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Monday, January 16, 2012

In the Bleak Midwinter

Mom & my son Donovan 1984


It is in the bleak midwinter as I look out on shades of browns and gray of sleeping foliage and dead grasses (for we still await the blue and white hues of snow), my thoughts turn to summer flowers.  The photo above is of Mom and my son Donovan in 1984.  Mom had beautiful flower gardens on the place, one in the front yard and another across the creek; but time and the  local wild species – the thimbleberries, the wild pink rose – have supplanted them and reclaimed their rightful place.  It is a good thing that she planted a few hardy perennials, which remain, because, though I appreciate flowers, I am not a cultivator of them.  Here are photos I took last summer.


Mom waged war with the Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), though she herself had introduced it into her garden, for it always threatened to displace her irises, which, alas, have not survive the years. Now the poppies battle with grass for their corner of the old garden and, so far, have held fast to their territory.  They are native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey and northern Iran, not the Orient as the name implies.





For years Mother wanted to hack out the brush across the creek and plant a flower garden there, for she knew the soil next to the creek was black and rich, a legacy of millennia of beaver dams flooding the valley and building up rich sediment.  And finally, in her fifties, she paid to have it done. It’s still an interesting secret space, for an apple tree blooms there in the spring, and white and purple lilac bushes like it very much. But of the flowers she planted, none is left except a recently discovered gathering of deep-red primroses hiding in tall grass.  The Primula is a genus of 400-500 species of low-growing herbs of the family Primulaceae, and rather prefer alpine climates and filtered sunlight.

This old yellow rose bush grows outside what was for over 50 years Mom’s bedroom window, facing the rising sun; and if I came for my yearly visit at the right time, she would have a large bouquet waiting for me in my old bedroom.  She’d received a cutting from Grandma Ferry, the ancient dame who had homesteaded across the narrow valley around 1900. Every farm house had a large bush of these most fragrant of roses.  Whether it is the Persian Yellow rose or the Harison Rose, I don’t know. They resemble each other in the photos on the Internet and both are traced back to the 1830s on the east coast. They were brought west on the Oregon Trail and women shared them down through the years; they grow lots of suckers and are easy to propagate.   My son, a few years ago, in a manly effort to tidy up around the outside of the old house, cut most of the enormous bush down to the ground.  “Don’t worry,” said a neighbor, as I related the blasphemy, “it will grow right back.”  And it has.

And so, I'll end this longing for a warmer and a more colorful landscape with another photo of Mom’s garden –  a different year, a different aspect.

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