Mima–my maternal grandmother–loved working in her yard. In my mind’s eye I see her kneeling in front of her porch, setting out marigolds and impatiens in the rich black dirt she’d bought at Kmart. Later she’d move to the bed by the street, where the peonies and iris grew. She’d water them with the garden hose, and if a car sped by too quickly, it might get a wetting as well, along with a hollered, “Slow down!”
We had flowering shrubs at our house, but no garden. So on early damp May mornings, we would leave home a bit early, and drive to Mima’s house. She’d meet us in the front yard in her housecoat, scissors in hand, to cut irises which she wrapped in wet paper towels for freshness. These were our “flowers of the fairest” for the May Procession at Saint Joseph School.
When I discovered that I was a gardener too, Mima was right there encouraging me, giving me bags of dirt or mulch out of the trunk of her car, bringing me flats of pansies to set out in the fall, watching my little kids so I could plant daffodil bulbs.
So even though my gardening style is very different from hers, wild rather than manicured and centered on perennials instead of annuals, I often think of Mima (who died nine years ago) when I am in my garden. I feel close to her then because it is a passion that we shared, and if such things are genetic, then my love of gardening is an inheritance from her.
It was around 20 years ago that Mima decided to move to a retirement community. Eventually my mother moved into her house. She kept the flowerbeds weeded and the yard mowed, but gardening is not her passion, and irises have to be dug up and divided every three to five years. Mima’s irises haven’t bloomed in 15 years or more.
When my mother decided to move, it was Mima’s flowers I thought of most. What would happen to her flowerbeds? Too many times I’ve seen new owners dig up and destroy treasured plantings without a second thought, intent on making the yard their own. So when the house was sold, I went by with my trowel and dug up several irises, some peonies, and a small nandina sprout for good measure. I put them in my own garden and hoped for the best.
The first spring came and went without a bloom. I didn’t expect anything out of the peonies–which normally take a few years to establish–but I was disappointed in the irises. Someone told me I had likely planted them too deeply. I resigned myself to having to transplant them at a later time, and this year I was pleased to see that they had multiplied by a factor of three or more. At least they were healthy, even if they didn’t bloom.
Then, the miracle. I saw flower stalks and buds, almost overnight! And yesterday morning when I went outside this was the first thing I saw:
It would pretty much be impossible for me to exaggerate the extent of my excitement at this discovery. Besides making it immediately Facebook official, I’ve made every member of the family come out to admire it and to share in my joy. This morning a second one burst into bloom and there are many more to come, as you can see here:
Perhaps next May there will be a sequel involving peonies. For now I am thrilled that this bit of Mima’s garden lives on in mine.