Over the years, those who are familiar with me here over the fence in wrecked gardens know that when I am outraged or moved emotionally by something, I'll most likely post it here. Usually it has to do with horticultural things. I have discovered over the years that most of us gardeners are benevolent creatures of various levels of stewardship towards growing things. We're nurturers and growers and usually optimists, because we plant seeds, and trees. We sit on cold, snowy winter evenings (and days) and pore over catalogs and slobber over the newest tomato or perennial or blooming shrub. We push the envelopes with zones and plant figs and crape myrtles or magnolia's or lust and long for those tulips and hosta's that to some living in the more tropical climates think are just fabrications listening to us up northerly wax happily about (yes, Zhanataya, I speak of you wherever you are in the Southwest now happily growing cacti and other desert things......)
I've anguished over things lost, like my lower neighbor cutting down three incredible Forsythia's to the ground that were over a hundred years old. But I'd captured their magnificence in early spring before his farmer's mindset persuaded him to go out and cut them severely to the ground. They're coming back, but they won't bloom for another two years...........and they'll have the last laugh even when he's gone to his own rest, and hopefully his surviving children will see the beauty of the old roots as they will have thrown healthier shoots that will be loaded with even more bright yellow lanterns and they will never cut it again. I wrote of those shrubs that his wife's family and ancestors had planted well over 100 years ago when they first laid claim to the land and made it theirs and their family and kinfolk. I have great grand daughters of those bushes, and when I leave Fairy Holler, I will take a cutting with me to remind me of something that I hold sacred in it's simplicity and tenacity. It endures when we've all gone back to the soil ourselves. (you always see lilacs and Forsythia's and old fashioned three flowered narcissus growing where old homesteads used to be).
So why do I want to "vent my spleen" again? Well, to put it simply, yet another action against something that I grew to love and respect has now been take away and gotten rid of for whatever reasoning. Miz Mary whom I've spoken of many times in the past ten years on this newsgroup has always had a magnificent old iron and thick slat park bench that she always painted white every Spring. It sat in the special prominent place of honor of her side yard before you got to the old farm house she was raised in. Her grandmother and daddy lived in this house. She has life rights, meaning she can live there as long as she's alive, and as she would have told you quickly, she had no need of it once she was gone..........
Over the eleven years I grew to love and respect Miz Mary, I learned she was the epitome of what you all would know in the phrase of "Southern Lady". She was hospitality and charm, and quite the character. If you drove up the dead end road which was named Niles Road for her daddy, she'd have come out of her cluttered house, maneuvered through the clutter of her piled up front porch that she'd tell you immediately she was enclosing and cleaning off one day, to tell you that once, Niles Road was known far and wide as Mockingbird Lane because of all the mockingbirds. (they're back now). Much to your chagrin, she'd talk your ears off, and if you COULD get a word in edgewise, you soon found yourself hearing her trademark response to your feeble efforts to respond of her "Like I was SAYING........." Her energetic and generous character taught me that Spinsters weren't always the stereotype they were thought to be. She'd quickly put you in your place if you called her a Spinster (and I did, just to get her fire up) and she'd tell you that she had dated many men, thank you very much, and had almost married ....insert names of local men through her lifetime of the 72 years thus far here, and all of them had married and passed on!!
Her observations of people was astounding, her knowledge of incredible trivia was also astounding. Despite her incredible and ever mounting clutter of her porch and home with the trails that kept her from cooking in her own kitchen, she'd whip up awesome things to take to community meetings outside on her summer tables underneath the trees. Always scrumptious and never ceasing to amaze. She'd use me as a co-conspirator to bake her cornbread for her cornbread salad.....and reward me with leftovers, and a dessert of fresh ripe peaches with sour cream and dark brown sugar whipped and lavished on mismatched colorful plates or bowls she'd find at little shoppes she frequented from all around. Bric and brac was everywhere, and when my granddaughters visited, she'd appear with little gifts for each girl (there are four of them) and crayons and books, dolls, silly little things, bottles of bubbles, all manner of little things. For the boys in my family, she'd give little trucks and cars and things that fascinated them. And always there was the open door of balls and toys in her yard, encouraging the children who had their bicycles (one year my grand daughter brought her bike as I have a perfect driveway and road to ride upon safely)to visit and sit and drink lemonade with her and munch cookies and listen to stories about people they hadn't a clue who were......this was Miz Mary. To the 100th power.
That she had this iron park bench with the thick slats underneath the shade of two 75 year old trees that her daddy planted with her mama, and you could sit and visit and just look across the miles to the majesty of English Mountain and the slice of blue that was Douglas Lake. Watch the trees and see hawks or turkey vultures circling overhead. The stretch of "Thunder Road" or as some knew it, old Highway 25-70 below to the south could be seen through the window of trees and you could see vehicles, and despite that there were more and more signs on the pastures beyond to the south that the farmlands were being sold and subdivided, the stars are still visible underneath her sky up here. You might see more lights across the road where you know it lies a mile away at the end of Wine Road, but you know you're in an island of peace and tranquility where deer, coyote, foxes, possoms, raccoon, woodchucks, chipmunks, flying squirrel, gray squirrel, a huge wide assortment of birds from yellow finches, blue cranes, hawks,turkey vultures, gray eagles, Mountain bluebirds or Indigos, hummingbirds, from the tiniest to the largest reside here and around here. It's called a green belt. At least 16 acres that doesn't get taxed the same because it lays fallow.
Well, since Miz Mary experienced her many little heart attacks and then the strokes that wound her up in the nursing home five miles away, her family have been methodically coming up and cleaning out her home. It needed it, but lately, I've been seeing a disturbing practice. Miz Mary will never come home. I grieved this year that she wasn't brought up here on Easter to see her beautiful dogwoods and azalea's and tulips and candytuft and phlox all blooming at the same time. Nor see her little dogwood she'd planted in the gnarled up roots of the 80 year old maple beside the driveway we share that wraps around the back of her house. It bloomed for the first time this year before the hard freeze nipped the blossoms and leaves. And it's a perfectly shaped tree as well.......Her family have not only been throwing away the stuff she accumulated, but doing radical cleaning.
I spoke of coming home a few weeks ago and couldn't figure out what was different, and realized someone had completely cut down her six year old pussy willow tree that she'd had planted a bit too close to the foundation. Over a foot thick, I knew it WAS too close to the foundation but this year, it was glorious and I took cuttings of it before it "disappeared" and they are now all rooted...........I'll pot them soon.
Today I discovered much to my anguish that her beloved park bench was simply gone. And after leaving a message on her brother in law's machine at his house down the road, I had my grieving spell and went about doing aimless stuff for about an hour. I got over it but was still raw about it, and when I told the old man (when I went and picked him up from the truck stop to bring him home for the weekend) about it, and his blowing it off to family doing what they want to, I noticed in the headlights of the van as I circled and prepared to drive backwards down the driveway as I always do.
Something was missing. And it was huge. I stopped once again at the boulder that Miz Mary and I have sat and talked many, many times, that I had bought a reflector to shove into close by so you don't HIT that boulder as you negotiate the curve to come back to my abode, and stopped dead. The brights were on, and as my sentence trailed off I figured it out immediately..........ALL of her beloved (and mine too) pink Acacia trees were GONE. Every one. Cut to the ground. They were woolly twigged pink Acacia's, members of the pink Locust family and had suffered like everything else had with the hard freeze. But underneath the brown and crispy leaves, I had seen new growth of leaves AND buds. But now they were all cut down and even the clump of prickly pears that I'd planted underneath my mailbox that used to sit in the middle of what was then the growing colony of Acacia's. They had colonized the sides working themselves eastwards towards me, and I was actually contemplating removal of the cactus when I realized I'd left a few when Miz Mary had offered to put up three mailboxes for the three of us up on this ridge and hilltop. When she had them put next to the asphalt road for the conveniences of the mail carrier (this is how generous she always was), she asked me to leave a few cacti to colonize around the base of the Acacia. She liked the idea of the thorns of the locust, the huge pink pea like flowers that drove the bees insane with delight, and my prickly pears in yellow blousey blooms. It's all gone now. Just scraped clean and mowed to almost bare soil. clipped short.
To say I'm devastated is an understatement. That the man I am married to never figured out why I was so distraught and upset was saddening. His rationalizing that the people had "farmer mentality" wasn't correct. His statements that they didn't know they were Acacia's nor did they care only proved he didn't know WHY I was so upset. My pleas to just not speak anymore of it fell on unsympathetic ears, so I dropped it on the ground and went off and wept.
It was because the beauty was gone, and so was her beloved park bench. And this was two things in one day that was very unsettling. And so, I've posted the pictures I took last fall of that peace and quiet place she'd provided to anyone who wanted to sit and just experience it. and I've added pictures of last years bounty and last hurrah of her pink Locusts that she herself had planted..........Sometimes it makes me wonder......but the gardener in me still drives on. And I will be vigilant in watching for shoots of the trees coming up from the roots that lie below the soil and will lift them over and over again and pot them up in hopes of saving one or two to have for my own, be damned, and I will plant them at my own gates and hope they tromp down towards the WEST towards the edge of the pastures.
I only hope that when I come home one day and discover the old family homestead farmhouse has been bulldozed like I suspect they will, they'll not cut down the remaining sister sugar maple tree with the perfect little white dogwood underneath her. I hope they realize underneath the boughs of this young maple, lies Miz Mary's sweet cocker spaniel, Hero, whom she lovingly tucked in his blanket, planted a huge swath of bright daylilies over him and then put up her old mailbox to mark his grave. Birds have built a nest inside it, and the daylilies struggle with the reality that they're underneath a maple tree, but the leaves shade her little dog she loved dearly like a child, and I know. I know soon they'll probably cut the front maple tree down that is now quite dead from being struck so many times by lightening last year after she left.
Thanks for letting me vent my spleen. The next post will be of sticky pots and frustration container gardens..........
madgardener, up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36