I couldn't think of anywhere to more appropriately remember my mother, on Mothers' Day, than in the garden --- and with a few iris, which were among her favorites. Although in fairness, practically any blooming thing was her favorite in season, with the possible exception of dandelions.
So I'm going to pass up some darned good opportunities this afternoon and go out for another day of battle with the grass, which is too long, and the weeds, which are too tall. I've neglected the home front during the last couple of years while busy elsewhere --- and it's showing.
These iris are from the museum garden and now in full bloom, but Mother had all of these and more at the farm. Especially the variegated ones --- in several colors, including a memorable deep maroon.
She gardened in a different place and time. On the farm, space was unlimited and this encouraged her expansionist tendencies; this was before the parking lots and outdoor garden rooms of every big-box mercantile establishment in creation burst into bloom this time of year.
Mother was a frugal gardener, rarely buying anything "off the shelf" other than a few geraniums and a little impatiens for planters. Even then, most of her geraniums were wintered over --- condensed in buckets kept in a sunny spot in the cool upstairs hallway during the winter, watered infrequently, then redeployed in the spring.
She also "took slips" of everything in the fall, looking ahead to the spring that would follow.
Once spring arrived, she took to our woods with trowel and paper bags and collected a few native plants to add to her woodland gardens --- in the shade of the mock orange bush and other flowering shrubs.
This was a time of Sunday afternoon visiting and no visit to the home of a friend and/or a cousin was complete without a tour of the flower beds. "Would you like a start?" The spade was brought forward, the plant divided and we came home with something to add to the collection. Nearly every plant that grew in the garden had a story behind it.
For a time, my aunt and uncle in Detroit were deeply involved in tulips. Aunt Marie brought bags of harvested bulbs back to Iowa on summer vacation, all duly planted for spring bloom in Iowa.
Most of the hybrid iris were native to Colorado. My cousins, the Krutsinger kids, grew up in Boulder and all had seasonal jobs at a nursery that specialized in iris. I think that this was Long's Gardens, in north Boulder, which somehow has managed to survive urban sprawl and still is in business.
One of the perks of working there was all the iris you could plant. These made the trip to Iowa on summer vacations, too.
Visiting my aunts and uncles in Wyoming, Mother headed out to dig up cactus. We had those as well, and they bloomed yearly in a bed just south of the house.
Sadly, I have not carried my mother's tradition forward. She could convince anything to grow. I generally just admire these days the hard work of others --- and try to keep the grass and weeds in check. And wish that grass and those weeds would grow less enthusiastically.