When I was a child, ours was not a family of “means.” I was very aware that other kids in the neighborhood, and at school, seemed to have more than we did. It still amazes me that I can say that not once did we go on a family vacation. Nor did we ever eat in a restaurant. Not once. But what we didn’t have, and what we didn’t do, is not what this post is about. It’s about what we did have.
A fence separated our back yard from the neighbors’. Along that wire border grew lilac bushes which, every spring, filled the air with a fragrance that planted itself in my DNA. Also along that fence grew a few stray purple iris, and further down the fence, at the other end, stood a mulberry tree, perfect for climbing.
On the other side of our back yard, along the fence that protected us kids from our other neighbor’s ferocious (and I’m not kidding) chow, was another, smaller mulberry tree. This one yielded berries every summer, and we joyously ate them. We also delighted in sucking the nectar from the tips of columbine blossoms, which grew around the base of the tree.
Because this fence was on the north side of the yard, and because of the tree, it provided the perfect spot for other shade-loving plants as well. Such as fern; their unfurling fronds were endlessly fascinating. Every spring, nestled in this same semi-shady area, bloomed exquisite “bleeding hearts.”
There wasn’t more than about five feet between our house and the brick four-plex to the north. It was almost always shady along that side and lilies of the valley grew in great profusion. We knew the chow was locked up when his owner was at work so we dared to edge into that small “alley” to pick stems of those little white bells. We brought them to our mother who displayed the diminutive bouquets in a juice glass.
At the base of the steps from our back porch, hollyhocks bordered the sidewalk in vivid pinks, fucias, yellows and coral. (This photo is not from that time. These were grown from seeds three years ago – a gift from my sister who knows how much, to this day, I love hollyhocks.)
Following the path around to the front of our house, framing our screened-in front porch, grew great bushes of, what we called, “bridal wreath.” Their tiny, lacy white flowers bloomed for a time, and then the petals fell, coating the sidewalk and grass like snow.
All of these gardening wonders appeared in our yard every spring and summer without my mother’s tending. We children took them all for granted. It is these memories which are so precious. A part of my childhood that I long to re-create, it is these flowers I covet most for my Dream Garden.