Ending garden days, bittersweet moments and deep fall thoughts

Today was a perfect fall day up here on the ridge. Everything seemed to come into sharper focas for whatever reasons. I usually see things in detail as it is, but maybe the recent thoughts of relocation into a different climate and region of the country made everything even more precious to me. I suspect that most of you know how I cherish the flowers, and leaves and just the nature that is interwoven around us wherever we happen to be. I find magic everywhere. When I lived in Nashville, I found magic in my little quarter acre lot in the suburbs with neighbors close on either side. This was where my garden fairies first revealed themselves to me.
I planted along side the house and driveway, and the western flower bed along the driveway so distracted my neighbor who shared the driveway between us (yes, this is the SECOND house that I've owned that had a shared driveway, I never learn) that when I moved over here in 1992, she proceeded to dig up any flower she thought I'd left behind and plant in her own yard.
I remember she once told me that looking out her kitchen door past my bedroom window to the flowers in her face almost drove her nuts, they were so pretty and I made it seem so easy. I attributed it to my little fairies and she thought I was insane......
These are just fall evening thoughts of various garden related things. I don't want to move from my ridge and holler. I've begun to put down roots and despite that the lay of the land is challenging, I think that with some discipline and better focas, the fairy gardens will blossom into something even nicer than what it sounds like when I write about it. My flower beds and fairy gardens are a mass of chaos. I need to start doing better rather than just letting them do what they want to. It's time I took control and worked with the little grounds keepers instead of just letting things do what they did.
Ya'll have to understand it's a work and chaos in progress. I was standing out in the side yard today, estatic that Mary Emma had gifted me with my first colchicum. I lovingly dug it up from her side flower bed along side HER driveway yesterday, along with a little sweet double pink anemone that grew tangled up in a daylily she wasn't sure of the color. I was going to tease the anemone out from the roots of the daylily, but she insisted that I dig up the whole clump, that she had already taken a little piece of it earlier and moved it to her new spot up front.
You see, Mary Emma has a serious problem with her spine. It's deteriorating at an alarming rate, coupled with the fact that she has excruciating Fibro Myalgia, recent diagnosis of osteoporosis despite that she suppliments her calcium, and heaven knows what else. She is almost 80 now and she laughs that great husky laugh of hers and tells me her own sweet mother lived to her mid 90's. But her doctor has forbidden her to garden any more. She doesn't know when to quit. They've put her on a pain patch because of her severe pains and we spoke of her inability to garden and she looked at me as she tugged weeds and Cypress Vine from around plants that remained despite the disrepair of her gardens. Stop her? I'd have to fling myself at her feet to get her to stop. I gently reprimanded her and she slowed down a bit.
She reflected to me that it would be absolutely impossible for her to just quit gardening and reminded me that she wanted me to have her beloved tree peonies. She had realized when she allowed a neighbor to dig up four of them that she really wanted me to have them in my own garden, and had also decided that any unique plant that she couldn't divide and move up to the front beds would come back to me to plug in wherever I could find a spot.
She had finally come out this late summer and was amazed at all the plants crammed together and remarked that I really needed a front yard............<G> She signed that she wished she could buy me a house closer to her with a better yard to garden in.
So I dutifully dug up the mass of daylilies, and got down on my knees and planted her 20 Dutch iris "Eye of the Tiger's" for her in a spot she would see from her west window. Then she pointed out the clump of double colchicum and told me she had another clump of them and pointed to under the incredibly beautiful azalea bush along the top of her retaining wall that wraps around her side front near her driveway. She blew me away when she pointed out a thick patch of white rain lilies and reminded me that it was me that had given them to her three years ago when Sharon Kane had shared some with me, and I in turn shared them with her and a few other garden friends. She'd planted hers outside and they had flourished and were blooming even now.
Then she took me to the long, stretch of garden bed that she and I had started 10 years ago that divided her large yard in half and told me that she wanted me to have a piece of that yellow and white iris that was blooming. In fact, she told me to just dig up the whole plant, flower and all, because as I could see by the hole next to it, she'd already moved a piece of it up front. All her treasures she had left she has divided a piece out and put it up front in the winding bed that curves in the center of the cul-de-sac. It's a bed that winds around the whole perimeter of the front yard and keeps going down the side to where it stops for a moment at the awesome dry creek her husband had built for her a few years back with the beautiful wooden bridge that spans over it with the viburnum's, beauty berries, hollies, nine barks, and other choice bushes she planted on the opposite banks of the natural creek like ditch that cut her lower yard all the way across.
I was reluctant to dig the whole iris up, but I did what she wanted, and we put it into a clay pot that she had gone and gotten from under the deck that stood above the circular patio her son had laid in brick for her a few years back. Ever the gardener, we talked about the rambunctious hardy begonia that was back with a vengence at the back of this brick patio and I pulled one clump up and gently pushed away the soil to reveal the little fat tubers at the base of the stems, and this gentle lady, who has been a master gardener for 17 years looked at me with amazement and remarked that she never knew how the silly little things returned and maybe I could pull them up this time and toss them under the shade area with the hardy woods orchids and poppies and other treasures under her trees. And oh yes, I needed to come back and get some woods orchids too...........
