Memory Gardens

“Are those Verna’s iris?” my neighbor Mary asked as she paused on the sidewalk to chat before heading off to work.

“Yes, I have more in the back too,” I replied.

irisVerna was a sweet older neighbor who is no longer with us, but her iris live on in both of our gardens. Ironically, there are no more of Verna’s iris in her own previous garden, as the new homeowners redid the landscaping and removed the iris.

I also have a rose-bush and peony from Bill’s yard, rescued before the house was torn down to make way for 2 new houses on our block.

Another treasured iris is from my mother’s yard; a memory of her love of flowers and beauty that undoubtably influenced my own. It’s not blooming yet but it evokes memories of her green thumb each year.

Perennials are meant to be shared, as they multiply and periodically need thinning. This process of growth and spreading can be a tangible way of spreading connection through a family and a community. It’s so much more meaningful to celebrate mom’s iris than to think of a plant as just a commodity purchased from a nursery.

iris fields

As I reflect on my own memories in my garden, I also think of the pioneers, who set forth on wagons to new territory, with starts from favorite rose bushes wrapped carefully among their belongings. These hopeful sprouts forged a connection between their old lives and their new lives … becoming rooted in a new place, while remembering the heritage of their origins.

The sense of generations of connectedness, either through family or neighbors, is a beautiful outcome of sharing plants. While it enriches our physical surroundings, it also fills our souls. We need to know that we are not alone, isolated beings. We were created for connection, and our links in the garden are visible reminders of interconnected souls.

I don’t know how many years I have left to garden, but I enjoy sharing starts with friends – so that perhaps some day after I am gone, someone will say, “Aren’t those Carla’s iris?”

Note on pictures – the lavender iris clump is in my front yard, transplanted when Verna was thinning her iris more than 10 years ago. The picture was taken yesterday (4/25). The picture of the field of iris is from Long’s Iris Farm in Boulder, Colorado, a third generation family farm founded in 1905. This picture was taken several years ago.






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