Monday, August 8th, 2011...12:00 am

Growing up on the farm


TheGardenLady’s House on the Farm

We were poor when I was a child growing up on the farm. But so was everyone else in my community and the surrounding communities, so no child felt the poverty. That was how things were. Yet my parents worked hard. Hard physical labor. Especially my mother, who not only worked in the fields and had a small dairy that she took care of by herself, she had two small children at the time and took care of the house.

TheGardenLady’s Mother

My parents worked hard so that we always had food on the table. All summer we had an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and for the rest of the year Mom canned everything. No one had a freezer. The cellar was a dirt hole so it was cold like a root cellar. Foods like potatoes and onions could last a long time down there. And the shelves around the walls were filled with Mom’s canned food in glass jars. The jars looked as beautiful as any stained glass window any artist created.

In spite of all this labor, Mom loved flowers. I never thought to ask who planted the roses, the spirea bushes, the deutzia bush, the ornamental quince bush, the yucca, the apple tree, the lilacs, rose of sharon bushes, the gooseberries, weeping willows and other shrubs and trees that surrounded the house- they were just there. Yet this was a question I regret not having asked.

You see, my parents were the second family household to ever live on the farm. Before that the land belonged to Native Americans. The Leni Lenape Indians lived in New Jersey. And they must have spent time on the property that eventually became our farm. We bought the farm from a family who must have somehow bought it from the Leni Lenape- I wish I could learn more of that history.

Anyway, with all my mother’s hard work and with all the perennial flowering plants on and around the front and back lawns, my mother still loved flowers. As poor as we were Mom could always find the $1 for the box of 21 seed packets I sold to raise money for the one room school house I attended- later it became 4 rooms. This was our only school fund raiser. The 20 nickel packets in the box of seeds were both flowers and vegetables.That extra packet, usually flower seeds, was free if I or any child could sell the other 20 packets in the box. So every year my mother would buy the box of seeds from me and plant the flowers in a special flower bed near the mail box at the front of the property near the road. Even though there were very few cars passing by our house in those early days, Mom was proud that people could see that she had flowers- unlike some of our nearest neighbors whose houses were set far back from the road, closer to the woods.

And which were my Mother’s favorite annuals that she planted every year when I was little? These were marigolds, zinnias and gladiolas. Needless to say, these are three of my very favorite annuals to this day. A few years my mother planted portulacas and I developed a love of them. She sometimes planted petunias and cosmos. But it was the marigolds, zinnias and gladiolas that were the mainstay. I love the smell of marigolds. Am I the only one? I don’t remember where Mom got the gladiola bulbs. But since the bulbs increased yearly, we always had lots of glads.

There was one other annual that my mother loved and planted ever year. And that was the blue morning glory. She loved the morning glory.

Lavender and blue morning glories by Martin LaBar

We had a big old apple tree by the side of the house. Its trunk was as wide as a barrel but the tree grew at a slant. The two main branches came off the trunk on either side so the tree had the shape of a Y. Still the branches grew very tall and the tree gave lots of shade. The tree had lovely flowers in the spring and the most delicious small apples in the fall. From one of the huge branches on the right of the Y, my father hung a swing for us kids.

TheGardenLady’s Father

Hours were spent swinging high or twisting the ropes of the swing and spinning round and round as the ropes unwound. The other side of the Y on that other big branch, my father put our hammock- he had a pole to hang the other side of the hammock. Again, I spent so many hours in that hammock- many hours with two dear friends. We kids loved to climb the trunk of the tree and jump to the ground from the space between where the branches went to the sides. We felt this was such a daring thing to do. But every summer Mom had other plans for that area between the two huge branches. Every year she would plant blue morning glory seeds in an old wash basin. And then when all signs of frost were gone, mom would wedge the wash basin with the seeds in the spot of the tree trunk between the two spreading branches. The heart shape leaves of the morning glory would trail down the trunk of the tree or climb up the branches. But the morning glories were in their full glory when they bloomed. Imagine the blue flowers all over that apple tree. Every morning those beautiful flowers opened only to close again in the heat of the day. But what a morning welcome they were.

 Portulaca by Big Grey Mare

So is there any question why TheGardenLady loves having her garden in the front of the front yard where all who pass can enjoy the beauty? And is there any question of what annuals must be part of my garden? You must realize that always, growing amongst my perennial flowers, there are marigolds and zinnias. I also have cosmos. Do I have gladiolus? Some years I have had them. This year I did not get planted. And this year I did not plant any petunias. My kids were unhappy about that.

And do I have blue morning glories? You bet I do. I have some climbing up the NO Parking sign at the bottom of my property. I have them climbing up both sides of the arbor at the front of the property. And this year I am trying to get them to climb up a sweet gum tree. They haven’t been successful in getting their tendrils to attach to the trunk. But I am patient. I just can’t wait for the flowers to appear. And because I love blue morning glories, I even allow the wild morning glories to live. Friends consider the wild morning glory a weed and pull it out. I don’t. I let it twist around other plants. And though the flower is not as big as the hybrid morning glories, they are blue and are pretty to me.

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1 Comment

  • Lovely memories. I remember my father’s garden well. And I’m hoping to instill that love in my own grandson. Gardening really is a gift….and it lasts a long long time.

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