Garden Envy

My mom is a prowler.

For as long as I can remember, she has staked out particular homes with what some might call obsessive interest, driving past them as often as possible, slowing to the pace of a toddler on a tricycle so everyone in the car could practice the Art of Appreciation: My how tall the tulips are! I like how the layers of foliage compose a picture. See the little statue tucked in the back? Oh! there’s a Jack-in-the-Pulpit — reminds me of my childhood.

The simplest possible landscaping surrounded our family home for many years, a sheet of grass leading up to a few evergreen bushes. You could just hear them soothingly croon, “Trust us. We’ll make this easy on you. Don’t worry yourself one little bit.”  Mom worked full-time while raising four kids and a step-family. She had time for drive-by gardening, but not the demands of maintaining any more complex landscape.

Seasons change. As we grew up she was able to add in a brick patio, a bed of zinnias,  then a garden gazebo,  more beds,  layers of canopy,  her own charming statuary.  She bought a chipper together with a neighbor and the two ladies sparkled as they  bragged of making their own mulch and held their own with the good ole boys at the hardware store.

At age 82, Mom has the yard she longed for her entire life. It is a micro habitat of mid-American forest floor,  prairie flowers,  and tulip fields. A local legend, gardening friend and arborist  Greg Smith, helps her out, bringing unusual trillium or may apple from his own collection and stopping in several times a week to perform many small tasks needed to keep the progression of beauty throughout the seasons.

Last week as I visited Mom, we watched a stranger drive past,  slow down, stop,  get out of her car with a professional camera and snap shots of Mom’s yard.

Some dreams take your whole life to come true.



  1. Beth, this story made my day! As I’m sure it will make your mother’s!

  2. Mary McCullough · · Reply

    Hi Beth,
    My daughter, Karin (Uni High School) forwarded the lovely article you wrote about your Mom’s flower garden . I ride my bicycle all over C-U doing errands, etc., but always stop to view yards and talk to the owners. Have made several friends that way and I now have an area in the yard that I call my “friendship garden” which contains all the plants I have received from people while cycling.

    I have 3 neighbors that regularly trade not only flowers but vegies and herbs. And the computer is such a great resource to find out anything I need to know in how to care for all the plants I have in our large yard.

    Just had to write and tell you how much I can relate to your Mom. Karin sent this to me as it reminded her of me (her Mom). So glad she did! Well written and very touching!

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