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Plants remind me of people

Posted on Thursday, March 22, 2012 in family

Many of the plants I have remind me of family members. Since those are much happier thoughts than my recent realization that creeping bellflower wants creep into our homes, drink all our booze, scare our pets, and dirty all your clothes, I’ve chosen to share my brighter thoughts.

A few daffodils are up and they always remind me of my mother. She loved all the daffydowndillies and jonquils. Neither of us ever really learned if all daffodils are jonquils or if it’s the other way around. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the joyous color of butter shining above the crusty brown crumbs of winter. I have well over 100 daffodil bulbs in my yard and each one was planted with just a little bit of Daddy’s ashes. So now these flowers remind me of him, as well. And of Mom and Dad together playing cards or telling each other their dreams from the night before.

The first flower I was ever allowed to pick was the grape hyacinth. I never found them as attractive as other spring flowers, but being allowed to pick a bouquet is a big deal when you’re only four years old. My Meme let me do that. And the flowers lasted, unlike my bouquets of dandelions.

Dandelions count as flowers in my book or blog post. Finding my first bloom meant that I could go outside barefoot. I even liked their sticky, nasty-tasting sap. I didn’t know of any other plant that could leave you with a yellow chin and brown fingers after picking and smelling it. And what fun their seed heads are when you’re a kid watching them fly away from the force of your breath. I love seeing a roadside reflecting the sunshine with all those yellow heads. I do pull up every one I find in my garden, however. I mean I’m not crazy.

Pansies remind my of Meme. I do not know why. I think there’s some story about her planting some along a garage at the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse does not refer to an actual school building. It’s what my family calls the house they lived in before I came along and which was removed in order to build the new high school (built before I was born, but still referred to as new.) Something happened during the planting–or maybe it was painting–and the something was memorable for my mother. All I remember is she told me a story that involved a garage, pansies and my grandmother. She enjoyed the story and I liked seeing that. Also pansies have fat little faces, just like my Meme.

The irises I plant to remind me of my father. I remember going to a farm when I was young specifically to select and buy a few new rhizomes. We bought one called Babbling Brook, which is blue with ruffled edges along the falls. It went into one of the three rows of iris we had inside the circle of our driveway. There were also ones that smelled like root beer. In high school I wrote a poem in praise of the Celestial Snow iris Daddy planted the year before. He planted and fertilized the plants, but it was always Mom who weeded them. So they also remind me of her.

Louie and Lulu Leisure were not relatives but they lived down the street. They had a huge bleeding heart somewhere near their house and so I think of Louie when mine are in bloom. I marvel at how he was able to yell at me and the neighbor kids when we ran through his backyard, “Don’t drown in the pond.” I believed there was a pond behind his barn or outbuilding or garage. I have a much stronger memory of the fictitious pond than I do of his outbuilding. And Lulu once had a dark purple iris in a vase sitting on a table covered with a white tablecloth. I think she or Mom picked off a faded bloom and it oozed a deep purple liquid which stained her cloth. So sometimes iris also remind me of Lulu. Which is good because, really, I don’t remember either of their faces.

Mayapples remind me of my sister, but not because she cultivated them. I simply recall her advice that morrells were often found near them. That is a very important bit of information to have.

At some point I was told about a May Day tradition of giving bouquets anonymously.  So one year I took a construction paper basket I’d made, filled it with violets, and headed down the street in my raincoat and galoshes. I stopped at the end of the street at the house of a lady who let me play with kittens in her yard once or something delightful like that. I didn’t know her name, but I wanted to give her my flowers. So I hung the flowers on her doorknob, rang her doorbell and ran and hide in full sight behind some structure in her yard. She came to the door, yelled at me, then found the flowers and tried to coax me out of hiding. Eventually she gave up and I went home confused. But I still loved violets and planned on having my wedding bouquet made out of nothing else but violets. That didn’t happen, but I still think it would be very attractive. Especially with the freckled variety I grow now.

One last, lowly, flowering plant: white clover. It’s not much of a flower, but it also makes me think of my sister. She taught me how to make them into a chain. And we had a perfect patch of clover near the barn when we were young. You could be sure of finding a four-leaf clover in that patch. And Beverly once found one with five (5!) leaves. I wanted it badly. She didn’t give it to me, but I was very impressed nevertheless. Clover should be respected and planted more often. When I seeded my lawn many years ago, I used half clover seed so I’d have a soft mat to walk across in my bare feet. It grows low to the ground and means you don’t have to mow as often. And you get bees visiting which are always good luck even if you’re stupid enough to step on one like I do most years.

I hope there will be those who remember me when they see a checkered lily, dried globe thistle, thyme in bloom, or smell cinnamon basil. Or any plant, really. Just try not to think of me when you’re trying to dig for the hidden roots and rhizomes of the creeping bellflower.

  1. Louie Legier (at least I think that’s how it was spelled) also made the doll cradle we had. He also didn’t have a pond in his yard. It was just what he yelled.
    We lived at the schoolhouse when you were born. We’ve got a picture of me holding you in a big chair in that living room.
    When I think of MeMe I think of “Blooming Petunias”. We had to buy her some, Daddy and I, when we went to Galesburg one time. Daddy thought it was funny.
    Grape hyacinths grew in great profusion around a concrete slab next to the house. I loved those flowers.
    Worst thing about the iris we had there was that the next people just mowed them all down. I still have a couple of them, tho.
    Redbud trees always remind me of you since you snapped some that Mom and Dad planted. Snapped them right off with your toes. We have a redbud we planted last year.

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