Four of my blog friends have recently written articles about flowers or old-fashioned flower gardens. Their stories made me fondly remember my grandmother’s garden.
The family gardens grown two generations ago were painstakingly guarded and coddled. My grandmother Addie especially would find time in her busy day to nurture and feed her roses.
And why did they thrive so well? I have a theory–it was due to a combination of the used dishwater and coffee grounds she poured daily into their roots. And of course the tender words of encouragement that she spoke to them. Each day she would carefully pick off old leaves, beetles, and anything else she considered detrimental to their growth. She’d leave the cobwebs and spiders if she found them. They were after all good luck, in addition to being voracious eaters of the beetles.
Some of her roses were of the minute antique variety, not often seen now in New Hampshire. They were a petite pale pink with the slightest concentration of color near the base of the petals. The loveliness of their delicate aroma was only challenged for my attention once a year when the lilacs would bloom.
There was no orderly fashion to her flower beds. Like carelessly tossed coverlets the profusion of color was of varying height and often crowding into the narrow walkways that divided the bushes. Alas, by the time I knew my grandmother and her flowers, she was in her eighties and already having difficulty working in the garden. And she did not have the heart or the inclination to chastise her grandchildren who thoughtlessly crushed her flowers under their feet.
And so eventually her roses either died away, or were cut back to make way for swing sets and cement walkways. My mother cried when she discovered that the last of Gram’s rose bushes has been cut away by an unthinking landscaper.
I’ve never been able to cultivate a garden as lovely as my grandmother did. I fear I inherited my mother’s “gan-green” [sic] thumb instead.
But I cultivate the memory of her garden in my heart–I can still vividly recall the subtle scents, the pale color palate, and most of all the grace and constancy of the white-haired woman whose garden, and family, grew because of her loving touch.
P.S. The photograph above is of my gram, Addie (Ryan) Manning in her garden in southeast Manchester New Hampshire, taken in the 1930s or 40s.