Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Old Ladies and Gardening

My thoughts wandered to my aged aunts (long gone) and how I always thought they were incredibly old.  They were much older than my parents because dad was the youngest of seven children.

I remember how the women all looked like they had bowed legs and how all old ladies bent over in that unflattering way when gardening.  They all wore summer house dresses made of white muslin printed with lavender flowers and rolled down nylons around their ankles worn with their lace up black shoes.  They always had on an apron with pockets.  All my aunts had white hair (surprise) and it was either in a chignon or rolled tightly into a long curl thing.  I say curl thing because it was a single roll from ear to ear and held in place with hairpins and a hairnet. I realized this week; they were probably younger than I am today.  I pondered this and whether I should consider a chignon.  Heaven help me if I bend over my flowers and have bowed legs – JUST MAKE THE VISION STOP!

Speaking of old, there’s a flower catalog I particularly enjoy called “Old House Gardens – Heirloom Bulbs”.

1604 Heirloom
Call me sentimental but I like having plants in my gardens with a long history of survival.  They may not all be flashy in today’s sense of gardening but they are certainly hardy with a touch of pioneer gentility thrown in for good measure.

Accustomed to driving to our nearest nursery or big box outlet store, we grab bulbs and plants as if they were grown on the blacktop the day before.  Truth is many heirlooms were saved only because someone abandoned an old home site and no one had bulldozed the site.  There was a time when if it wasn’t new, it wasn’t valued.  Fortunately in recent years, plant and seed savers have rescued many of these plants and some are now plentiful enough for sales.

For the most part (but not entirely) these heirloom plants are extremely hardy and have proved this by enduring neglect, harsh conditions and almost extinction.  What this means is if you plant them in the right hardiness zone and according to needs, they will out live you and many future generations.

Because some of them are rare or as yet in short supply, some varieties may be expensive.  Another source is other gardeners.  If a fellow gardener says, “Do you want a start?” the answer should be a quick, ”Yes!”  But only “yes” if you actually do plan to plant and care for the gift.  I think we all know someone who seeks a start and then lets it languish in the garage until it’s beyond hope.

Gift certificates for all things heirloom gardening can be great Christmas presents for gardeners.  They can choose from long (almost eternal) lasting daffodils to “must be dug every fall” dahlias and gladiolas.   Or, a daylily breakthrough in the 1800s and a Thomas Jefferson’s hybridized plant.  Books such as “Flora Illustrata” or “Gerard’s Herbal” are full of beautiful illustrations and historical data.

Excuse me now as I seek a muslin housedress with lavender flowers to cover my bowed legs as I bend down and hope my chignon doesn’t fall out of my sunbonnet while pulling weeds.  

Visualization = not always a good thing. 

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