I wanted to take a second on Mother’s Day to thank my mom for nurturing my love of gardening.
Last weekend I went to visit my mom for her birthday. As a gift, my sister, brother and I spent some time helping in her garden. I pruned the tops of azaleas taller than I and helped to widen the winding paths carved through these blooming shrubs. Next I followed my mom about and, when she pointed, I brought out the shovel and dug up the offending oak tree or Russian olive or prickered vine and tossed it in a pile for clean-up (usually after waving it around and cheering, a warning to other oak trees considering taking root in my mother’s garden that had Mom rolling her eyes and grinning). As the sun grew hotter overhead, we sat in the shade and I helped plant daisies around one of dozens of birdbaths waiting to serve the feathered community that flocks to this oasis.
As we walked through the garden and weeded, we of course talked, alternately planning the future course of the garden or our own futures. Much as pulling that first weed causes one’s fingers to meander, there’s hardly anything more relaxing than wandering along a garden path and letting your thoughts follow what they will.
Last weekend, our thoughts often turned to my grandmother, who recently passed away, but who we agreed was cheering us on as I tugged up offending weeds. My mom grew up in the house where she now lives again, and she notes that if a tree falls here or a plant dies there, well, it’s all changed so much over the years that it’s clear in another year or ten it will be a totally different garden than the one we surveyed that day. It’s a good reminder: change is constant in gardening and in life. Both require frequent maintenance, solid looks to ensure you’re on the right path. For me, it is a necessary reminder. I grow nostalgic wandering through the garden where I spent so many summers of my childhood playing, and it’s hard sometimes to accept the drastic changes. And in my own garden I feel sometimes so bent on matching the land to the image in my head of what it should be, that I need I that reminder that the garden follows it’s own path and sometimes I need to step back and accept what it wants rather than what I think is best.
Obviously gardening is a part of my mom’s legacy to me, as it was from her mom to her, and my great-grandmother’s legacy to my grandmother. A garden seems a wonderful thing to leave behind. And my, how the roots have spread. Last summer I planted spider lilies my aunt gave me from my great-grandmother’s garden. The healthiest azaleas in my yard are the ones I dug up from my mother’s house, and she still keeps pushing more nandinas and Indian hawthorns my way. I love watching the progress of these plants, thinking how these stalks grew under my mother’s or grandmother’s care. And now it’s my turn to care for these plants, to ensure my garden has a shady place to sit and a meandering path for the tiny feet of future wandering gardeners.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!