Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Great Grandmothers in the Garden

Last week I didn't post because my husband's grandmother passed away, and we were staying with his parents for the funeral and afterwards. She was 88 years old, loved to cook, garden and read, which meant we had a lot in common. We didn't always agree on things, but after I got to know her, I was able to tease her about it rather than feel insulted or hurt. She gave me one of my first herb plants and told me it was chamomile. Later, I figured out it was feverfew, but I could never convince her of that. She loved her spearmint, and let it run wild by her back door. She also loved Tall Phlox, which she grew on one entire side of her garage.

The day after the funeral, I was given one of her old garden books that she kept on a side table in her living room. It's well worn with use, and I'm sure she picked it up at a thrift store because she loved finding bargains. The book is The Old Dirt Dobber's Garden Book by Thomas A. Williams, copyright 1944. I wanted to share a few of the tips today in honor of Grandma Dorothy. I will miss our garden talks more than anything else. These are from a chapter entitled Just Rambling Around.

In spite of good care, an occasional arborvitae, juniper, pine or cedar will become so ragged and ill-shaped that it destroys the beauty of planting. These trees are not generally pruned severely, but in cases like this a drastic treatment is the only recourse. If you decide to prune these, don't stop half-way; cut the top on-third out and prune the side growth at least half way back.

Irises Indoors
Any of the dwarf or intermediate bearded irises may be dug in late winter when the ground is frozen hard, put into pots and brought into excellent bloom in the window garden. Pack the soil well into the pot when it thaws out indoors, put them in a sunny window and water well every three days. One gardener wrote that by following this method she had twelve kinds in bloom at Easter.

Many reports have come from different parts of the country telling how gardeners protect the plants of snapdragons during the winter so that they will bloom much earlier the next year. In the south and midsouth a heavy covering of leaves is piled over the pruned plants and left until late spring. In colder sections, a box, basket or hamper in turned over the plants, stuffed with leaves and soil and then hilled around with a mound of soil to keep the air from getting underneath. This protection if taken off in early spring. A few degrees of frost do not damage the plants.

Morning Glories in Winter
Every window gardens needs trailing vines, and the regular morning glories may be brought into fine bloom during winter. Plant the seeds in pots of good soil during late summer. Given them plenty of moisture and heat and they will come up in a few days. Set the pots in a sunny, sheltered spot in the garden, where they will continue to grow until time to take them indoors. Don't wait too long; carry them in a week or two before frost is expected.

Years ago I had asked Grandma Dorothy if I could share a few of her recipes on OFL, and she agreed. These were the only ones she could give me exact measurements on:



  1. Enjoyed the tips. I grow several different plants that remind me of my grandmother and great grandmother. Grandma loved hollyhock and I let it go . Took me forever to get some of it started but when it finally took off wow it did great. Money plant. I always loved my great grandmothers garden with the money plant. And she always took the pod cover off and dried the silvery paper thin seed holder as I call them. So pretty in dried arrangments.

    I was still a teen when I lost my granmother in 61 and great grandmother in 65. But I have some of grandmas peonies growing in my flowerbed and treasure them. Also some plant I have no idea what it is called. Given to me back on the eary 70's by a neighbor who was like a grandma to me. She called it false evergreen. These have gone from house to house with me when I moved. Grandmas through 5 moves and the evergreen through 2 moves.

    And I have given starts off them to 2 of my girls and my third daughter just bought her first place after living in military base housing for 18 years so I know she is going to want a few starts in her flowerbed.

    I bet Grandma Dorothy had lots of mint. That stuff grows ands grows and comes up in the next county if not kept under control. LOL


  2. That is such a wonderful idea:) It's neat that you were able to take the plants with you when you moved and pass the on.

    Actually I did ask our uncle, who's staying at her house now, if I could dig up some plants this fall-- she had peonies, lilies, the phlox and mint, and a few other things. I have a new flowerbed that we have annuals in right now, and I told my daughter we would make that a special area for Grandma's flowers. She's going to pick up a special garden ornament for it too. She's had a hard time with her passing away, so I thought this would help both of us:)


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