The Irish moss was blooming and we both discovered that her fairies had gifted her with another beautyberry bush. The last one is at my house, and is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen this year. (I have pictures to prove it, and this is the bush that was flattened by the tree man with a three story piece of jack pine).
I gently dug up the little anemone's, and had to stop her from doing too much as I was fearful that she'd do damage to herself while she was without pain. She then revealed to me something that a mother would say to a daughter. This sweet lady who has stepped into a void that my own mother has opened up with having Alzheimers. She spoke of the recent upheavals about New Mexico and her feelings about it. She spoke from her heart.
We talked quietly of ending gardening days, but that they never ended because there was always another bulb or another plant that we both wanted to grow, to see mature and flourish. And that each loss was personal but we still persisted. The bittersweet moments we had yesterday was something I have tucked into my memories to pull up on brown and drab winter days later on.
We laughed about the fact as we walked the whole perimeter not once, but three times that I had a LOT of the plants she had. I pointed out a Vitex. Her's fully grown, in the hedge garden along side the border of her huge yard that has a pasture on the opposite side. Beautyberry, a spirea I just bought this year, her's showing me that one day if mine lives, it will be as tall as her's and I was shocked at it's almost five foot height. I told her where mine was planted........we laughed together at my folly and inability to see the end results of some of my plantings.
I found remains of her Harlequin Glory Bower, and pointed to the leaves. To make sure I stepped over the rounded stones that they'd used to line the whole creek bed and rubbed them and smelled my hands. Ahhhhh, peanut butter, I remarked to her, as I stepped back across the width of the dry creek bed that had been built for her with such love. She told me she had something for me and I followed her up thru the back yard, Sugar and Rose and her own Corgi, Lady playing all around us in the swaths of green lawn that still had dicernable flowerbeds dotting them.
"This white butterfly bush is yours. I want a piece of it. All of these....ummm what are they? I forget!" and she laughed as I looked as she pointed towards the fallen patch of Lucifer crocosmia. "I don't want one corm left of them. This whole bed is going. I wish I could still move as easily as you do!"
As we made our way past the five foot wide, 200 foot long bed, I pointed to the seed heads of a plant that stood lone in the cleaned out but still weedy bed and asked her if she wanted that plant too....That got another laugh out of her, and with a twinkle in her eye, she said "why that old thing? Why some lunatic woman from Nashville gave me a piece of this wild hibiscus and the dang thing took over and after I dug up 14 or 20 of the things and gave them to other unsuspecting gardeners, it finally calmed down and didn't multiply. Of course I want that plant. that's a Marilyn madgardener Cumberland River hibiscus!" I laughed at her and told her she couldn't remember the name of the Lucifer crocosmia or the Vitex or Chaste tree but she could remember all that........it sounded like selective memory loss to me...<g>
We got to her double car garage that is stuffed with garden tools and we went back to the front yard and she told me to gather some seed heads of Candy lily while she got me something to put in my car. She came out of the house with a huge Ortho problem solver book that had over 1000 pages in it and said she didn't need it any more and it was mine. I was speechless.
The day slipped away from us, but I did an assortment of things around the yard with her and we shared laughs, stories about plants and each other and shared secrets. We also dished our husbands and had some mature woman moments that I will treasure always, and when her middle son came over to pick up his birthday gift from his mother, teasing me about me being the sister that mom kept locked in the garden shed all those years and in the pantry, she came back upstairs with a huge box from Dutch Gardens for him. I couldn't help but laugh. He took the box and looked inside and was like a kid with a box of toys. I told him we seemed to be of the same kin since he obviously had this gardening disease too......and he remarked that all these bulbs were his and I didn't get ANY and laughed at me.. We then shared a moment as he read the names of the bulbs she'd ordered him. In my mind I could see how she planted her own special bulbs and how years later they've multiplied so much she digs them up by the tens and gives them to others to share. His work is cut out for him. My mind is brought back to where we really are as I hear Mary Emma tell him, "I'll take one of each bulb when you open them if you don't want to plant them ALL" and I immediately spoke up that he had to plant them for her if she was to have them since she had strict orders not to exert herself. He promised he'd plant them and make a special little spring garden of them if she and I would show him where to put them.
So here I stood, remembering the day past, and smiled as I got to my knees and gently dug a good deep hole under the Vitex bush in the western yard and tucked the double white colchicum's under it, where they settled into the rich soil as if they belonged there.
A little loving pat, and some water, I then went and got the double pink anemone and put them into the cold soil at the back of the BBQ pit fountain/garden and emptied the pot of white rain lilies into the soil on the south side of this bed and tucked each little bulb into the soil in hopes that they'd survive the winter for me and return as they had for her. I chastised her as I spoke out loud asking the bulb fairies to be gentle with them as they'd always wintered inside my house because I'd feared losing them to the cold. Mary Emma had just plunked them into the soil and they'd thrived.
