The corkscrew hazelnut in both the front and back yard were bought because my parents had the same in their garden. Planted near the kitchen door, it was just about the first thing you saw as you entered the back yard. Best viewed in fall and winter without the leaves, its contorted branches are a sight to see. Once the slightly crumpled looking leaves reappear in spring, the structure of the plant gets totally obscured and my mother used to refer to it as “the little monster” in the garden. Each fall the local florist would stop by to shape the bush into a pleasing form, keeping all of the pruned branches for future flower arrangements. Then, each Christmas, mom would get a free arrangement for the holidays from the florist in return. Looking from my kitchen window, I see my corkscrew hazelnut and wonder if theirs is still in the garden.
My very first peonies came from a friend in Pennsylvania. When they bought their property there were peonies everywhere, and she graciously allowed me to dig up a few for my garden. Slowly I added different varieties. Some of these reminded me of grandma’s peonies which eventually were transplanted to my parent’s garden. One such variety, with big double white blooms with a slight pink cast in the center and a delightful fragrance transport me back in time and for a heartbeat I imagine myself back in that garden.
A packet of seed in a card from my sister provided me with nigella damascena; a member of the ranunculus family. Also known as love-in-a-mist, it is an airy little plant with bright blue flowers. After blooming the flower turns into a spiked seedpod, which earned it the name devil-in-a-bush. Since it is an annual, I scattered those first seeds around in my garden. In some places the plant took, in others it did not. Each year after that I collected a few seedpods and scattered more seeds around. Now, you can find love-in-a-mist throughout my garden; it always brings a smile to my face and I always think of my sister when I see it.
My father, who was the gardener in our family, did not appear to have any affinity for roses. At least, I don’t remember there being any roses in our garden. But our neighbor did, and when I take a whiff of my roses, I remember them. And each year I add more crocuses to the garden, a reminder of dad, who loved that harbinger of spring as much as I do.
Gardens and the plants in them are fleeting by nature. The garden where I grew up and which I can still picture in my mind’s eye, may very well no longer be there. Grandma’s garden, even back then overgrown after many, many years of neglect, may today be a well tended patch of heaven in the middle of a bustling city. I document my plants as they bloom, because tomorrow it will all look differently. Each day in the garden is new, but some plants, the sight of a bloom or its fragrance connects me to the past and to others without whom life would have been poorer.