Wednesday, May 15, 2013

See How Her Garden Grows

Tiny Phlox, Up Close

Morgantown, WV.  5/15/2013:    My sweet wife, Mary Alice, was a big-time gardener.  If a plant bloomed, she had a soft spot for it, so our houses have always had flower gardens.  When I'm not on the road, I'm "smelling the roses."

  Mary Alice got it from her parents.  Her mother, Hazel Henrietta Hall, found places for big flowering plants in odd corners of her yard; her father, Chaucer Hall, was big on vegetables.  It was in their blood, I think..certainly, the vegetables were a big part of life for them during the depression and war years.  So, Mary Alice got it honestly.  

                 Gardener at work (right).

  Mary Alice was an elegant lady in all respects.  We spent more than 60 years together, 57 in marriage.  Tragically, she succumbed to the effects of ALS last fall, and I miss her more than I can say.  We were wife and husband, partners, lovers, best friends and all the other good things that come from a life shared so long.  We knew what each other was thinking, what we liked and what we didn't.  We accommodated each other's tastes.  She understood the business I was in and made allowances for its eccentricities--the travel, the hours and so on.  I understood the things she did and worked to see that her interests were served.  it was automatic.  I'm not a gardner, but I loved that she was, and looked forward to seeing what she was doing.  Late in her life, we got help from a wonderful landscape gardener, Nick Gainer, who understood what she wanted and followed her design when she could no longer do it herself.  He keeps it the way she envisioned to this day.

  All of that is to tell you that the garden she left is going to be spectacular this year..a message of love that I see every time I walk out the door, and look for every time I come back.  I took some pictures to share here.  Mary Alice sends her love:

  The Iris was a special favorite of hers.  Maybe it's because her mother took such pleasure in the ones she raised in a special place at their farm  near Gladesville, Preston County, WV.  This one (left) is in our lower garden now, but its bulb came from that patch on the farm several years ago.  I like the colors and the soft texture of the bloom.  So do the bees.

  Mrs. Hall once scattered Daffodil bulbs in an open pasture above their house.  To this day, that field comes alive in the early spring with hundreds of yellow blooms--the first harbinger of nicer days to come.  It's always welcome; Preston County is at a high elevation where winter seems to linger  much longer than it should..but you see a Daffodil and you have hope.


  Here's the reverse view of that garden wall you see her tending above.  I'm a big fan of Phlox, so banks of it have developed from her plantings over the years.  It certainly brightens what could be a fairly severe old wall..and it can be seen from the street as you pass.

  When we bought this old house in 2004, it was pretty much green shrubbery and trees around the property.  Now, it has different shades of color most every season of the year.  Some pansies keep on going almost year-round if the climate's right.  Apparently, it's right at this location.


  Every garden needs a path.  This one was no different.  And if you have a path, you need a bench as a destination. 

  Along the garden path are rose bushes, azalea, rhododendron, hosta, plain and variegated, blueberries and honeysuckle.  We also discovered a plant which I nearly mistook for a weed, hiding in a corner behind a pine tree.  Before I pulled it out, it bloomed (probably in panicked self defense) with a trumpet-shaped yellow blossom that is loved by any and all Humming Birds.  It's still there and gets bigger every year.

  The old house was built of West Virginia limestone in 1929.  There are still remnant stones from the construction period in the ground around the foundation.  Flowers, ferns  and moss love their protection and I wouldn't think of removing them (below).

  More Phlox along the garden wall (left).  It grows so profusely that if you squint your eyes, it is dazzling.



   Two more of Mary Alice's favorites:

            Columbine.                                                      Bleeding Heart.


    I know this column is basically about travel, but it must always be understood that a good trip, like a good story, needs a beginning and a middle and an end.  There's no fun in going if you can't look forward to your return.  Mary Alice kept the fires burning for many years while my job sent me trotting around the globe.  The home she made was a joy to come back to, and the flowers she raised iced the cake.  But it wasn't just for me--she considered a beautiful garden a greeting to friends or passersby.  "Hello, enjoy the day."

   This year, the garden continues and seems to be bigger, more beautiful and more promising then ever before.  If that's a message, I'm listening.


   See you down the road.