Monday, May 11, 2015

There's Rosemary...that's for Remembrance

If you are a long time resident of a small town, you are no stranger to loss. The more rooted one is in a place, the more one recognizes the truth in John Donne's writing:
"any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
 and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
 it tolls for thee."

This truth is seldom far from my mind.  Remembrance is in the very air you breathe if you drive the same road and walk the same earth and look at the same view through your windshield for decades at a time. 
 Barns fall down and families move away; trees die and fences are rolled up; farms change hands and farmers retire.  But the old times are near the surface and live as long as there are folks who remember around to talk about them.
When we moved to town in June 1980, right before Ann was born,  we lived just a block from Mrs. Florence Niedermeyer, mother to our family physician and grandmother to one of Blake's best friends from high school, Paul Niedermeyer.  Mrs. Niedermeyer was a gardener and was willing to suspend disbelief and accept me as a gardener too.  One of the plants she shared with me was a chunk of a peony root known as the Mother's Day peony, a scion of the plant carried over the plains...a pioneer, if you will.  When we moved out to the farm a few years later, I planted that peony in the front garden...and I think of Florence Niedermeyer every spring just before Mother's Day.
And that reminds me of Doc Niedermeyer himself.   Dr. Niedermeyer delivered our three babies ( and many many more!) and every Mother's Day week, weather permitting, he would drive his elegant antique roadster out to the greenhouse or call and order a fuchsia basket delivered to his home for Sue to hang in the kitchen window.  We did this for years, and then were privileged to pot up a long cedar planter to deliver to the cemetery after he was gone.
A year or so after we moved back to the farm, the family purchased an 80 acre farm owned previously by Floyd and Mary Parr. At the auction Blake bought a big console television...which never did work so we used it as a stand for our old TV, but for me the real treasure was Mary Parr's garden.  I had an empty slate to plan and plant at our new homestead and was never too proud to scavenge.  I made trip after trip with my spade, bringing home hostas and Virginia bluebells, a currant bush(a dreadful mistake) and a shrub rose with a tiny double pink bloom.  I dug two big chunks of old fashioned bleeding heart, a sentimental favorite from my childhood and several different peonies.  The whole process felt more like a rescue than a desecration as I built the backbone of my new garden from the treasures of a gardener I had never met.

I remember other gardeners, regular visitors to the greenhouse, by the flowers they loved.  Mrs. Barnard would make almost weekly visits to pick up one or two plants or just take a stroll to see what had changed since last week. She always had a friend or two with her during her outings.  She'd start out Easter weekend with pansies and follow up later with less hardy plants including the yellow sweet potato for the front light post.  I always hoped we had a good variety of herbs for Judy Munn when she and Rosalee came out for flowers.  Mary Lou Broerman planted lots of red geraniums and I was always afraid I'd run out before she got all she needed...Marnie Shaum needed lots of big dark red geraniums too. Those ladies were high in my estimation; I was a novice grower and salesman and I wanted them to be happy by having the right plants for their gardens.

Grandma Hurst would come get her flowers in her big red Crown Vic. She was done with vegetable gardening by the time I was around, but she had pretty pots and some perennials in front of the house after the big half dead evergreens were removed. We raised miniature roses for several years and Grandma really liked those.
Little Lee's first Easter; my dress from Grandma..

Not entirely put together..note the shoes!
 She would always buy us girls a new dress for Easter and a hybrid tea rose for Mother's Day.  I never have been very good with roses, I confess, having killed or let die uncounted victims.  But I still appreciate the gesture of one gardening generation to another, just as I remember fondly the women who treated an untested rookie gardener as their peer.....

"There's rosemary...that's for remembrance......and there is pansies, that's for thoughts"
(Shakespeare, from Hamlet)

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful memories you have of those sweet ladies who shared their knowledge of gardening and plants with you. My garden is also a memory of all those who were kind enough to share their plants with my boys and I.