Monday, April 18, 2005

In My Mother's Garden

Or maybe, "I Think Spring is Here, Thank God"

When my grandfather died in December of 1985, something came over me, and the next spring, I felt compelled to plant a garden. It was a small space, based on the principles of square foot gardening. I planted cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers. If I had had a little more faith in the square foot gardening method, I probably would have planted pink-eyed purple hull peas. I don’t understand why my grandfather’s death drove me to dig in the dirt, nurturing vegetable plants that way, but doing so help me endure my loss, and I felt like I was honoring my grandfather’s memory.

That’s not me in the picture. I was probably the one who took the picture. That’s my sister, standing there barefoot with her hand on her hip. That was back in the repressive days when respectable little girls wore dresses everywhere, even to the country, but that is a whole ‘nother post! The peas are the bushy things to the left. The bare ground was probably where watermelons were going to be planted. The dog's name was Sport.

It seems my mother felt the same need when my brother died in December of 1994. Sometime in the spring of 1995, my mother planted a tree in his memory. Then she dug a small flower bed and filled it with flowers. Back then she had a lawn with a few trees and lush St. Augustine grass covering the ground. Today she has a garden filled with plants and “rooms”, a veritable sanctuary in her back yard.

In my mother’s garden, there are weird things. Bowling balls, squatty little frog statues and roosters made of beans. I think I remember my mother and a friend of hers gathering all these colored beans and corn and tediously gluing them to the burlap to form this lovely work of art. And it all comes down to this, the beloved work of art now residing in her garden, the beans slowly rotting off. (Is that a metaphor or what? How many things do we value and then cast off?)

In my mother’s garden, there are little statues of children scattered about, most often depicting two girls and a boy, as we once were. My sister and I entertain ourselves by choosing which image best represents each of us. She is always the angelic-looking one. One of us seems to have lost her head, probably me.

In my mother’s garden, there are flowers. Flowers like my brother that seem to smile and greet you with a friendly “Hi, there”,

flowers like my sister, beautiful and deceptively delicate

flowers like me, decidedly sturdy-looking, that seem a bit confused, who are not sure what they are supposed to be (orange? pink? yellow?). Flowers with weird names too. This one is called chicken-bush. I have always had a fondness for its confused nature.

In my mother’s garden, there are sentimental things too. This is the pulley that was in the water well at the house where she grew up.

In my mother’s garden, there are places of prayer. Places to wrestle with a mother’s grief over the loss of a son. Places to intercede on behalf of a grandson. Places to thank God the blessings of a new season.


  1. I was, and still am, not a dig-in-the-dirt kind of person, but reading your post and seeing the lovely little things that come from dirt- well, it speaks to me- just a bit. Somehow, the sense of beauty and God's character comes through in those pretty flowers, and all those little knick-knacks are like monuments to the Creator- thanks for sharing, Annie.

  2. In my Father's house, in my Mother's garden - thanks for the imagery. Grief, dirt, compost, and new life - rhytumns of grace.

  3. How lush!! I am jealous!

    I am a relatively new gardener - started in the spring after my grandfather died in January. He'd been the family gardener until then. His father grew flowers - roses taller than himself. My grandfather refused to grow anything that couldn't be eaten. I try to do a little of both.

  4. I want to be there right now.

  5. move over k8, i want to sit on the bench next to you --

    regina clare jane, how can you not want to dig and the dirt and get your hands dirty? yikes! my son is helping me with the leaves so i can get a full view of what i have to work with...first time in forever i've got spring bulbs bursting forth and my hostas are already moving the clumps of earth in their stubbornness and desire to be seen...

    oops. methinks i've threadjacked ::blush::

    okay annie - you did it now. you've taken me to a place, in your words and your pictures, that makes me long for reconnecting with the earth. it's been dormant for a little bit now and i feel a reemergence happening...

    i have to wait, however, because it's all of 5:00 a.m.

  6. someone recently told me about square foot gardening and I've been meaning to check that out. Thanks for the reminder.
    I liked this little garden tour.
    fits my mood perfectly today. :o)

  7. Your 'chicken-bush' is actually lantana camara a member of the verbena family. I'm violently sensitive to the odor (err... aroma) of these flowers. They are considered noxious weeds in some parts of the world. See for some lovely photos and information and for more scholarly info.


  8. Regina Clare Jane...I do occasionally fantasize about planting peas and butterbeans, but in that fantasy, I have a John Deere tractor and plow to do my digging in the dirt!

    anj...It does help to remember there is a rhythm to grace, especially when we are in the midst of the "dirty" spots.

    rachHang in there with the gardening, I know it is soothing work. All this talk almost makes me want to plant something! Isn't that strange that the death of our grandfathers sent us to the garden?

    k8...Okay, come on over! I think m2 is going to show us how much fun it is to dig in the dirt!

    Miss m2...Dig on, girlfriend! We'll sit quietly and meditate while you dig! I have to admit, it does feel good when the flowers start to emerge again.

    Captainwow...If I were to have a vegetable garden again, I would use the SFG advice again. I had a book about it, but I have misplaced it. It worked really well, with a minimal amount of work.

    elsi...I wish you had not told me that about the odor, now I know, sometime this weekend, I am going to have to go to my mom's, and I am going to have to stick my nose in those flowers, just to see what kind of odor they do have! Maybe they smell like chicken??

    As for them being considered noxious weeds, well, most of us Louisianians have never been accused of having the most refined "taste" in much of anything!

  9. Annie -- what a nice garden! Up here in Tennessee (which is considered far north by you Louisiannans, I guess) we struggle to get lantanna to bloom in the summer. It never makes it through the winter, which means it will never become a weed in my garden. Its one of my favorite flowers, too, even if I never heard it called chicken-anything!

  10. Beautiful pictures, beautiful thoughts for a Monday morning.....

  11. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  12. My grandparents always had gardens - flowers and vegetables. One summer my grandma had evening scented stock growing in her front flower bed. In the evening it gives off this beautiful perfume. I am allergic to perfume so I have planted these flowers in my gardens for years now hoping that my children take with them the memory of this kind of perfume that will always remind them of their mother.


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