Three of the most important women in my life, my mother, my grandmother, and my mother-in-law, all loved to work with their plants and couldn’t understand why I didn’t. My mother-in-law, who was an elementary teacher, related how she began each summer vacation. “My first day out of school I go out to my flower beds, and I work all day. That’s all I do all day, every day until I get them to looking the way I want them to look. After finishing that task, my mind is clear, and I can go on to other things.”
Each year, my mother chose one day soon after school was out, to come to my house and help me with my flowerbeds, which usually looked more like weed patches. We raked, weeded, uncovered the struggling plants, and planted and watered new ones to replace those that had died. My plants usually stayed healthy and pretty until I returned to teaching school in August and began neglecting them again.
My Cherokee grandmother, Granny Philpott, spent much of her time outside, either caring for her vegetable garden or working in her flowers. Even though she complained it was hard to share a yard with my grandpa’s hunting dogs, she nurtured hardy shrubs and filled big pots and ingenuous containers, like rubber tires, with a variety of plants and flowers.
I tried to explain to all of them that my busy life as a wife/mother/teacher afforded me little leisure time to care for plants. But, somehow, in 1986, after my father passed away, I found myself down on my knees, placing some of his funeral plants in the soil by my front door.
When my mother moved to town, she insisted that I take a huge, old iron pot that had belonged to Granny Philpott. Each spring, after the threat of frost has passed, I fill it with bright colorful flowers and remember Granny and her love of growing things. I have included a picture of it, fully planted, with this blog.
In some ways, I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s years before she passed, yet her physical absence left a big hole in my heart. Her funeral was on April 13, 2012, and, even though it was early, I soon bought a big batch of multi-colored pansies, marigolds, and petunias. My heart found solace as my hands worked the soil in the old familiar pot that my granny and mother once loved.