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My grandmother’s gardening legacy


Flowers remind me of my grandmother, and if I had to pick only one species to represent her, it would be snapdragons.

Snapdragons from my garden

Snapdragons from my garden, 2018

She always had the most beautiful gardens, and even when they moved from their country home to the city, to be closer to us and to have a smaller, more maintainable place – they still had a HUGE lot and it was filled with both lovely flowers as well as a substantial vegetable garden.

The front yard was a small square, and on the west end, she had a container which always held a huge dusty miller plant and petunias. On either side of the front door, she planted bulbs and seasonal annuals. Tulips in spring, astilbe, red hot pokers, and of course snapdragons. Snapdragons come in all heights and colors, and she grew every variety. She loved bright fun colors and her gardens were always a pleasing mix – it gave the impression of effortless beauty, but now that I am older and garden on my own – I am certain there was indeed a lot of hard work put into the endeavor! She grew them mostly from seeds, and she never seemed to have any problems with the seeds coming up or being stolen by birds, etc. Interestingly, I do not recall that she ever grew lavender. My guess is that since lavender isn’t native to the Southeastern US, it wasn’t in her repertoire – she did seem to focus on the more traditional native plants and flowers.

purple petunia from my container garden

Petunias from my garden, 2018

The backyard had a beautiful grape arbor, with black muscadines, that tasted like sunshine in grape form. As long as you didn’t eat the skins (they tasted like poison).

The vegetable garden was massive, and it was my grandfather’s domain. Grandma grew the flowers, but Pop had a magic touch with fruits and veggies. Each season he grew pole beans, runner beans, zucchini, crookneck squash, and literally eight kinds of tomatoes. He always grew various kinds of both red and yellow tomatoes for my mom. And in late summer, we had corn, pumpkins, cantaloupes and other melons – he grew the best watermelons.

They did not travel much, but always ventured around the region to find the best in-season fruits and my grandmother would make jams from them. He would come and pick gallons of blackberries at our house, hiking out to the back reaches of the horse pasture in the hot July sun.

Both sets of my grandparents have now passed away, but when I make jam, grow flowers or tomatoes, I feel them with me in some measure. It makes me happy to realize that they instilled in me a love of beauty and a positive connection to nature and seasonality.

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