Tomorrow I will deepen the hole for the daylily and anemone friend and plant it better. And I will lift the first peony she gave me six years ago so it might bloom for me next spring, and plant the other one next to it for company and hope they both bloom for me. Then I will go down to the woods room and in front of the garden boxes she gave me a few years ago that has ajuga, daisies, lambs ears, black irises and other treasures, I will dig a trench in front of them for the tree peonies and ready the spot. I only hope they love me as much as they love her, and they don't mind filtered southern and western sun instead of full sun like what they get in her yard. For them I will buy some better soil so that they won't freak out too much when I take them from their perfect soil.
I sat on the ground and looked at the beginnings of next years plants. At the base of the Autumn Joy sedum are little nubbins of next years stems. Inspired, I got up and started looking for other spring previews. At the base of dead stems of the two yarrow's in the pot, new delicate ferns of next years plants rose weakly five inches. Orostachys sedums that Micki sent me from Kansas are blooming, but at the base of some of them, little islands of babies for replacements. At the base of my Lamb's ears, little shoots readying themselves for the coming spring and hot summer.
Tight buds on the lilac. Bulbs pushing out of the ground, begging me to top dress them and give them their fall feeding of granular food before their working sleep to prepare for next years flowers. Little shoots at the base of the white obedient plant that I thought I had lost once it had bloomed, so I carefully pulled a little dirt over the exposed roots in hopes they survive winter too.
As I straightened up, I heard a small plop and a little frog in the upper portion of the fountain had spooked with me being so close and had jumped into the murky water to hide. The Arum are making great mottled leaves, and at the base of all dried stems are the beginnings of next year's plants. How can I leave all this? Well, I might not have to. But rather than go into all of that, I will stop. But if it remains the same, or changes I will let you, my friends know. I just appreciate that I still have the magic of the ridge and my holler and Eastern Tennessee at the moment.
This time as I called Sugar and Rose to come in, Sugar came right in instead of torturing me with not coming in and defying me. As the storm door started to close, the little bob tail cat, Pequito slipped in and behind him, (he's just recently shown me he's a late blooming male instead of the female I mistaken'd him for) in hot pursuit, Polluxx, and bringing up the rear, my old, nappy granny cat, Sweetie. Ol' Butt breath herself, all knotty and with 20 years to her credit, she skirted past my ankles like she was the kitten two ahead of her.
There are bulbs in the fridge in the back room to plant in pots tomorrow. There are plants to tuck into a box and send across the pond to a dear friend Monday. And there are garden things to do while the days are perfect. Tomorrow or the day after I will speak of bringing in my desert and jungle for the winter before frost comes again for good. The house will be filled to bursting. But that's for another day.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate your letting me share these things that rattle inside my head.
Madgardener up on the cool ridge, back in fairy holler, where the frogs are chattering their lips outside the windows in my flowerbeds, where English Mountain stands as a midnight blue silhouette in the southern skyline, in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36
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I won't even quote your very wonderful observations and stories. Just know that I enjoyed them very much. I am very new here and am no expert gardener. .
My grandma was always growing things in her house and in her garden. I think that must be a part of the growth that she passed down to her grandkids. She was rooting avocado pits while my parents never brought an avocado into our home. Most of her plants were in cottage cheese cartons and other humble containers. I had a cactus from her, but when I had to move over a 1,000 miles away it didn't make it.
She had big stands of dill growing, and always the colorful flowers whose names I can't give you. She had her little oasis in Detroit city.
I hope I have learnt from her. Maybe lesson 1 is to see each single seed as a gift. I recall how she saved the parts of marigolds to plant in the next year. Her people were of the earth, and she grew up in a house with a dirt floor.
Eventually, maybe I will get my own private garden in my postage-stamp yard. After a couple of years here, vegetables didn't grow well due to increasing shade from the trees. I do have some tarragon, oregano, mint and thyme growing on the south side of the house. I've also planted some shade plants around the roses; vinca, sweet woodruff, moneywort and others - and they are doing well. As for the lawn, the drought has done its work.
I have two eight-year-old cats who seem to mark every plant I put in. These are fixed cats, a male and female. I have lost some columbines and other perennials due to their habits. I can't keep them indoors. Mostly, they sleep inside, but they like to go out and catch bugs. The female, Tuner, likes to just rest out in the yard, and I can't deny her that pleasure. They haven't killed the rose bushes yet.
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Oh Maddy, this is just...well, tears to my eyes. I was out gardening all day today and yesterday. Dividing the iris, planting this or that, moving perennials to a better position. It's always my intention to get things cleaned up and in a better order. My garden too is chaotic. It has order only in that it has specific plants for insects, birds and varmints. I love varmints.
I love your prose.
Victoria
opined:

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thanks V, sometimes I hit it right, other times it's a dud..........I think that I get lonely and those moments inspire me (not to mention these rare but lasting moments with Mary Emma) "maddie"

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