I come from a long line of gardeners. My mother is a Master Gardener, and both of my grandmothers were gardeners. They never had fancy, manicured yards. They hacked their gardens out of the encroaching weeds and kudzu and tried to keep them alive in the blistering Georgia heat.
Their gardenias, camellias, jonquils, and dogwoods were dug up somewhere else and transported home in carriages and car trunks. The gardeners in my family were also known to straddle a ditch or venture into a swamp to dig up an interesting plant to carry home as a prized memento of their adventures.
They shared seedlings and seeds with friends and family. To them and the women they traded with, plants were the ultimate token of friendship and affection. It was incumbent upon anyone who received a tiny slip of a plant or a handful of seeds to remember who gave it to you and to care for these gifts out of respect for her generosity.
Last weekend, I had the chance to visit with my mother and do two of my favorite things with her: treasure hunting in junk shops and helping her in her garden. My favorite junk shop in the whole world is Reed’s Odds and Ends, in little Bishop, Georgia, right outside of Athens. I have been going there for over 30 years, and I never leave empty-handed. This visit netted four concrete urns, a butter churn, and more pots to put more plants in.
We also raked leaves and transplanted pansies. Along the way, my mother found little plants to give me, as well as some jonquils and snowdrops.
We put her plants next to my junk shop finds in the back of my car. When the trunk was finally full of plants and stuff, I remembered I had watched this scene many times before with my grandmother and her own children. Visits with my grandmother generally included boxes of fudge, fried pies, old stuff, and lots and lots of plants. As a young girl, I knew that when the last little seedling was tucked into to the last remaining corner of our station wagon that we would be leaving soon.
We couldn’t help but laugh this weekend when the back of my own car looked the same as the cars from my childhood. Full of growing things, cherished finds, memories, and an affectionate tug telling you it was time to go home.