Dad’s Garden: A Garden of Memories

This blog is intended to be a place of lighthearted, nerdy gardening ideas and fun science information.  However, on the anniversary of my father’s death, I’d like to start it off with a more serious dedication:

My Dad was many wonderful things, a research scientist, a dedicated parent, an avid naturalist, but he was a lousy gardener.  While my mom filled the yard with overflowing beds of stunning ornamentals, my Dad lay claim to the dry, root-choked bed under an enormous weeping-willow tree in the back corner of the yard and attempted to grow the flowers he truly loved, woodland wildflowers.  The garden wasn’t quite a total failure. I remember him proudly naming to me the few scraggly plants that survived in the outskirts away from the willow’s densest roots, mayapples, violets, and for a time, bleeding hearts.  Those poor bleeding hearts; they weren’t happy under that tree, and after it was cut down to make way for a sugar maple, they were equally unhappy in the baking sun.   My Dad’s attempt to replant the bleeding hearts in the shade closer to the house only resulted in their untimely demise under the careless feet of my sister and I.  However, for the brief years they were alive, I remember being utterly enchanted by the complex shape of their delicate flowers.

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Here’s the one shot of Dad’s wildflower garden that I have. It was taken after the willow was gone, and the sugar maple was just planted.

Despite his failure as a gardener of wildflowers, my father was wildly successful at sharing his love of botany with me on the hikes we had together in my early childhood.  He would constantly point out any, and every, wildflower we came across, he would wax poetic over the blooms of flowering dogwoods and redbuds in the spring, and he would even exclaim with delight at obscure liverworts we saw while climbing over mossy rocks along streambanks.  I’m sure that these formative experiences were a large part of what drove me to become a biologist later in life.

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My dad and three-year old me exploring a stream. He was in his element in the woods.

My father’s will stated that, upon his death, he wanted his ashes scattered where “green thing grow and waters flow”.  Most of his ashes have been dispersed in the waters he loved, but I brought a few home with me because I felt that he needed a second chance at the wildflower garden he always wanted, but never had the time, or later in life, the energy, to care for.  I scattered a few ashes in shady garden bed, and planted a redbud seedling I that had volunteered in my vegetable bed in the center of the new bed.  I am slowly filling in the remaining area with wild flowers: mayapples, wild iris, columbines, solomon’s seal, spiderwort, foamflower, and of course, bleeding hearts.  One of the bleeding hearts I planted did not survive the winter, and another got smothered by my overly-zealous mulching. Even in death, the man has bad luck with bleeding hearts.  Fortunately, the rest of the plants seem happy.  Although the garden currently has the rather awkward looking “new garden” syndrome, my hope is that as it grows into its own, I will have a nearby place of natural beauty for reminiscence and solace.

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Despite being barren of plants, my garden is already full of memories.

I close this post with a poem I wrote for my Dad’s memorial service.  If he were alive, he would have embarrassed me by sharing it with all of our family and friends.  Since he is gone, I guess it is up to me, in many ways, to carry on his work.

A Poem upon the Death of My Father

There is no poem to read upon the death of my father;

No Longfellow can quite express the luster of his greying hair,

His faltering step,

The twinkle in his eye.

There is no poem to read upon the death of my father;

No Frost can capture his love of the dogwoods in full bloom,

His rambling tales,

His smile now gone.

There is no poem to read upon the death of my father;

No Dickenson portrays the emptiness of his flannels shirts,

No Whitman tells of days of constant measuring,

No Keats depicts his gentle laugh.

There is no poem to read upon the death of my father;

The best they do is fail to say the inexpressible.

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3 thoughts on “Dad’s Garden: A Garden of Memories

  1. Aurora, this brought tears to my eyes. What a memorable, loving relationship you had with your Dad. This was beautifully written.
    Marion

    Like

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