It is now Spring. Not by the official date and not by the weather, but by amazing sights that I first saw as a child and did not appreciate. . Until the last few years here in the Midwest and while my Mother lived with us, I began to understand the joy of a garden. Previously, I never gardened in earnest. I tried in Arizona, but it was a joke. I had no idea how to gauge when to plant what plant so that it could live. All efforts could have been classed as “play” and the results were not very good.
During my adolescent and teen years I never picked up a green thumb on the farm, nor did my Father impart any farming information, particularly if it had anything to do with flowers. Momma often tried to interest me by letting me pick out annuals to plant and decide in what design a flower bed should be made. Back then I remembered thinking that picking out plants and designing was okay, but it would be even better if I could be inside making cinnamon rolls. It was a fine state for a young person growing up on an Iowa farm and so the years passed and my ignorance of plants continued.
When we first moved here Momma encouraged me to to make flower gardens and plant as many flowers as I could. We had already discussed flowers in Arizona before arriving and I had ordered two bush roses and purple day lilies from The Morton Arboreutum through my sister. Today I look at those plants and think how lucky I was because I didn’t know how to plant a rose. I planted them while my Mother was in the hospital that first year and they have beome the most dramatic of all my flowers when they bloom.
The first couple of years she sat on the porch, in the front of the house, while I attempted to turn soil and amend it as well as, planting flowers!! I was thankful she was there because some days I had no idea what I should do. Little by little, hint by hint, technique by technique Momma told me how to garden.
Slowly, these stunning sights of Spring were noticed by me in the garden. They became more poignant as I told my Mother each day what I had done in the garden. Momma lay in her bed, with head turned so she could hear every word, would stop me and interject he thoughts, her likes, dislikes and stories about her perennials she left in Iowa. She often said that the main ingredient to a successful garden was love and then lots elbow grease!
Momma loved all flowers, although her favorite flower was the rose, in particular she was partial to The Abraham Lincoln, deep red rose, a white, Empress rose just tinged in the palest of pink and the very charismatic Yellow tea rose. Each summer she looked forward to the many bouquets I brought from the gardens, but none of that would not have happened if she didn’t give me her love for making it all happen and appreciate how much a garden of colorful flowers can give you back.
It was during the second summer Momma started having difficulty getting out to the back yard and all the flowers I had in the back yard were off the patio. If you sat at the kitchen table you wouldn’t even know those incredible bush roses were there. Momma missed her flowers and that year I dug up a very large portion of the back yard to make a thirty foot long flower garden that wrapped the patio in a changing, fluid shape perfectly spaced so that when you were at the kitchen table the front border of the garden appeared to be just above the patio wall.
Momma and I shopped many days for flowers to fill up this giant bed, although, she and I decided that a miniature apple tree on each end of the bed would be great. We chose Macintosh, Momma’s favorite for apple pie, baked apples and canning. Below one of the apple trees became a huge strawberry patch. It is the same today and the strawberries, even in the chilly, “April Showers” are getting ready for their first harvest of fruit and are showing many little white flowers.
Spring came this year not many days ago. Yes, prior to now there was a premature, weatherman Spring and there was the official start of Spring that was followed by freezing temperatures, snow, sleet, rain, more rain, snow and rain. Finally, April Showers began, much the same as when I lived on the farm many years ago. There are days of rain and chill, a sky where clouds then break and warm rays of sun fall across the land, then possibly very windy days or nights are filled with more rain or fine showers and finally a small group of warm, warm days with bright cumulus clouds up above will arrive. Yes, it was that way this year and even though I should have been out earlier the gardens are fine!
As I begun my task of cleaning up my garden and yard I began humming an Italian song that my Momma and I always listened to every afternoon, as well as, her other favorite Italian Folk songs. It wasn’t until after my Momma passed away that I realized what the song, Al Di La, was all about. Al Di La is a place, far, far above the clouds, that to guess where it is you must follow the sky up and up and weave your way thru the clouds. Never stop the journey, just keep going as you eye can see. Then in your heart you have come as close to Al Di La as you can in your life time; Al Di La is a place where a loved one (one you miss very much) waits to guide you on to Paradise, when you arrive from your final journey. In the years prior to your arrival, Al Di La, represents to you the reality that you yearn for the past to become real again, although, you admit it can only be the stepping stone for you one day.
I realized why I hummed the song because I felt Momma was there guiding me, up there, far, far above the white, voluminous, cumulus clouds. At that moment I felt peaceful to know she was there and as I babbled to my garden, I shared everything with her as I always did.
As I chattered on, I first pruned the dead, perennial stalks and uncovered the little roses from their insulation of Canadian Peat Moss. Next, as I worked from one side of the first bed to the other cleaning off leaves and as I did the Spring came to me. There, under the debris, were the center of my perennials with tiny shoots of new life. In my way, they greeted me and we had our first individual chats for the season.
They are Spring, the little hidden, leaves signaling new life When I was finished all of the plants had little faces, smiling upward. The next day, after a night rain, I went back to the big bed and found that even more Spring had arrived for me. The rain had allowed the little leaves and stalks to triple their size overnight. They are amazing, they have returned to me one more year to please and bring color and texture to my garden.
Momma knew all this and simply gave me some hints, or told a story, as she imparted her knowledge of gardening to me. Now Momma still guides my hand as she watches far, far above the white, voluminous, cumulus clouds in a place that is called Al Di La.