Tucked away in the attic are scrapbooks half a century old. Crumbling brown petals from long-ago corsages stick to pages along with four-leaf clovers no longer green but treasured for whatever luck they brought me.
To ramble in my garden is to open a scrapbook of another kind. Living plants from friends and family add color to our daily existence not only in their blossoms, but by the memories that come along with them.
One morning a year ago, I dropped off a box of Concord grapes at the home of George and Suzanne Brooks. An hour later, I left with a tummy full of cheese toast and good coffee. I also had a box of dirt, containing some nameless green shoots and a shovelful of young kale plants.
Today, I was surprised by two white flowers I had never seen before, growing at the end of those nameless green shoots. Their fragrance was as sweet and strong as honeysuckle. Looking at them, I could almost taste the cheese toast and see the smiles on the faces of my friends.
And the Freecycle present my husband brought home to me. (Don’t you love Freecycle?
Somebody wants your old bird cage. A kid needs a black bowtie for a Halloween costume. Somebody wants to get rid of a dryer—or some excess garden plants.)
This find was a small pot with several delicate tendrils reaching up from the soil. I had the perfect place for this cypress vine, and it took off climbing.
The vine is starred with brilliant blossoms here and there, but it has a ways to go to catch up sister Debby Wiggins’ cypress plant! She calls hers a Thomas Jefferson vine, and the seeds came via Kenny’s family from Bacon’s Castle on the other side of the James River. Stories, stories, stories!
And then there’s my Streptocarpella. Yes, I know it sounds like a name for disease and dysfunction!
But actually it is a gorgeous blue-flowered hanging plant–a Mother’s Day gift years ago. It radiated grace and beauty all summer long. I brought it inside for the winter, where it bloomed profusely.
I took the plant down to my mother’s sunny back porch where we could both enjoy it during the last years of her life. Over time it became sprawling and leggy, needing some pruning and attention, but competing with pecan-shelling, seed-starting, and cat-managing for our time, as is obvious from this picture.
After my mother died five years ago, it seems the streptocarpella—or some starts of it—went home to Morgantown WV with my sister Linda, who carefully nurtured it with her famously green thumb.
Here are the starts she brought me this spring as a surprise gift!
I put them in a window to root
This summer I tucked them into some down-under pots I got from Lisa Z. years ago.
And so, on these last days of summer, I wander through my garden. In one lovely rush, the scarlet, blue, and white blossoms gift me with color, scent, and fond memories. My scrapbook is full of flowers thanks to friends, family, and Freecycle.
Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected]