Espaliered tree

Gardens Tour

            When I show you my garden, I am giving you a tour of the past.  All my perennials are scavenged.  Lilies are easiest to find, growing in ditches all over Northeast Kansas, or lining what was once the lane to what was once a farm house but is now empty space.  Orange, like these that line my driveway, are most common, but I have found pink and yellow.  I read that 150 years ago, a starving family survived because of lilies.  Deer crave the bulbs, and the farmer shot a deer, also starving, who was foraging in the bulbs his wife had brought from her mother’s garden in Indiana.  Then the wife, once the venison was entirely eaten, from brain to hoof jelly, and her family near starvation once again, gave up the sustenance of tradition and beauty for the sustenance of food, digging up and eating all her bulbs.
            My lilac, just outside the kitchen door, is a cutting from a sturdy bush planted next to an abandoned and crumbling stone house out on the River Road.  The spring fragrance of a lilac carries the memory of a family who welcomed the same rich scent as they opened their thin windows to breezes that would soon enough turn to the blasting heat of summer and to the blizzards of winter.  Like them, I cherish the moment of calm, of perfect blossom.  The lilac’s home, now fallen in on itself, has taught me the transience of promise.
            Violets are everywhere in the country, blue, pink, white—and I have spread them throughout my garden, just as pioneers spread themselves through this country.  Violets have survived with more tenacity, more grace.
            I have dug the crowns of asparagus, the long rooty bulbs of winter onions, the rhubarb roots all brought to a homestead and cherished, reminding those people from the past of how much they missed, and yet tried to recreate, their own pasts in their new homes.  Now, something of their homes makes my home.
            Do you see that willow, weeping in the side yard?  I cut it from a tree in a darkened woods, next to a foundation filled in with stones and weeds.  As I cut away the thick dead branches, searching for a tender green twig that might sprout, I found the small marble stone.  Etched into it, the words “Infant” and “Forgiveness.”  I nearly loosened the stone, to plant it here, under my willow, but it belonged in the past, that old willow a sentinel to loss.
            So much is lost.  But out of loss I have found what grows.  You see it here, in my garden. 
            Oh, and don’t you love that blood-red poppy?  Now, there’s a story.

"Gardens Tour" first appeared in Kansas City Voices








Artichoke symbol


Winter onion

Rose etched in tombstone

Dead potted plant


Willow tree


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