A Mississippi Spring – Reflections on Gardening, Family and Friendships

Spring is definitely in full bloom in my hometown of Pontotoc in north Mississippi.  I spent the weekend there enjoying the glorious weather while capturing some of the early spring blooms with my ever ready camera. Another highlight of the weekend was visiting with some of our life long friends who were especially close to my parents.  The appearance of the  delicate, showy white star shaped blooms of the Star Magnolia tree in the front yard of the home where I grew up in signals that spring is here!  Planted by a dear family friend, Wadelo Waldrop, many years ago, this deciduous tree is native to Japan.  While the defining feature of this beautiful specimen tree is its flowers,  the Star Magnolia also produces a reddish-green aggregate fruit in the autumn that is perfect for fall and Thanksgiving  floral design.

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Wadelo and his wife, Mary Jane, have a expansive pine tree wooded area in their yard that creates the ideal growing conditions for their prized camellias.  Although the blooms have been affected by the recent episodes of frigid temperatures in north Mississippi, their lovely bushes have resurged for spring.

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Even this lichen covered log reminds me of spring awakening…

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Lenten rose (Helleborus Orientalis), another  spring favorite, is an excellent shade perennial as well as a ground cover.  While new growth appears in late January and February, the petals of the Lenten rose are actually sepals, and will not drop as readily as other flowers.  Their blooms can be enjoyed for up to ten weeks!   The following photographs are from the garden of long time friends, Jane and Toby Winston.

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Spring is infused with the rich golden color of forsythia as seen in the garden of neighbors  Michael and Bob Pennington..

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Jean and Bill Peeples are the kind of neighbors that everyone dreams of!  There is absolutely nothing they wouldn’t do for us.  The times they have gone above and beyond the duties of a good neighbor are too numerous to mention.   We have been the recipient of their graciousness, hospitality, kindness, and friendship for almost a forty year span.  The large Bodock tree dividing our families’ property becomes a glorious display of varying hues of yellow and white jonquils and daffodils in the early spring which Jean and my Mother planted over the years. After the Peeples built their home, she admired my Mother’s early spring daffodils, and planted some of her own which look picturesque against the texture of the trees’s gnarled roots.

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A bed of daffodils near their potting shed provides a colorful backdrop for the many birds that come to the pair of  mounted bird feeders.

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Masses of spirea, commonly referred to as Bridal Wreath, also  add  splendor to the Peeples’ yard.

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Over the course of the almost forty-five years that my parents lived in this home, they cultivated fruit trees, planted at least a dozen magnolia trees, designed perennial gardens and planted hydrangeas,  grew tomatoes and herbs,  and, of course, tended approximately one hundred fifty rose bushes in Mother’s beloved rose garden.  I can only imagine the many quiet, meditative times Mother had in the early morning hours when she was cutting the dew drenched roses.

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Daddy’s role was more of a maintenance one as he spent hours setting out mole traps when necessary, playing “mechanic” with the lawn implements, and experimenting with disease and pest control solutions for the roses and tomatoes after sometimes consulting with several different county extension services in the north Mississippi area!  I can remember Daddy patiently “doctoring” the massive pecan tree overlooking the terrace to groom sagging branches as well as nurturing diseased apple trees and delighting in the fig tree which seemed to become more productive with each passing summer.  After Daddy retired in 2003, he spent many hours in the late fall collecting chestnuts for my Mother’s favorite chestnut soup and famous chestnut cornbread dressing.  Mother’s pride and joy was a Corkscrew Willow tree that she loved using in her extraordinary floral designs.  My Daddy ordered a special lopping pole pruner to expedite the branch harvesting.  I can remember the many times that he cut branches from the tree and packed them in my trunk to take home to Alabama.

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The love and passion for  gardening was always a part of my parents’  lives –  passed down to them from their parents and grandparents.  Even in the garden today, my Great-Grandmother’s Chestnut rose bush along with ferns transplanted from the home place of my Daddy’s family physician and mentor in the 1940’s and 1950’s stand to remind me of the legacy they so lovingly created .

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One of the greatest rewards of their gardening, however, was sharing the fruits of their labor with their countless friends and relatives.  I cannot count the times that my Mother had friends over to share her garden gifts or to simply give them some of her expert gardening advice.  What an untold number of friendships probably started in their garden!  I am so thankful for the profound influence their gardening and cultivation of the land had on my two sisters and me!  And, now, a new generation will start writing another chapter in the Patterson garden….

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“Out of gardens grow fleeting flowers but lasting friendships”.  – Beverly Rose Hopper

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