Friday, November 22, 2013

Gardening for the Hopeful

Like any other child, I took for granted the things surrounding me, which in my case, bore a slight resemblance to an episode of "Hoarders".  Amongst the clutter were a number of beautiful things, such as my grandmother's Christmas cactus.  Not to be secular, I have begun calling the mother plant a Holiday Cactus.  Through the years, it has bloomed at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The mother plant, according to my mother, arrived in her mother's home in the 1940s.  My best guess is it was a piece rooted from one of her five sisters' collections as that was the primary way their gardens, container and otherwise, grew.  By me, the plant was largely ignored for the better part of 40 years. 

After my mother passed away, one of my brothers moved all of her front porch plants into the front yard and several were beginning to suffer in the intense Georgia sunlight.  Suddenly, the beautiful plants tugged a root in my heart, and I picked up several pieces of my mother and grandmother's lives to bring to my home and nurture.  While my mother was still living, she tried to get me to take the mother plant home, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  It was in full bloom, and in hindsight I realize she knew that was the last time she'd see it bloom.  I told her to enjoy it and I'd get it later.   

Still, keeping my word was a brave move for someone whose thumb has evolved from black to brown.  If that is an apt description of your thumb, a Schlumbergera or Zygocactus is a good place to begin with plants.  If I haven't killed them, you probably can't either.  Actually, I once read a person wasn't a real gardener until they'd killed at least three of every species.  I'm well on my way to becoming a real gardener.  (pausing the mourn the dozen dwarf azaleas, patterned red, white and pink, I killed with plastic bags meant to protect them from the cold) 

The mother plant today: 


It was full of buds when I brought it in from the front porch last week.


On the right of the following photograph is one of the mother plant's babies, an emergency birth after I knocked the mother plant down, broke the pot she was in, an unfortunate run-in with a water hose on the front porch.  The white Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus was a gift from some precious neighbors, and it, too, chose to bloom prior to Thanksgiving this year.  

Nurturing plants numbers among many things I didn't foresee myself doing in my life, along with marriage, homemaking and children.  I'm so thankful the Lord had other plans!  My plants bring beauty and joy into my life, and a bit of sacrifice from my dear husband.  He bought a kit greenhouse to store my ever increasing collection of front porch plants over the winter.  Building it was the sacrifice. 
It took his genuine building genius, the input of his brother whose career was inspecting aircraft manufactured by Lockheed, and my interpretation of the illustrations, to bring the greenhouse from a flat box to its present dimensions.  The wooden platform is a generous addition of height as its designer must have had a 5' woman in mind and I'm 5'7".  The hexagon shaped pavers on the bottom also came from my childhood home.  I remember when my daddy placed them along each side of our driveway in the mid 1960s.     
I'm fairly certain one of the reasons my older son flew the coop was to avoid the labor of moving the plants seasonally.  He would do it, God love him, but he made it clear he hated doing it, and after living independently for nearly five years, he still hates the memory of messing with my plants. 
...see the garden cart?  (Don't let me insult your intelligence, but if you're like me and need the visual boost and computer tips, click on the picture to make it larger, then click on the X in the upper right to return to the blog.)  It replaced a wheelbarrow which now resides at his house, along with a pair of ratchet loppers he fell in love with after borrowing.  His sweet father, Mr. A, generously donated both.  My son has no intention of becoming a gardener, but he has discovered there is no getting around yard work at the house he and his wife bought last year. 
The white vinyl "building" houses my flower pots and all the paraphernalia needed to be a black-brown-trying-desperately-to-be-green-thumbed gardener.  Mr A also fashioned a potting bench for me, far left, complete with hooks to hold small gardening tools. 
So many times I have felt like the richest poor woman in the world.  This is one of them.  I dream of a greenhouse three times this size and a tiller to break ground of future rose and vegetable gardens.  I've had a number of dreams come true in my life, including having a book published, and discovered cherishing small beginnings is the first step.
And I've lived long enough to learn to be content if small beginnings remain just that.  We can't take one thing out of this world with us when our time comes, but maybe, just maybe, we can leave a bit or two of the things we love for our families to see, beautiful reminders of the ones they've loved. 
I'm not counting on either of my sons to pass on my love of plants, but in God's and their timing, when the grandchildren come, I've already envisioned myself holding a little one's hand and teaching him or her to identify the plants I love, gardenia, hibiscus, kalanchoe, peace lily, philodendron, Christmas cactus, begonia...  And that's just the ones on the porch.
We're going to have a blast in the yard!  By then, my rose and vegetable gardens should be well established. 
Much love and good day!
Mrs. A