Many years ago, when we lived on “the Farm,” we had a wonderful Italian Prune tree that gave us loads of plums each September. That was one of the things we missed the most after we moved away! So it is very fitting that we planted a Dwarf Italian Prune tree in our yard this week. We planted it with lots of hopes and memories along with it. May it will do well in the spot we chose for it!
Red Butte Garden, in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a place of pilgrimage for my family. It is a beautiful botanical garden located on the mountainside near the University of Utah. In 1994, it was a very young garden, and when my father died in May of that year our family decided to place a memorial bench there. Dad was a professor at the University of Utah for many years, and he loved gardens, so it seemed a perfect way and place to remember him.
So, almost every time we return to Salt Lake City, my family goes to the Garden. It’s a lovely visit, no matter what time of year, and a happy place to spend time soaking up the surrounding beauty and remembering a very wise and gentle man.
Last week, while all together, we made our pilgrimage again and enjoyed the sunshine and warmth, the beautiful roses and fall-flowering plants. We sat on my Dad’s memorial bench and talked and laughed and reminisced. He would have loved sitting on that bench in the rose garden and sharing that beautiful day with his family.
We are traveling this week to visit my 96-year-old mother. She’s an amazing person! At 96, she still is sharp as a tack, goes to exercise class four days a week (“you’ve got to keep moving,” she says), walks to her library and post office using the walker she bought herself. Simply put, she is my role model for a life well-lived and my mentor for how to age gracefully.
My mother was a wonderful gardener, so my enjoyment of flower gardens started at a very young age. I remember playing with the Four O’Clocks she planted next to the house– the flower turned upside down looked like a skirt, so I created little “dolls” with dandelions for head and body, and Four O’Clocks for the dresses. I remember the smell of marigolds and the “snap” of snapdragons. And I remember roses…many different kinds of roses, all so beautiful.
Funny thing, though. I don’t remember my mother ever growing a vegetable garden, although she did a massive amount of canning in the summer. The fruits and vegetables (mostly tomatoes) were bought in bulk from the farmers. I remember July trips to the orchards and farm stands along the highway, and bringing back bushels of peaches, cherries, apricots, tomatoes… And then days spent bottling. The jars lines the shelves in the basement, fruit and vegetables for the entire winter.
Early garden memories… all of them happy.
I first read May Sarton’s journals, Plant Dreaming Deep, Journal of a Solitude, and The House by the Sea, 35 years ago, and I remember loving them. In these journals she describes her daily routines, her homes, her gardens, her neighbors and friends, and her inner life as a writer and poet. Both her inner and outer journeys were fascinating to me, and I was very influenced by her thoughts and ideas on solitude, creativity, and on being an artist.
Reading Plant Dreaming Deep the first time as a young stay-at-home mother, I was especially inspired by her stories of gardening at her new home in Nelson, New Hampshire. The winter I read this journal, I spent hours pouring over seed catalogs, planning my own little flower garden. When spring came, I cleared a small patch of slightly sloped ground next to the driveway, put in some good-sized rocks and created a little rock garden. My first flower garden! That was a lovely spring for me! I remember planting cosmos and marigolds, and some tall sunflowers, all from seeds I sent for during the winter. I was very proud of that first garden and called it my “May Sarton Garden.”
Now, 35 years later, I just reread this book and loved it all over again. Once again, May Sarton has inspired me to plan and plant… and experience the joy of gardening!
Is there a joy except gardening that asks so much and gives so much?
Flowering Quince is one of my favorite bushes. Long ago, when my husband was in the army and we were living in a little rented house in Steilacoom, Washington, there was a Flowering Quince bush right in front of the front window. I’d never seen one before, and when it bloomed in the early spring that year, I fell in love. We don’t have one in our garden here [yet!], but found a beautiful one on our walk around the neighborhood this morning. Lovely!
In the dark of winter, I really enjoy sitting down with my garden notebook and thinking on paper about the different parts of my future garden! My lists and sketches are filled with sentimental choices. There are certain flowers, shrubs, and trees that have very special meaning in my life, and I’d love to fill my yard with them and design the different areas in the garden around them. Here are some sentimental favorites from my garden dreams:
The times we spend at our home and garden in the Grove are way too short! It’s a wonderful break from our busy working lives in the Seattle area, and well worth the 3-1/2 hour drive to get here. We come as often as we can, but it’s hard to be part-time residents, and particularly difficult to be part-time gardeners. We so look forward to next year when we can move here permanently! These short weekends are particularly joyful, however, being out in the yard with our Grandboy, puttering around and planting memories.