01 August 2013

Grandma Remembers her Mother's Garden

Queen Anne's Lace

 My dad and I recently visited with my grandmother a state away.  She's really quite forgetful, but still has a delightfully large capacity to enjoy the beauty of nature and gardening.
I'm not sure whether I planned for this, or whether the moment simply struck right, but as we sat there, it dawned on me that she might be just the person to look through every page of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2013 catalog with me.

She marveled over every page, amazed at how many varieties of each vegetable they sell, how much work it must have taken them to put together such a gorgeous catalog, and how they told the stories of seed history within the pages.  Our mouths watered over recipes, and our eyes danced over each new photo of a tomato or flower.

I think it took us two or three hours, and it wasn't long before I realized I needed a little notebook and a pen, because as we looked, she seemed to remember little details from her childhood and her mother's garden in Tennessee.  I haven't checked the facts with anybody else who might be able to confirm or deny her reports--although I would LOVE to hear more--so these tidbits feel a little random.  Just like the photo of Queen Anne's Lace, above.  It's not connected to anything she told me about the childhood garden.  It's just a pretty flower.

Shall we start our walk through Great Grandmother's garden together?
  • Great Grandmother used to make pickled beets.
  • Great Grandmother grew celery.  It grew well in the spring, Grandma remembers.  But back then, they just grew one kind--they didn't have so many varieties as Baker Creek does.
  • Great Grandmother grew her own popcorn.  You have to dry it, shuck it, and take it off the ear.  They had a round thing with a hand crank to pop it in.  "We used to love to make popcorn," says Grandma.  
  • Great Grandmother grew several kinds of gourds.  The family would let them dry, and use them for drinking cups--"you know, the drinking gourd," says Grandma.
  • Great Grandmother used to save all her seeds.  Dad remembers them saving tomato and pepper seeds in particular.
  • Great Grandmother grew up on a farm.  (I didn't know that before!)
  • Great Grandmother and Grandfather rented half a town block for the garden, and "made it produce beautifully."
It's not much, but for me, it's a fascinatingly tiny window into my great grandparents' garden, where my grandmother got her love for all things growing.  Quite possibly, the roots of my own garden love were passed down from that half of a town block, or that farm where Great Grandmother grew up.

Have you ever asked your grandparents about their gardens?  What did you learn about your own history when you did?  I'd love to hear from you!


  1. The gist of this post is the children's book that I dreamed up about 15 years ago or longer...

    Sigh... I wish I had the words.

    I remember my grandfather's orchard & garden. Even though I was seven when they moved to the city. It is a FACT that I inherited my love of gardening & trees and flowers in my genes. I literally ache with wistful feelings hoping that I could actually find the words and write something good. About my grandpa's garden and me. He died when I was 7, back in 1978. (my dad's dad). Sigh...

  2. Oh, I hope you write the children's book--even if it's just for your own children. It would be such a treasure of family history!


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