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.

Francis, Lydia, Ellsworth, and Janet Hall, 1021

Francis, Lydia, Ellsworth, and Janet Hall, 1021

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.

"Garden Carrot," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

“Garden Carrot,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

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.

Mara Bryner and Janet Hall Crump picking flowers, 1986

Mara Bryner and Janet Hall Crump picking flowers, 1986

On Monday:  Agnes

2 thoughts on “Gardens

  1. Patti Burkett

    First of all, you’ve got to love the haircuts on all three of those little ones–done up fresh for Easter!!

    About Grammy’s gardens: they were different than many others. Mostly people plant their flowers as landscaping up against the foundation of a house even in the 1960’s when we were growing up, but Grammy’s were in an area of the yard devoted to flowers with 3 or 4 rectangular beds that created a garden setting. I remember visiting England in 1985 and seeing people’s yards FULL of flowers. If they had a 3×5 foot square of land in the front of their house it was bursting with color and we went into a tea room that looked out over a back yard that was the same–just overflowing with color. Do you suppose that was what Grammy was doing? Recreating the yard gardens she grew up with in England?

    And the vegetable gardens: In my early years I remember my dad helping with the vegetable garden behind the house. As an adult, I now know that that garden was HUGE and must have required a lot of work and certainly provided a lot of food that we all helped to can or freeze. I remember going out with Grammy to pick tomato horn worms (gross) off the tomato plants. She would use forceps and put them in a glass ball jar! After Grammy and Grandpa died, my parents decided to have a garden at our house. Not as big, but still pretty big. I remember the plowing up and finding all sorts of things. Dad decided it might have been where the pig pen had been at one time. Those plants grew like crazy!!! Good soil helps green thumbs!

    1. Carol Post author

      Yes, you’re absolutely right about the gardens. I do think she was doing what her own mother and father, who were from England, did with their gardens in Glastonbury. I tried to think of a way to best describe Grandma Hall’s gardens, but never did it, but you described them perfectly. They were sort of layered, and had the hill below Glenna and Francis’ house for a background.
      And also, you’re probably right about the pig pen, because I remember visiting the pig pen when I was very young, and it was definitely in that area.
      Thanks, Patti!


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