Friday, May 22, 2009


Gardening has become a passion for me.  Finding a rare or new plant to tuck in a free space that will fit perfectly to create the most promising vignette is becoming an addiction..... 

But there is more going on.  I think I'm recreating some memories.   It hit me as I found my arms loaded with 3 pots of different types of woodland 'shamrocks'.  Also,  every kind of fern I discover comes home with me.  Obsessively I will capture the magic?

Wisteria and roses make me get a lump in my throat.  A magnolia tree can take me back 44 years quickly.   Ferns are primal.  Shamrocks still hold a mysterious secret.  The smell and feel of familiar trees or plants transport me to the time of my life that seemed like paradise.   This amazing  environment had the deepest imprint on my personality.   I still have trouble being inside or confined or fenced in......serious trouble.   Concrete and synthetic Vegas or Disney environments also make me shatter inside,  and long for breathing room and green things. 

We lived part of my childhood surrounded by woods, 150 acres.   I had the freedom to roam, explore, experience, ramble - discovering every nook, cranny, creek, hill, ravine, animal, reptile, bird.....completely unhindered and unlimited.   Complete freedom with few parameters.  

When you can forage for food and water if needed, get in the shade or water when it gets too hot, it's simple and easy. When there is an absence of fear, delight is normal. 

I seriously believed in  the 'little people' who lived under the shamrocks,  and would lay on the forest floor on my tummy, still, quiet and patiently beg them to come out and play with me, promising not to hurt them or tell anyone about them.  I would try to bribe them with the tastiest little wild strawberries, which  would eventually get eaten.  No matter how hard I pleaded, not one ever trusted me enough to show itself.   These woodland shamrocks or sorrel that grew in the shade had stems that when sucked and chewed gently, quenched the thirst with a tangy refreshing juice. 

The ferns in some of the gullies must have been over 6 feet in height.   In the fall, we would take a frond with the most golden spores underneath and press it carefully on our clothes to 'stamp' a fern print.  

The magnolia tree would drop these pods after the  flower dried up.  They resembled 'fisher price' people with their stubby shape.   To me, they were armies, ladies in waiting, kings, queens, jesters, jokers, servants and children with lively happenings every day.   The big magnolia leaves were the choicest writing material available.  With a sharp stick you could draw or write gently on their large surface, set it to dry and presto, permanent message or art.

Grandma had a patio with an arbor covered with rambling roses and wisteria.   It had been an ongoing war for years ~ I think the wisteria won because it was slowly lifting the house and cement patio up.  And holding up the ancient arbor.   Grandma's roses had names and were an important part of her heritage.   Belle of Portugal and Camille.   The starts had been passed from mother to daughter for generations and of course a new start would be brought to a new home.  Grandma had a passionate hatred of the vinca that grew everywhere in the shade.   She would chop at it constantly.  Since she didn't have any grass and it was a perfect ground cover for the area, as an adult, I think she was taking out some vengeance, anger or just using it for therapy.   It was pretty harmless as it came popping right back up overnight.   

The scent of the acacia trees, bay laurel, wisteria and roses is just as real in my imagination and a  sweeter remembrance than any perfume.  We had a hammock strung between 2 acacias where many a hot afternoon was spent dressed only in my shorts.   Dreaming and swinging. 

We would go rob the bay laurel tree to gather leaves when mom or grandma needed them for cooking.  In the spring, grandma needed them under her pillow to help her breathe when she got hay fever from the acacias in bloom.   I finally figured out why I love golden chain trees!   They are the closest thing resembling acacias that will grow here.   And the pungent smell of eucalyptus.....cleans your nose, the air and your brain.   It is my favorite scent from Bath and Body.   The bark is baby butt smooth because it sheds all the time.   Sort of messy, but good messy.   

And trillium.  It takes an ant burying a seed deeply in the perfect surroundings and seven years to germinate.  I could still take you to the places that that the trilliums grew.   The river property that I wrote about earlier has many of the same woodland flavors of Glenwood.  I know where the one trillium grows there too.  It is a gift to wonder at, worth stopping for a while to marvel at the miracle.   I have one wild one and 2 cultivated ones in my fern garden.

To finish my memory garden all I need is a golden chain tree and a eucalyptus.   Will have to settle for the small florist bush kind because of  our zone and the space needed even if it was warm enough.  

Such a childhood, was it even real?  The woodland plants make it so.  (And the 3 swings and 2 hammocks)    

1 comment:

KoverB said...

Pss. The tool Grandma used to try and destroy the vince she called a 'portagee' hoe. It was ground down to a skinny nubbin from years of sharpening. I'm thinking it's full name was portuguese hoe? :)

And I forgot the mainenhair ferns that grew on the rocks above the creek in the deep deep shade. Delicate looking, but survivors~