Sunday, April 27, 2014

Garden Memories (Again)

Most of you, if you garden at all, or visit gardens, will know the ever-popular, oh-so-useful herbaceous perennial, Alchemilla mollis, commonly known as Lady's Mantle. It's a wonderful ground cover and/or filler, softening edges and giving depth to garden beds from early spring through late fall. The dainty chartreuse flowers are an added bonus, particularly good, through May and June, for that soupçon of acidity to balance the sweetness of a blues-based bouquet. My own love for Lady's Mantle is based on the cunning pleats and lacy edges of its leaves, as well as on the way it captures dew and raindrops. If there's another plant that does this as well, I don't know it. . . .

But the Alchemilla tribe also includes some worthy lesser-known species. My mother, a humble, dedicated, and very successful gardener, loved attending specialty plant sales, a favourite being the Van Dusen Gardens' annual fundraiser. I'm not sure if that's where she would have spotted and snatched up a specimen or two of this charming Alchemilla alpina, but within a few years, wherever she'd acquired it, she'd divided it up to share with me. . .






















Those are Columbine (aquilegia vulgaris? canadiensis? probably hybridized after so many summers of self-seeding) leaves on the right, so you can see how dainty this Alpine Alchemilla is. . .

And at first, I suppose, it might seem a completely different plant. You're skeptical that I've identified it correctly, perhaps.

But look, there's that cunning pleating again, even more sharply outlined now by the A. alpina's neat, thin border of white.






















I've shared a division or two myself, over the years (I'll have to check and see if any survive in a garden up the road, one that used to be gardened by my friend Barb, long since "off the island"). But this is much more slowly growing a plant than its cousin, and if it self-seeds, I haven't spotted any plants that have started that way.

So far, just two small patches of the fresh, neat green-and-white foliage, often decorated by dew or rain droplets. . . .























After buying plants at the Van Dusen Gardens sale for years, Mom began offering potted-up divisions from her garden to be sold at VDG. In fact, for quite a few years, it was an annual spring ritual, the day that volunteers from the fund-raising crew would drive out to my parents' garden and work alongside Mom, by then in her mid to late-60s. They'd need a pick-up truck -- sometimes two loads! -- to contain the yield. Dad made them lunch the first few years -- one of "the garden ladies" reminisced warmly about that at Mom's funeral last spring. In his last two years, he was finally too ravaged by cancer to do much of the food prep, but he was still happy to coach from a seat in the sun, and to join them for tea. After he passed away, the garden was a big part of Mom's survival, and her annual contribution to that Plant Sale a way of maintaining a social connection to a world she and Dad shared.























Three of my sisters are going to the Van Dusen Plant Sale today. Mom's birthday was on March 22nd, the first anniversary of her death was on March 31st, and then again, because she died on Easter Sunday, we relived the loss again last weekend. Funny, I remember being bemused, maybe even amused, sometimes perhaps dismissive, at the way my Dad would recall death anniversaries. Your aunt died six years ago today, he'd announce as he poured me a cup of tea. Or, 27 years ago, I got the telegram about my Dad. Or. . . well, you get the idea.

It seemed so morbid to me, as a teen, then as a young adult. . . .And then my brother died, 38 years ago this past February, and I started to get it. I can't pass February 4th without remembering that phone call. July 20th forever more will be the day my Dad died (as well as my niece's birthday!), and clever Mom has now claimed herself a wide patch of calendar stretching from her Birthday to her Actual Date of Death to her Movable non-Date of Death, being Easter . . . and, one last clever fillip, a second movable-calendar remembrance via the Van Dusen Garden's Annual Plant Sale.

Easy to imagine teardrops on that Alchemilla. I suspect the sisters will shed one or two, between them. And I wonder what they'll bring home, to plant in their gardens. Perhaps they'll share, in a few years, dividing the roots as Mom did.

Meanwhile, in my garden, her memory lives on. . . .

My apologies for a post that went astray. . . I'd actually intended to go mostly wordless again, letting this sweet little plant do its photogenic thing. . . .

19 comments:

  1. You know so much about death and families. Maybe not what you hoped to learn, but thank you very much for sharing.

    And, no, I hadn't heard of that plant. I am only now getting to really know my garden.

