I had a great idea to write a blog about all the women who had influenced my gardening. I was going to put pictures of them in their gardens next to a description of what they liked to plant and how it influenced me. I started asking family members for photos of my Grandma Vi, who loved to garden, and Grandma Betty who had a tidy rose garden in her patio. Also my mother, who loves her poppies. I am planning to call it Ancestor Gardening, and I’ve already written the first one about my mother and her poppies—but guess what? No one had a photo.
Why? I guess the gardeners were too busy gardening!
My mother’s neighbor helped me out and took a photo of my mother with her African Daisies. (She had taken lots of photos of her flowers over the years, but never one of herself in the place she worked so hard to make beautiful.)
I sat down with my mother on a recent trip and culled through family photos, searching. I thought we’d find one of Grandma Vi in her garden, or at least her garden—a little farm she created in her backyard—she had planted so many citrus trees, berries, pine trees, roses, you name it. Nothing. Nada. Nope. Not one photo. The closest thing I could find was a photo of me at 18 months, my grandma and her sister holding me in front of a prickly Pyracantha bush not the beautiful lush plants I remember so well.
Then I found one of my mother, my grandma and me in front of one of her favorite roses. President Lincoln. I knew it because she talked so much about it as I was growing up—”Abe Lincoln” she called it; she loved that rose. At least a few of its rich red blooms peeked out from behind us. But the rest of her garden is only in my memory.
“We were too poor for a camera,” my mother explained, as to why she has no photos of her childhood. But by the time grandma had bought her house, paid off her 1950s fin-tailed Cadillac and planted her back ½ acre with about 90 roses – all earned by waitressing and managing the soda fountain at Walgreens—you’d think she would have taken a picture. Probably she was too busy watering all those roses with a hose—irrigations systems were not easy to come by, and in the desert of Tucson, she spent a lot of time watering.
My Grandma Betty was the same when it came to delinquent photography. I can’t find a single picture of her in the beloved rose garden she had tended and later had a gardener care for. She loved cut roses and had many bouquets throughout her home. When she died I inherited several vases and frogs—those funny spiky flower holders. I imagine them full of her roses. And I wonder if there were pictures we threw away that would have shown me the flowers she loved.
I finally found one of her standing in the patio, next to the rose garden—I think there is a vase of her roses on the table, but that’s all. Well, I did find this other one of her next to a painting of her flowers. I’m sure those are her flowers in the vase because I recognize the parrot statue. It was a white marble bird bookend that sat on a table in her livingroom. She must have gathered the props for her still life from around the house. Love the 70s decor and outfit!
My mother also found some photos from Ohio that are much older. These are ones from her ancestor garden—from her Grandma Hahn, a farm wife in Darke county, Ohio where Annie Oakley was from. She influenced my Grandma Vi and my mother. Grandma Hahn, I learned, loved her garden. She had it fenced to keep the chickens out. There are some lilacs and some irises.
Sigh. Please, people, if you garden, take some pictures of yourself in it. Someday so relative of yours may want to see it. Or if you have some photos of a favorite spot in your garden, pass them to someone in your family who values gardening—even if they don’t garden now but you suspect they will one day.
Now, what photos of me do I have in my garden?
One: from the day before I gave birth to my second daughter. It was Easter. I am enormous and wearing a giant pink pregnancy top that is out of fashion. I can’t find it and that is making me upset.
Two: a creepy one of me in a bathrobe, hiding behind the flowers at my old house. I look sort of elfin. I think I’m making that weird face because I don’t want my photo taken.
Okay. To do list: Have photo taken of me in front of Austin roses.
Stay tuned: now that I have a few photos, the Ancestor Garden story will be coming shortly.