|The last violet of the season|
I spent some time cleaning up the vegetable garden earlier today. A slight breeze rustled through the last of the corn stalks as fallen leaves from the nearby grape vine danced across the garden. The remnants of tomatoes I never picked hung from the frost-blackened vines.
I worked crop by crop, pulling out the spent plants and piling them on to the compost pile. The sky was blue and I marveled about how nice a day it was, a good day to spend in the garden, reflecting on the past and remembering how I learned to garden.
My Dad first showed me how to plant a vegetable garden by his example. I helped him plant peas, lettuce, onion sets and radishes early in the spring. I followed along as he set out tomato plants and sowed green beans in mid-May.
I remember how he always added some flowers for color, usually zinnias and marigolds. He kept the garden weed free, but never made us kids weed for him, so I never thought of gardening as work. He harvested regularly and cleaned it all up in the fall so he had a blank slate to plant all over again in early spring.
Today, nearly a quarter century after my Dad passed away, I think of him every time I step into my vegetable garden and I still plant my garden in much the same way that he taught me.
Many people talk about memory gardens, planted purposely in memory of someone close to us who has passed way. That is what my vegetable garden has turned out to be, though it wasn’t intentional on my part. I planted it to be a vegetable garden, but then through the years I realized that it has turned into a memory garden. It isn’t just about growing food – it is also about remembering my past and my Dad.
This spring, I will plant a memory garden for my Mom, who passed away last week. It will be filled with violets, her favorite flower. If the violets spread about the garden or yard, that will be fine with me. Violets will never be a weed in my garden. How could they be? My Dad used to let us dig wild violets from the woods and bring them home to plant in our garden because my Mom liked them. I’ll plant a lilac, too, as fragrant as I can find, one that will bloom around Mother’s Day. I’ll also add some Lily of the Valley from a clump I have that I got from my aunt, who got them from my grandmother.
It won’t be a large garden. I’ll tuck it away in a corner somewhere. Others may see it and not even realize the memories it holds. I won’t have to look up anything in books to figure out how to plant this garden or how to design it, either. There will be no need of that.
I’ll plant it by what is in my heart, by memory.