The sharing of gardens both inside and out has been long family tradition. When I was growing up, no visit to an aunt, grandmother, or cousin was ever complete without a walk through a flower bed or admiring plant laden windowsills. Each one had a unique garden and a favorite flower they grew in reckless abandon. One had only to express appreciation for a particular flower and a spade quickly appeared. A paper grocery bag or old cardboard box would soon be filled with elegant delphiniums, sunny daisies, regal irises, or fragrant lilies of the valley. On the way home, my mother would plan where the new flowers would fit into her already chock-full gardens. Sometimes, my father found out he was digging a new flower bed. She always found room for new and unique flower and when the next visitor came to her gardens, Mother would fill a bag or box as well. Vegetable gardens were also shared. There were always too many cucumbers or zucchini squash. If someone’s tomatoes didn’t do well or if they admired the remarkable crop of lettuces, another brown grocery bag was found and filled.
Even today, we’re still sharing gardens. Before I moved west several years ago, I invited my mother and sisters to take houseplants and help themselves to thinning out my gardens which were full of family heirlooms. Each plant told a story, from the 60 year old Christmas cactus a great-aunt had entrusted to me, to the richly scented peonies from my mother, and beautiful gold iris from my paternal grandmother. Although very different personalities and life journeys make each woman unique, the common thread is a love of beauty and the desire to share it with those they loved most. Now I’ve started gardening all over again in a new home and new climate, and my mother has sent me family flowers to stock my new gardens with remembrances of my grandmother’s lush and extravagant flower gardens from the 1960s. They bring back childhood memories of sitting on my grandparents’ broad shady porch soaking in the beauty of my grandmother’s color-saturated gardens. Her gardens were so spectacular, folks stopped to take pictures on hot, humid July afternoons.
Looking back I see there was much more shared than just flowers and vegetables. These women have been generous with their lives. Their gardens were a picture of their hearts, not rich in earthly treasures, but rich with the things that really mattered – love, patience, perseverance, and kindness. Their heart gardens have proven fruitful over the years of raising children, sharing life with their husbands, ministering in the Church, and passing down a legacy of faithfully serving Christ in every situation of life. As the seasons of their lives continued to change, they showed the same beauty even though some seasons are difficult—serious illness, loss of a husband, financial difficulties, and death itself.
Gardens require commitment, perseverance and a lot of time on your knees. Weeds, bad weather, disease, and pests can destroy beautiful flowers in no time. My mother taught me to weed and fertilize my gardens consistently to see good results. Gardens of every sort are hard work, but the rewards are great for feeding the soul and the body when they are well kept. Like the beautiful flowers they still share, the women of my family continue to pass down a precious heritage, one that displays the beauty of the Savior, the Rose of Sharon.