. Camellias cover Mobile certain times of year, along with azaleas.

    • #6
    • May 14, 2019, at 11:26 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    A wonderful account of a life of gardening.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the May 2019 Group Writing Theme: Blooming Ideas. Do stop by and sign up!

    We have plenty of dates available.

    • #7
    • May 14, 2019, at 3:53 PM PST
    • Like