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My Friendship Garden: Woven with Love

Gardeners instinctively know that flowers and plants are a continuum and that the wheel of garden history will always be coming full circle.

--Francis Cabot Lowell

Gardening is one those crafts that somehow creates a seamless time line from generation to generation.  I’ve mentioned my grandmother’s gardening prowess before, but several items in her garden stand out in my memory.

purpleirisThe first was one of the most gorgeous deep purple irises I have ever beheld.  Of course, part of that is a child’s memory that holds all favorite images at an unsurpassed apex, but truly, this flower was special.

Another memory was the row of nasturtium that we planted each year as a garden border.  I still plant nasturtium to this day.  Unfortunately, they weathered the summers of western North Carolina far better than they do on the coast, but perhaps that makes them especially significant since the time to enjoy them is so short.nasturium

But I have to say the item that most intrigued me was a shrub from the family Viburnum opulus, or more commonly Snowball Bush.  Although the bush was beautiful white puffy blooms in spring just as the name implies-its sweet scent.  But it was more the story of its arrival and its link to important people in my grandmother’s and in my own life that endeared it to me.

whitesnowballYou see, this bush was a transplanted cutting that my great-grandmother had shared with my grandmother and which had been shared with my great-grandmother by her mother, my great-great grandmother. This plant carried soil, water and nurturing from places all over this state to finally arrive at our home in western North Carolina.

I can not say how many homesteads my great and great-great grandmothers shared between them, but I know that my grandmother lived in at least three cities and houses, two of which I was a part of.  Unfortunately, when this last house was sold, my attempts at rooting cuttings from the bush failed. Another family member was successful in his rooting efforts, and off the snowball traveled again shared with love and high hopes of being a history-laden, intriguing and beautiful focus of someone else’s garden.

It’s the concept of garden sharing that makes gardening so much more than planting for landscaping purposes.  It’s the link--the connectivity it creates to all the hands, soils, and eras of time that a particular plant or package of seed has passed through.

What a wonderful thing to find a fellow gardener who is looking for that very plant so plentiful in your own garden.

It’s a trust that someone you share plants and seeds with is going to treasure these gems as you would.  And it’s a hope that as properties change hands and gardens pass through families and generations, as we move on to new places and take pieces of our gardens with us, that the stories and the people connected with the plantings will always be recalled.

In my own garden are plantings that were inherited with the property.  They were without a story when we moved in and started the process of cleaning up gardens that had been long neglected, as often happens with rental property.  But, perhaps, that is their legacy-once loved, long neglected, but loved anew.  Over time, they responded to my nurturing and the rest is history-and a history that I am happy to share with visitors to my garden.

Other plantings were gifts from friends that were thinning their bulb beds:  day lily, iris and daffodil bulbs-all from dear church friends or co-workers.

cannalilyOne of the most beautiful Canna lilies in my garden came from my teaching experience.  I am reminded of those days when I look at these cannas blooming-a priceless gift given to me by someone thinning the school’s beds.  I have shared many of these tubers with several gardening buddies.  It gives me the same joy to see them cherished and blooming in their gardens.

hands-plantI love the one-on-one intimacy of sharing with local friends, but, if you’re Internet savvy and make easy connections that way, there are a plethora of sites for seed and plant exchange.  Seed Savers Exchange, specializing in heirloom seed, Seeds of Diversity and Ion Exchange, whose focus is wildflower seeds and plants, are just a few.

Speaking of things to share, let me share a fun, favorite garden read:  People with Dirty Hands is a collection of stories about passionate, and sometimes unconventional gardeners, all willing to pass along their bounties of plants, seeds and gardening wisdom to those who seek.  The author, Robin Chotzinoff, takes you “off the beaten path” for some very amusing interviews with heirloom seed collectors, rose rustlers, mammoth tomato growers and even to a chile farm in New Mexico.

This book reinforces all my ideas about why I love gardening-the fascinating people and their stories about what’s in their garden and how it got there.

So, thank you to all of you who hold places of esteem on my continuing garden time line--past generations and contemporaries.

I cherish both friends eager to swap and those kind enough to simply gift.

prettygardenThank you for your contributions of plants, seeds, and dirt laden bulbs and tubers to my garden.  You have made these beds filled with soil and plants much more than a garden-they have become a colorful scrapbook with stories and memories behind every picture and woven together by family, friendship and a common thread of love for all things that grow.

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