This time of year reminds me of visits from my grandmothers when I was growing up. Especially when I work in my garden. My flower beds are full of little reminders.
My mom’s mom loved day lilies. She had them in plentiful bunches all over her yard in Maryland. I remember them clearly, with their bright yellow and orange and maroon flowers. I spent many hours playing among them with my cousins.
My grandmother loved visiting us. On one of her visits we took her to Myrtlewood Mystique Gallery off Main Street. She found the store fascinating and thought Myrtlewood, native to Oregon, was a beautiful wood when polished and presented in the form of art.
On that particular visit, she bought a Myrtlewood seedling and brought it to our beach property. She was excited to plant it and hoped it would grow. Sadly it did not, probably because it’s native to Southern Oregon, but it was worth a try. Soon the place we had cleared for it was taken back by salal, the leafy shrub found as a prominent groundcover in nearly all areas of the coast.
Years later, after her passing, we had a chance to plant again in her memory. My mom dug up some of her day lilies and carried them home on the plane. Uprooted and transplanted to a new life, like many of us humans do, they began their life on the Oregon coast.
Those lilies have since established themselves at my mom’s and multiplied like lilies do, packed in bountiful bunches, just as I remember them in my grandmother’s yard. I have since dug up a section of those lilies from my mom’s garden and planted them in my garden. In the past few weeks I have watched them spring to life, once again, keeping my grandmother’s memory alive.
My dad’s mom also loved coming to Oregon. When she would visit us we would take her to Marys Peak. She was not an outdoorsy-type. In fact, in all her 90 years she never got a driver license. Listening to the radio, doing crossword puzzles, and watching soap operas was her idea of a good time. But she did love her peonies.
The house in which she was born and raised was her home for 80 years, until her Alzheimer’s became too advanced to live alone. In the backyard she had lined the fence with peonies. Come summertime her yard was in full bloom, rows and rows of peonies decades matured. I can still smell their sweetness.
When my dad brought some of her ashes to Oregon we sprinkled a handful into an oversized ceramic pot. Mixed into the soil, gently and with love, we planted a peony. Each year it grows back from the depths of the soil and memories of my grandmother’s peonies return. I want to remember what she ultimately forgot; that they were her favorite flower.
Now, as I tend to her peony, which I have affectionately named “Grandma,” I think of her, her yard, and our trips to Marys Peak. I recall the times we sat together at the picnic table at the top of the peak. She would be so proud of herself for “hiking” to the top. The gravel road that led us there had enough of an incline that she felt like she was on a true adventure. She would look over the valley in awe, amazed by the lush, green trees. “They don’t make trees like that in Delaware,” she would say.
As I have worked the soil these past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that my garden beds are full of love. Not just the love I give them, but the love they represent. I’ve never before thought of my garden as a place reminiscent of time spent with loved ones. But, as I come across plants that spark memory of moments passed, I realize my garden is more than just a garden; it’s where my memories will sprout back for years to come.
For me, this realization is a reminder that life goes on in beautiful forms if you take the time to see it. Looking at my garden, I can now smile at the little reminders. I think about the saying “home is where the heart is,” and, for me, my garden is also where my heart is.