Grandmother's Garden

There was an old farmhouse on my father's property that burned in the 1940's. You can still find remnants of the stone foundation in the pasture where it stood if you look carefully in the winter. In spring, the outline of the foundation and walkway are clearly visible from a distance as negative space where the jonquils don't grow. There is a rare and wonderful apricot colored Gladiolus that grows there, too. Old House Gardens in Michigan identifies it as Boone from the 1920's. I take great care to keep them growing in my garden.

The spearmint that we grow is descended from what once grew outside my mother's kitchen window. It was given to her by the mother of a childhood friend.

Before Chuck's great aunt Catherine's house was sold a few years ago, the family allowed me to collect iris and lily-of-the-valley from her garden. His grandmother, still very active at the time, recognized my passion, and began sharing some of the shrubs and flowers she had collected over the years: native viburnum, flowering almond, and a very unusual striped rose, among others, many of them long lost to the nursery trade.

Chuck's mom still lives on the family property on Lookout Mountain. She calls me whenever she discovers (or rediscovers) any uncommon shrub or flower in the undergrowth around Grandmother's house. She recently gave me the old wrought iron garden gate that belonged to Chuck's great aunt Jessie.

As a child I often went to visit my Father's sister, Georgia, at their mother's homestead in Clarkesville, TN. When my grandmother passed away, many years later, Aunt Georgia remembered my fascination with the old cast iron dinner bell that was mounted outside her kitchen door, and the iron cauldron that was planted with pansies every year. Aunt Georgia sent them to me and they hold a special place in my garden and in my heart.

Geneva and Dr. Hays Mitchell built the house at Owl Hollow in 1980. This is where her children and grandchildren came to spend their summers together. After the turn of the century, she and her husband felt the need to downsize: to move to a place that didn't require so much upkeep. She chose to sell the house to us, not because we were the highest bidder, but because we so admired her garden. She recognized our reverence for the land and our enthusiasm for the wildflowers and wildlife we found here. The last thing I remember saying to Geneva was not to worry, I would take care of their bluebirds and goldfinches. I will never forget the look of relief on her face. Every time I see a thistle blooming in the orchard, I think of her and smile.