Summer Dew Point

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mother, This One's for You.

I have some exciting news to share. Well, exciting to me anyway. It has to do with flowers and my heritage. So if you don’t like flowers, specifically peonies, iris, and old fashioned roses, you can just skip this blog.

When I was young, my mother was a very good gardener. And at the house they purchased when I was sixteen she planted a hill full of iris. It was a sight in the spring when they all bloomed. But as the years passed (40+) it got harder for my parents to maintain the hill. And the iris got overgrown with grass and weeds. Every spring there would be a few blooming, but most of them could barely make it through the prairie grass. One of the special irises was an old fashioned lavender one that smelled like grapes. So the second year we were here in Minnesota (2007), I went back for a visit and dug some of her iris to bring to Anniversary Grove. They grew and increased, but never bloomed. Then the year the folks moved out of their house and put it up for sale, I went up on the hill and dug a rhizome from every iris bunch I could find. Look what I got this year!
Iris Blooms
Just a sample of the gorgeous blooms this spring. And next year will be better.

When I lived in Piedmont, SD we were only about ¼ mile from the Black Hills. Up one of the trails into the hills, was the old Piedmont garbage dump that had been put on an old homestead. When they cleaned up the dump and moved it, the area was cleared of trees. The dirt on the hill is very shallow with limestone bedrock only about 1-2 inches below the top soil. When walking there one spring day, I found a bed of iris growing almost out of the rock. These irises were yellow and smelled like lemons. I took one rhizome and planted it in my Piedmont garden. When we moved to Minnesota, I grabbed one of the iris plants in my VERY large iris bed, hoping it was one of the yellows. And I lucked out. But it also had trouble blooming, until this year!
Yellow "Lemon" iris
Blown over by the high winds, but still blooming.

Next to roses, peonies are my favorite flower. I love the look, and the smell of them. At the same time that I took the last batch of iris from my parent’s home, I took some pieces of my mother’s peonies. This is their third year here and the first year to bloom. I took four different plants; one name I know, the other three will have to be researched. Those of you that know peonies know that it will take about 3 years for the bloom to develop into its prime. After that, if taken care of they will bloom for years and years. My mother got her original plants from a friend’s mother sometime in the mid to late 60’s. And that woman had them for years before that. So these 4 peonies should have been hybridized sometime before the 1930s. That means they are a heritage flower. But what means more to me is that they were my mother’s and I will someday give some to my daughter, nieces and granddaughters.
Festiva Maxima
Festiva Maxima (Miellez, 1851).

Unknown pink
Unknown bloom. The last two are mid to late and haven’t bloomed yet.

And speaking of peonies, I spent the last two years here rescuing small peony shoots that kept coming up around my trees and in a wood pile east of the house. I have figured out that they were planted along the original fence line. My house was built in 1910 and we bought it from the family that moved here in 1950. Her mother was not a gardener, and never grew peonies. I have a picture of the house taken around 1920 with that same fence line and some small bushes (too fuzzy to tell what kind). So I think my rescue peonies were planted here somewhere around 1920. Because of this rescuing, I have about 23 peony surprises growing. I was told by a peony expert online that given care and years to grow, someday I would get blooms. Well…..after 2 years look what I have now! And there is one more with buds that will bloom next week. The bushes are small yet, but in a few years...what a picture they will be.

Laura Dessert
Laura Dessert (Dessert, 1913).

Avant Garde
Possibly Avant Garde (Lemoine, 1907).

Mons. Jule Elie
Probably Mons. Jules Elie (Crousse, 1888).

Officinalis Rubra Plena
And finally the Memorial Day Peony that has been around since the middle ages.

Memorial Day peonies, Officinalis Rubra Plena, were carried across America in covered wagons. It is also called Old Double Crimson. For anyone that wants to research their peonies the Peony Database and the Heartland Peony Society are good places to start.

And finally Mother….It Made It!

Grandpa's Rose
Grandpa’s White shrub rose.

This slip of a slip of a slip of a slip is from the old shrub rose that grew at my Great Grandparents homestead in Big Stone, South Dakota. And I don’t know much more of the history of it, except I think it was originally brought from Germany. Mother had a huge one at the house, and when it was taken out, she put a piece up on the hill. This is the first time in all the years I have been gone from home that I have been successful growing this rose. I think it has finally found a new place at Anniversary Grove.

Hated Telephone

Right now I can say I am not happy Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. It is amazing that such a little instrument can bring so many emotions to people. Happy, sad, scared, angry. And the caller ID is the worst. You can pick up a phone expecting to hear the voice you know so well and instead hear “Aunt Candy, this is CJ.” and know immediately that something is terribly wrong.

Oh how a phone call can change your life. Over eleven years ago, I got one of those calls and it wrecked my world. My sister, Cara, had collapsed and was in a coma. Her heart had quit, but when they revived her, she was brain dead. So the family opted to take her off support and she died peacefully after 3 days. She was 50. And on May 13th of this year, I got another call. My brother, Charles, had a massive heart attack and died on a highway in Oklahoma with his wife of 3 months by his side. He was 64.
Charles and wife Donna.

Well, that spoiled this year and shocked me back to life’s realities. I was so happy in my little slice of heaven, thinking life would stay this way forever. But nothing stays the same, does it? His death leaves our family down to 4. Along with my sister Connie, both of my parents are still doing well at 90; as well as you can expect after losing a second child.

I sometimes long for the bygone days, when technology wasn’t even a word yet. The days when good or bad news came via telegraphs. At least then you could see the Western Union man coming and have time to prepare.