Today is my Grandma Elsa’s 122nd Birthday! Here is one of my favorite photos of her:
I don’t remember ever seeing Grandma out working in her garden, and I was at her house almost every day of my growing up years. Her farmhouse was always surrounded by flowers of all kinds. They just grew. I worked by her side in the vineyards tying vines. I worked by her side cutting peaches to dry. I worked by her side in the fruit packing shed, sizing and packing plums and peaches. I worked by her side picking sun-ripe tomatoes (and pulling tomato worms off the vines). I worked by her side plucking chickens. I worked by her side harvesting honey from the hives and making prunes in large vats of lye. I helped her catch laundry as it came out of her ringer machine. I learned to bake Kuchen and cinnamon rolls in Grandma’s kitchen. And I learned to stitch and sew and knit and crochet at her side. I have no memories of working with her flowers. They were a given. And they were beautiful.
My favorite were her giant hibiscus flowers that were the first to greet me when I came into the yard from the driveway. The flowers were as large as my face and the petals were soft and delicate. They returned year after year.
In the back yard, Grandma had several Camellia bushes. They bloomed in white and several shades of pinks, light to dark. I loved how the buds opened.
Grandma’s flower gardens were around the edges of the front and back yards, always separated from the grass with large boulder stones that we would walk and balance on. She didn’t like it when we tipped or loosened them to look for sowbugs and beetles under them. Grandma kept lots of ivy at bay by the border boulders that surrounded a huge walnut tree in her front yard.
I remember lots of Zinnas and Allysum. She had a pawpaw cactus plant and a banana tree by the front door. There were also plenty of Canna Lilies and some roses. Grass on a farm is never very manicured, neither were her gardens. The flowers were colorful and hearty in the summer heat.
There were always butterflies at Grandma’s house. Swallowtails fluttered gracefully and smelled like heaven! Skippers focused on the Alyssum. Painted Ladies, Sulfur and Cabbage Butterflies liked the Zinnas, and occassionally we’d spot a Red Admiral or a Buckeye. At night the Sphinx Moths would come out to drink nectar from the evening flowers.
Here are some of the kinds of butterflies and insects we found in Grandma’s yard:
I loved going to Grandma’s. I loved her home and I loved being with her. Grandma just quietly did things, without much fanfare. We didn’t need to talk a lot, we just enjoyed doing things together. She created her own little Eden, which was a favorite part of my world.