These past few days, I couldn’t help but notice how many beautiful flowers are blooming in yards all over town. Earth scholar and Catholic priest Thomas Berry espoused “Flower gardening is participating in one of the deepest mysteries of the universe.” What I know about flower gardening you can put in a thimble.
Actually, I’ve never taken much interest in it, but know and admire people who have and do. My mother, for instance, as well as her mother, delighted in digging in the dirt, planting wild flowers, laying out rose beds and arranging all manner of beautiful borders. They grew varieties of jonquils, as well as clumps of iris, day lilies, hollyhocks, crepe myrtle, peonies, phlox, those “ever-so-delicate” lilies-of-the-valleys, which smelled like French perfume, an occasional Jack -in-the-pulpit and wild butterfly bushes.
Mother had a beautiful, huge, blue hydrangea in our side yard. It flourished and enlarged with each passing year. After the ‘69 flood, however, it was destroyed when the mud removal crew ran over it and crushed it to the ground. It never grew back. Hydrangeas are such beautiful flowers. Their blossoms are unusually large and the stems holding them are bent over with the weight of them.
My mother had a potting shed next to the furnace room in the back yard. She owned every kind of digging tool sold in the gardening department at Harlan Hardware. Right after the 1969 flood, my brother, Edwin, was just about to move into a larger home in Louisville. He suggested my mother leave Harlan and live in the home he was vacating. Her answer to the generous offer was quick and simple. “You can’t dig in that dirt up there. Why, it’s as hard as a rock.” She chose to remain in Harlan and to keep on digging in her own rich, black dirt.
My friend Rose Cohelia has a green thumb, a love of flower gardening and knows the “scientific name” of all the flowers in her terraced yard atop Ivy Hill. She has roses, irises and tulips spaced among other flowers so that some of them are in bloom all season long. She puts hanging baskets around the family’s pool which add to its attractiveness. She spends a great deal of time weeding and watering the flowers.
Julia Mitchell is another friend who never fails to have an attractive flower garden in her front yard. Her home is located on East Mound Street. There is always a corner reserved for rock formations, little animal figurines and houses, in addition to her well planted flowering borders and porch planters.
Preacher Kyle Burnette’s wife, Shelia, takes the leftover lilies from the Methodist Church altar after Easter, plants them near the walkway on the shady side of the parsonage and guess what? Their trumpets will bloom and send their fragrance wafting through the air. She definitely has a love of flower gardening and an appreciation for floral beautification which she shares with churchgoers and the entire neighborhood.
A number of people, like Shelia, here in Harlan have a great love of flower gardening and a natural talent for it. Evelyn Hensley is one of those. She, no doubt, takes after her late mother, Mary Lou, whose home on the corner of Mound and First Streets was always a veritable showplace. Parents used to bring their children in their pajamas to watch the shimmering primroses burst into blossom just at dusk.
I don’t have too much luck even with plastic ivy, but I do appreciate others, whose love and patience for working in the soil beautifies their own surroundings, while giving joy to others.
It’s true, then, what the Earth Scholar said about those who participate in flower gardening. They share one of the deepest mysteries of the universe. With proper nurturing and care, they help to bring from seemingly dormant soil, beautiful flowers which please the eye and lift the spirit.