April 26 – Ma always had a deep love for flowers. Her big bed of pure white regal lilies was something for any visitor to behold with wonder. The perfume wafted on the soft breezes to every part of the garden. Tea roses with their delicate tints, along with deeper hued ones made a lovely border on both sides of the old wooden walk that led from the back of the house to the grape arbor. Giant African marigolds waved golden orange and lemon heads in the fall, vying with the purple and rose asters with shaggy heads swaying in the breeze. Smaller red and yellow marigolds gave off that characteristic pungent odor peculiar to their kind. Wispy blue of prink bachelor’s buttons and variegated Sweet Williams brought joy to Ma’s heart, giving her something of beauty in a day when mundane things captured her attention through force.
Bright red, yellow, and orange tulips, along with the variegated red and yellow Parrot rock garden varieties heralded the coming of spring along with the early golden yellow shaggy daffodils to be followed by the delicately tinted yellow or whitish pedigree varieties. My favorite tulips were the kind that never did open wide while in bloom, the tightly cupped ones. As a very tiny child I can remember the deep dark black\purple ones that were Ma’s own mother’s favorite. Bright red or orange poppies with their contrasting black centers and shaggy bristly leaves, added real color to the garden.
Double mock orange spilled their sweet perfume on the summer air along with that of the lavender or deep purple bunches of lilacs. Portulaca, with its bright red, delicate pink. or orange, brightened up the old wash tubs set on the ground at the back of the house. Filmy nastursiums lifted orange-reddish heads to the sun in other tubs. Irises of many hues from deep dark purple to bright orange yellow or purest white, let their beards sway gently in the breeze. Chrysanthemums, with their strange odor and their colors of orange, rust, gold, white, or rose, made even late fall in Ma’s garden a colorful place to be.
Huge peonies in pure white or a delicate pink tint, and deeper pink always graced Ma’s June gardens for longer than I can remember. The almost-overpowering sweet perfume from their huge heads always made them a favorite of mine, along with roses. One year when the blooms were so big and heavy that the stems just couldn’t hold them upright, the pure white flowers just flopped down and lay on the ground alongside the huge plants. That was also the year the road was oiled just before a rainstorm. I can see those peonies yet, after the oil was sent rushing down the hill by the racing floods of rainwater. Their once beautifully pure white heads were turned a filthy black, with oil streaks all through them. That was a sad day for us all!
Flowers and Ma went together like sugar and cream. Mother’s Day meant a secret trek to Tillman’s Greenhouse across the way, with a few dimes clutched tightly in our hands. Every year Pa doled out to us a few hard earned coins so that we could pick and choose some small lavender ageratum, red or pink flowered wax plants, variegated coleus, and sometimes a small geranium. These were borne from the greenhouse with pride and great care, to be presented a few minutes later, with much giggling and pleasure on our part, and I am sure, on Ma’s part too! After all, if she had welcomed our feeble attempts at bouquets of dandelions, or black-eyed Susans, or daisies from the fields across the creek, surely she would like these store-bought offerings. – CHRIS