Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For the love of 4 o'clock

Just a little in the way of background.

I fell in love with my mothers garden this past summer, when I visited for an extended bit. Sure I had always known my mom had the greenest of thumbs, and the loveliest of gardens. She prescribes to that 'english cottage' look by default, where, within reason, reseeders can flourish, things run into each other and over each other, and a riot of sizes, shapes and colors run rampant through the multiple gardens of my childhood home. I had, thanks to a childhood of living around the plants, a passing knowledge of many of the cottage variety plants; beebalm, four o'clocks, nasturtiums, zinnias, catchfly, dahlias, and more were familiar to me.

I had been home several times during the summer season through the years since I moved to the big city after school, though more often than not, I visited home during the winter season, when all that was left of the ephemeral paradise were a few brown husks, and various pots and garden statuary standing oddly by themselves, looking out of sorts and out of place. I do remember coming home in May once, maybe 10 years ago and being astounded how beautiful the yard and gardens were, but it was filed away in the 'cannot use now' category as were most living green things in my 600 sq foot Manhattan apartment. Maybe someday.

Anyhow, for several weeks this year, I sat out by the pool surrounded by four o'clocks in every direction. Nasturtiums were blooming directly in front of them, and some sort of flowering vine had taken over the side of the 'cabin'. The soft buzzing of tiny bumblebees in the afternoon sun was always present as was a ever so slightly amazing smell of plants far and wide, and cut grass from the yard. I would round the cabin and duck the clothesline to the dedication garden, and would be met by a profusion of zinnas, beebalm, garden phlox and catchfly in their late summer splendor on my right, intermixed with dozens of flowers I had seen before but couldn't remember because my mom always called them by their latin names, which without context quickly went the way of most foreign words. On my left a rose of sharon was 15 feet tall and tons of little roses's of sharon (to my mom's consternation) were trying to sneak a living into the surrounding bed of coreopsis.

Every morning, myself and Shorty, the cat, would walk out to the front garden at the head of the driveway and visit the dahlias, now so heavy and tall that half had flopped over and then decided to continued their vertical climb up. The remnants of agapathas had given way to cleome and others. I would skirt up to the driveway entrance to see what was growing down the hill and kick a few of the black walnuts off the lawn and down the hill to make my stepfather happy. Shorty and I would then round to the front of the house, never used, where the boxwoods grow unhindered and wildflowers and roses have joined them in the chaos. Next stop was following the house around to the shade gardens, and peeking to see if the bleeding hearts were still doing their thing or had succumbed to the viney neighbor, then joining the impatiens and begonias on my way back into the house for another cup of coffee.

What was different this time? I now have a PLACE to fall in love with the growing of flowers. I moved cities, and though I don't have 5 acres to grow plants, I do have a front garden and a back garden in Charleston, SC at a house I had just put an offer on. And I was going to make my gardens grow. Starting first with some 4 o'clock seed stow-aways, stuffed sneakily in my bag by my mom, who must have suspected I was in love with them.


  1. I am reading this post over two years after you wrote it! Congratulations on how far your blog has come. I enjoyed this post very much. Your mother has a very special garden, and now so do you!

    1. Yay my first comment on my very first post :)!Thank you!

  2. Would love to see more pictures of your Mom's garden. Really liked what I read at the front of your blog so now I'm starting at the beginning.