When a cousin visited me recently, we talked about the gardens on the farm. Most of the large crops of hay, corn, alfalfa, oats, barley, etc. were planted in fields away from the house. But near the house my grandparents grew all kinds of shrubs, flowers and vegetables.
My mother and her brothers and sister started their interest in gardens when they were very young. In this photo of them from Children’s Sunday, 1921, they hold tiny potted plants received that morning at church. All the Hall children went on to have “green thumbs.” My Aunt Lydia studied animal and plant life and raised orchids, Uncle Francis worked his whole life on the farm, Uncle Aaron tended a beautiful yard and garden, and my mother made striking bouquets from her flowers and then did paintings of them.
The visiting cousin, Skip, spent many years working on the farm and for our Uncle Francis and my grandparents. Skip never understood how anything could grow in the vegetable garden behind the farmhouse – it was so very full of rocks. I pulled up carrots from that garden and wiped them “clean” on my pants before taking a gritty bite. They tasted of sunshine and earth, and I don’t think there is any better way to eat a carrot.
At the foot of the hill leading to my Aunt Glenna and Uncle Francis’s house my grandmother grew flowers, and around the front of the house and across the street near the barnyard fence my grandfather planted hollyhocks. When they bloomed in the heat of summer he brought single hollyhock blossoms into the kitchen for my grandmother. They looked like dancing girls in brightly colored skirts balanced on the tips of his fingers.
Iris, hostas, peonies, and phlox are what I picture when I remember my grandmother’s gardens. Maybe that’s because the plants lived on for many years after she died. In 1986, sixteen years after her death, my grandmother’s flowers were plentiful enough for a bouquet. During a summer visit that year, my mother and my daughter picked an armful of phlox and hostas to put into a pewter pitcher for the dining room table. Most people grow hostas for their foliage, but I’ve always loved the pale lavender-colored blossoms because they remind me of Julys on Whirlwind Hill.
On Monday: Agnes