April 12, 2007

Watering the Old School Way

One of my dearest memories of my grandmother is the memory of watching her water her flowers during the Summer season. Water hose in hand we walked around her various flower beds and gave the flowers a nice long drink. Grandma never held back when watering, she really soaked the ground around her flowers. This is how it was done before irrigation systems. Everyone's grandmother watered their flowers and plants this way.

Grandma's flowers were beautiful because she used compost and various animal manures to fertilize her flowers, never any granulars even when they became available. She knew which plants liked chicken manure from her sister's chicken coop and which flowers liked cow manure from our barn lot. She even used horse manure in some areas. A practice I still like to practice, but I must admit I resort to the granulars out of convenience more often than I'd like.

Grandma lived in a small rural community of about 500 people and shopped at the local feed and seed for flower and vegetable seeds. She would also mail order seeds and check her mailbox daily in anticipation of their arrival. The majority of her plants came from seeds and starts exchanged among the town's gardeners.

Grandma would congratulate the bloomers as she watered and encourage the slow growth of transplants and speculate on which plant would bloom next as we walked along the edge of the flower beds. She always looked ahead with hope and anticipation of the next Season in the garden which is my inheritance from my Grandma. I find myself wandering among my flowers in the morning in my bath robe with a cup of coffee in hand. I too, congratulate, encourage and get excited by the newest bud that will soon burst into bloom.

Grandma liked to tell a "story" about the ladies that had contributed to her garden by giving her a start of a particular plant or seeds. Grandma would stop and the telling would begin. Grandma loved telling funny stories and I loved hearing them. The tale might be from the past when they were little girls together or it might be something that had happened in the previous week.

Sometimes Grandma would bend over in laughter gripping the hose that was now missing the flowers completely and if it was especially funny she would slap her knee on the way up as she stood. I have heard that her Dad would do this same gesture after the telling of an especially good story.

My Grandmother never referred to herself as a gardener, but a better gardener I have yet to meet. It was her passion and her gift to me the little girl that followed her around as she watered her flowers during those hot days of August.

Whenever I visit a botanical garden I think how much my grandmother would have loved a particularly beautiful blossom. The truth is that my Grandma loved all plants blossom or not. She was an avid indoor houseplant collector and her home always had a tropical feel with all the plants in every room. She loved plants - period. Just like she loved all her grandkids - whether we were bloomers or not.>

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