In Celebration of Mother’s Day
An excerpt from Twigs in My Hair – A Gardening Memoir
by Canadian author Cynthia Reyes
19 / Mama’s Garden A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases, it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. John Keats
One garden here at the old farmhouse is extra-special. Precious, even. It’s behind the house, on the side that gets the most sun.
Every Mother’s Day, I head out to this garden. I sit on the bench at the end of the path. And I look around.
Partly shaded by a large red maple, the garden has two dogwood trees, two large purple lilacs, a Japanese maple, and a forsythia shrub. The Japanese maple was stuck there
“temporarily” but was somehow forgotten and has now outgrown its spot.
“One of these days, we’ll have to move it,” my husband and I say. But the longer we wait, the more arduous the task becomes, which makes me suspect that the tree is there for the long haul.
It’s in the only garden bed that accommodates such a variety of plants: those that love woodland and shade, and those that love strong sun.
Hydrangea shrubs and tree peonies flourish here. Solomon’s-seal; several kinds of ferns; the intriguingly shaped Jack-in-the-pulpit; the occasional trillium (Ontario’s official flower); mayapples; and another woodland plant whose name I never learned.
Pink tulips come up every spring, as do daffodils, astilbe, bloodroot, and miniature hosta.
But the thing that causes me the greatest joy is the arrival of the Easter lilies of my childhood. Those crocuses, brought with us from our previous home, are the first flowers to bloom every year.
And every morning while they bloom, I eagerly head out to Mama’s Garden to see them and feel almost the same excitement I felt when, at seven years of age, I first saw these flowers. And I remember Mama. And the first Mama’s Garden: the one she tended when I was a small child.
Mama’s Garden II has an entrance arbour.
Up and around its trellises grow clematis vines that flower in pink and red. The pink ones bear hundreds of double blooms, the red bear small flowers, no more than two dozen every summer.
Throughout the spring, a pink-flowering groundcover, lamium, borders one side of Mama’s Garden, while blue forget-me-nots border the other. Recently, though, they’ve both strayed into the path.
Your garden would look better if I could weed the path regularly, I apologize to Mama. And I can hear her saying, Ah, m’dear. It’ll get done. Right now, there are more important things on your plate.
So I’m listening to my mother. After all, the garden is named for her.
It’s a reminder of that first garden I called Mama’s Garden, in the hills of Jamaica. The small treasure box of a garden that Mama tended, perhaps with a bit of help from the fairies. It’s also a tribute to Mama’s great love of gardening. To her talent at arranging flowers. And to one of the many lessons she taught us: one is never too poor or too busy to grow a garden.
My mother died several years ago. And that’s why, every Mother’s Day, I head out to Mama’s Garden, no matter what the weather is like, no matter how I’m feeling. I bring a sturdy mug of coffee, and I walk through the entrance arbour and down the short pathway, looking at the flowers around me.
I sit on the stone bench at the back of the garden for a talk with Mama. “Thank you,” I tell her.
There are so many things I need to thank her for. So I talk to her, and I say a prayer of gratitude, and sometimes the talk gets mixed in with the prayer and it feels like the beings I am talking to are one and the same, but I don’t think either Mama or God would mind.
I give thanks.
For a mother who loved and tended her family before all else. For a mother who was never too busy or too poor to grow a garden. And for a mother who passed on those lessons to me.
All photos by Hamlin Grange
Visit Cynthia’s blog at: cynthiasreyes.com
Cynthia Reyes newest book, Twigs in My Hair
Bestselling author Cynthia Reyes returns with Twigs in My Hair, a book about her lifelong passion for gardens and nature. Gorgeous photographs by Hamlin Grange complement a story that is both profound and hilarious, resulting in a compelling book for gardeners and non-gardeners. Click here to purchase Twigs in my Hair.