I have been consumed with my Peonies. So much so that I have been in the garden as much as possible: lifting them, tying them, cutting them, and making sure their heads don't fall into the dirt. We have been in the middle of a drought and it has been a good Peony season because of it, until three days ago when the temperatures changed and the rain set in. I figured I had to act fast and cut as many as I could before they would all be destroyed by the high winds and heavy rains.
I started thinking about where I got my fixation & love for peonies and flowers and gardening in general. I think it originated with my grandmother.
This was my grandmother. My mom's mother. She was born in the early 1900's. My mom was born in 1926 and she would tell me about the memories of her mother when she opened up a store. Now my mom remembers being around five or six when her mother opened a small store so that would make it to be about the 1930's. My grandmother lived in Puerto Rico, born to wealthy parents. Her father had the first automobile ever on that part of the island. He had his daughter's (my grandmother) "home schooled" by two american teachers. My grandmother was reading classic literature before women were exposed to it in that area. She had her clothes made and ordered and embroidered. Although she lived in a tropical climate my mother says she would order the laced up boots from the states and patterns and fabric.
My mom says she had two large catalogs on the counter. A heavy one with the name Sears and Roebucks, and the other was a Jackson and Perkins catalog. She would order roses and flowers and buttons and bolts of fabrics, gloves and hats. She had a seed catalog that she would order tiny envelopes of seeds to plant and sell. My mom would talk to me for hours about her and what her store was like. My grandmother was ahead of her time and she taught others about doing cuttings in order to extend her plants, things she learned through books she had ordered. I guess she could be considered to be a kind of Martha Stewart in her day.
As I grew up, my mom kept books about plants, trees, flowers and their origins, latin names etc. She would press flowers in them and buy photo albums just to press leaves of different kinds of trees and plants and would label them. We would sit for hours and look through them. She would tell me about how many her mother would have in the garden and which ones liked the sun and which ones thrived in the shade.
Growing up any time we were near a flowering tree or unique shrub, my mom would take a sample of it or examine it. If there was a camera she always wanted to be photographed holding flowers or standing under a flowering fragrant tree. She used to say that flowers were her favorite things and that she hoped I would love them just as much.
Well here I am, without her, without my grandmother and no daughter to pass it down to. But there isn't a day when I'm in the garden that I don't feel my mom's presence or my grandmother's as I smell each rose or reach down and lift a peony or cut a few lilacs.
I can't imagine my life without being able to garden or enjoy my flowers and marvel at the beauty of nature's gifts.
I don't know if I will find any surviving peonies tomorrow in my garden, but these were the ones I cut today.
Thanks to my mom and grandmother for teaching me so much about gardening and flowers. Two things I shall treasure my entire life.