Thursday, January 3, 2013

I am my Nana's legacy

There is quite a romantic thread on the Antique Roses Forum filled with lovely idyllic memories of books and gardens and relatives from the past that were the inspiration to garden for those who post there. When I started reading it recently, I got way far into it before I realized it was started LAST December. I wondered why I didn't remember it from back then. Then it hit me. I have no memories of storybooks and poetry that lifted me to grand heights of gardening joy, so I didn't comment. If ever a gardener was created in a vacuum, it was me. I feel like my inspirations have come from looking through keyholes at glamorous photos of Old Garden Rose blossoms on the internet and incomprehensible seed catalogs and their exhilarating pictures. The buxom, many-petaled roses swept me off my feet and took me captive, commanding me to own them and make a place for them to grow and bloom. Perhaps they triggered memories of the upholstery fabrics I loved that were covered with cabbage roses in rich colors. 

My grandmother in Alabama was a gardener - a humble, rustic one. She grew muscadines, pears, and lots of flowers that were unknown to me when we came down from Connecticut for two weeks in the summers back in the fifties. I think she must have wondered about this little girl first-grandchild who followed her everywhere and watched her every move, including making those luscious biscuits with lard and buttermilk on an old bowed cookie pan. She rimmed the front porch of her southern bungalow, built by my grandfather a room at a time, with cinder blocks and made planters that she filled with begonias and I don't know what. But the plants that thrilled my soul were the huge and amazing blue snowball bushes at the steps to the porch. Of course, hydrangea is the correct name, but wow! they had a definite impact on my life, almost as tall as me and like nothing I'd seen in Connecticut. My eyes still widen at the thought. They must be why hydrangea-blue/French blue is my favorite color. Late in life she came to visit us here in Ocala and was genuinely thrilled to buy a Sago palm to bring home and plant in her yard, not knowing if it would withstand her winters. It did. Now that I think of it, so much of who I am was shaped by that heavy-footed lady with the loud southern accent (Y'all come eat!) who I saw and experienced for such short snippets of time. Quilting, clothes sewing, DIY, gardening by the seat of my pants...it all came down from her. She really was bigger than life, and I really think she had a massive influence on me in that she passed on her creativity and stamina to me. She had tons of it. She decorated her living room walls with artificial arrangements in containers that used to be Clorox bottles that she cut in half and the thick cardboard cones (spray painted gold) that used to be bobbins (I think) from the cotton mill where she used to work. Creative genius was everywhere in and around her house. Every place I looked (and I loved to look) had handmade things in it that I'd never seen before - awesome, ingenious creations. My goodness, I miss her. 

So with no knowledge of the subject to speak of I decided to dig a garden, knowing not what it would become only hoping I wouldn't embarrass myself. It's only recently I don't feel dishonest calling it a garden and myself a gardener. Surely, I don't have the credentials to be called such, but I do have the heritage. Gee, I wish Nana could see my garden. I know she would like it even though my hydrangeas are pink and rarely bloom. I think she would go around and fix things for me, and I would follow after her.

10 comments:

  1. How wonderful to have those great memories of your grandmother. I know she would love seeing and walking around your beautiful gardens.

    You've done good Sherry, really good.

    FlowerLady Lorraine

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    1. Thank you, Lorraine. I would love to see her reaction to my garden and work with her in it.

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  2. Ohhh I love this posting.....well done, Nana would have been proud I feel sure♥

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  3. I, recently(like yesterday) bought a Sago Palm and I live in Alabama...did hers live? I know that I see them everywhere...any advice on them...haven't decided where to put it.

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    1. Her home is in Phenix City, and it did live. I believe it's still living. I'll have to ask my aunt. I have no advise because I haven't grown them. They really aren't a favorite of mine even though my grandmother loved it.

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  4. How sweet Sherry. She sounds like a wonderful woman.

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  5. Thanks, Bet. She was wonderful and one of a kind.

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  6. This post brought back a flood of memories for me. My grandmother was a gardeners as was my mother. Such a rich legacy they leave for us. I wish my mom had lived long enough to see my rose garden as it stands today. She passed away when I had just one spindly rose.....

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    1. Chris, it does show that our forebears are always with us when we do the things that we have in common and that they left (we leave) more behind than we think. The continuity is neat. It would be good to have them visit our gardens, but sort of in a way they are there in us, seeing in our vision, doing in our actions, responding in our sensitivities. It's strange, but we are who they were to some degree and are carrying on. I almost think we can't help it.

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