Every Flower Tells A Story
My mother loved flowers. When I was a child her yard was her pride and joy. It was filled with flowers and shrubs.
She had no pattern of placement other than knowing which side of the house a particular species would flourish on, and whether it needed full sun, partial shade, or full shade. Her paradise was daddy’s nightmare, because often the placement made it hard to mow.
In 1986 they sold the property and moved over here to the original homestead next to me. The people who bought the house brought in 14 hound dogs who promptly destroyed the 26 years of mother’s labor of love.
Within a week, the yard was completely dug up, not even leaving hardly any grass to mow. Mother mourned it for the rest of her life.
How thankful we both were that we had brought starts of nearly everything over to the homestead. Now, when I walk round my yard, I can still enjoy those things my mother loved so much.
I ask the pardon of any horticulturists and master gardeners out there who may read this. I only know these flowers by the names my mother called them, and some of them may be incorrect. But they are my old friends and evoke such memories of love and joy every time I look at them.
My parents were married in Modesto, California, in 1959 where my mother was living at the time. On the trip home they stopped at all of the usual tourist views — the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon and crossed the Mojave Desert.
There, mom made daddy stop and dig up a Yucca plant. This was the first item in her new yard. The descendants of this plant run rampant in my back yard today.
Mom had many bushes around the yard. Three of her favorites were the current bush, which smells exactly like the spice when in bloom; the Fire Bush, which produces fire red flowers; and her March Rose.
The March Rose came from a start at the house where my mother was raised and is one of the few things that we have that actually belonged to my grandmother Mary Eddings. When I was about 9 years old, we made a pilgrimage back to the place mother was born.
The house was gone, but near the foundation was the flower bush. Mom and her sister remembered playing by it when they were small. Each took a start and it still flourishes today in my yard.
Beside the front porch, mom had a Rose of Sharon bush, which is more like a small tree to me. I spent many hours playing by that bush. It was a tree house for my Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, and many kittens.
At the other end of the porch grew what mom called her “Potato Vine.” The seeds it produces look like tiny potatoes. This summer Greg make me an arch over the front gate and the vine is now in the process of covering the arch.
Many of my flowers come from bulbs. The Day Lilies and Lavender Iris also came from mom’s yard.
One of mom’s favorite things in her yard was daddy’s most despised. Her Mimosa Tree. Mimosas have roots that spread for literal miles and shoots tend to come up in all sorts of places.
Mom and I stopped by the side of the road and dug up the start out of the ditch, which she put in her yard. When I began my own yard, it was easy to dig up a start from hers. The scent of the flowers are heavenly to me, but my husband shares my daddy’s hatred of the roots and shoots.
Of course, coming back to the homestead meant I inherited some of my granny’s flowers that have been growing here for neigh on 100 years now. These heirlooms are very different, some of which I haven’t seen anywhere else.
I have double Easter Lilies, White Easter Lilies, purple Hyacinth, a purple Hollyhock, and a Wild Rose bush that gives me tiny pink flowers. My pruning lagged when I was working, so now the Wild Rose is an enormous monster that houses the family of mocking birds, provides a hiding place for the chickens, and even harbored a box turtle for a time.
Of course, over the years I received my own flowers as gifts. I once knew an older lady who was a great friend of my granny. For a time, I was her “wheels” taking her to doctor appointments, shopping etc. I refused to accept any gas money from her as she always treated me to lunch, so she began to pay me in flower bulbs and starts.
From Leona Miller, I received many heirloom flowers, which she assured me she had gotten as starts from my great grandmother Lucy McEntire who had been her neighbor at one time. She gave me a dark Iris, Lavender bulbs, and my favorite — Surprise Lilies.
In the spring, they come up as just green leaves, which wither and die down and do much better if you mow them over. Then, in early August, the flowers suddenly spring up over night and you awake to a lovely surprise!
My children have gifted me with flowers over the years as well, most often for Mother’s Day. I have Tiger Lilies, Tulips, and a Humming Bird plant to name a few.
Some of my flowers have just appeared suddenly over the years. The Wild Violets have migrated up from the woods, and the Morning Glory arrived one summer quiet unannounced and decided to stay.
And some I helped myself to, such as the Honeysuckle vine that grows rampant along my garden fence. The former owner of the factory I used to work for decided to eradicate the honeysuckle vine that grew beside our break area.
So several of us made sure we got starts before the massacre. Now the wonderful plant has a secure home with me.
I end now with two plants that bring back memories of my daddy. Mother drove him crazy with all of her flowers, putting them too close to mow between and choosing ones that were very evasive. But daddy did have a soft spot for two plants.
He always had a catnip plant in the corner of the barn lot for the barn cats, and he never mowed over Dandelions. So I brought a start of his catnip down for my own tabbies, and Greg never mows the Dandelions until the flowers are gone. He knows how sentimental I am, and I think he enjoys all of my memories as well.
Photos property of Leah McAllister.