    <3

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    1. Have to admit your comment took me aback a bit. But it's true I've had some experience with both, although not more than my fair share of death. I guess they go together pretty naturally, death and families, no?
      So much we can learn about and in and through gardens.
      <3 right back at you. . . ;-)

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, K. I did worry about it veering into the sentimental . . .

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  3. Beautiful post. So nice to have the treasures from your mom and better yet, enlivening your garden and serving as a reminder as well, triggering memories. Your family is always with you. It is strange I am so much more aware of those other anniversaries, the previous deaths, and particular reminders than I was when I was younger. Perhaps it is that I treasure them more now, whereas previously I was dismissive. Such a beautiful post.

    And by the way I had alchemilla mollis, but didn't know about alchemilla alpina

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    1. I've been finding, I realize just as I think about your comment, that I learn so much through and after a loved one's death, not just about the loved one but about my relationship with her or with him. . . It's odd and fascinating and, of course, too poignant to bear sometimes. . .
      The A. alpina is much less known -- I suspect Mom would have lined up at one of the rare plants tables. . . she was pretty good at the scoop. . .

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  4. Beautiful photos! I too am becoming more aware of death and anniversaries of the passing of loved ones. I contribute it to a heightened awareness gained from loss and my own aging process.

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    1. Yes, I agree with you that loss grants us a heightened awareness, not the gift we might have wanted, but a compensation nonetheless. . .

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  5. what a beautiful post. ps I'd love a little piece of that Alchemilla alpine if you're looking for homes for divisions...

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    1. I think there's just enough for one little division, and you'd be welcome to it. C'mon down with your trowel -- the earth's certainly wet enough this week. . .

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  6. The foliage is so green and beautiful with those "teardrops" of water. Today is my parents' 63rd wedding anniversary. I am thinking of them as I share photos of my dad's last years with the Shetlanders. My parents visited here 3 times and were regarded as close family. These anniversaries may seem morbid to younger folk but I think as we age death becomes part of our lives. I wonder what you'll find at Van Dusen.

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    1. Sadly, only my sisters got to the Van Dusen sale, but who knows what they might share. . . Are there many gardens in the Shetlands? Such a short growing season, I'd imagine, that far north . . .

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    2. That's too bad about VDG but in the same vein as your post, yesterday I was shown a lodgepole pine that had been grown from seed from my aunt's
      home in Sechelt. My aunt passed away in 1998 but a peerie bi ta her is loch side in Brae. I have a free (no visiting) day so I hope to visit da peerie fleuri park for some photos.

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    3. Oh, I love this! Gardening connections/heritage across the ocean. . .

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  7. I read this post with pleasure and pangs, remembering my own anniversaries of loss and the activities my parents loved. Please reconsider •apologizing* for offering tender, beautifully-written, evocative memories. Why do we do this? Just too Canadian!

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    1. Thank you so much, Duchesse, and I take your point. Sorry for apologizing. . . ;-) even more Canadian!

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  8. There is a revisiting with the anniversaries of loved ones - family lives on through us and it's healthy to hold their memories and doing so through gardens and plants is particularly lovely as we see the circle of life complete itself every year. Hopefully we continue to learn more about ourselves, and about our relationships, through these memories.

    Alchemilla is one of my favourite and most used plants in my rather small and shaded garden - it keeps on giving and has been much divided too. Like you, I love the way it holds raindrops and provides a wonderful foil for whatever else is in flower. Lovely post!

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    1. It's true, isn't it, that we learn so much about ourselves and our relationships after bereavement, as I discuss a bit with Mardel above.
      I love the stalwart, useful, sometimes taken-for-granted plants of the garden, and Lady's Mantle has to be a classic example of that, doesn't it?!

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  9. Isn't it lovely that you associate those plants and garden activities with your parents? What a great way to perpetuate the memories. When you showed Lady's Mantle first, my mom, who lives 30 minutes away, sprang to mind. She gave me some for this house when I moved in and said that she loved it for the water droplets which reminded her of pearls. I'll always have a soft spot for those because of that remark.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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