A garden can be much more than a beautiful part of one’s home. It can also be a connection to people and the past.A garden can be much more than a beautiful part of one’s home. It can also be a connection to people and the past.
Each spring when the Virginia bluebells, trillium and wild geraniums emerge, I think of Barbara Wilson and Dale Galloway. Both invited me to dig native woodland wildflowers from their properties 15 years ago or more. Each was a kind, thoughtful and brilliant person who loved nature and worked to make the world a better place.
Barbara passed away in May. Dale moved to Texas some years ago. The plants still bloom each spring.
When I look at the growing redbud tree in our yard, I remember Madeline Bolger. A kind soul who once gave me two redbud twigs she received in the mail, saying that she had already planted several in her yard. That was in 2005. For several years, those sticks remained sticks, but they were still alive.
Madeline passed away in September 2013. In spring 2014, those sticks had grown enough that they bloomed. Today they are 10-feet tall.
In fall 2008, we seeded part of our yard with a mix of savanna plants selected by George Johnson. Species like figwort, columbine and showy goldenrod are there because of him – and a much larger area of the yard is now growing with savanna and woodland plants because George inspired me to give nature a home in my yard.
George moved to Madison, Wisconsin several years ago. He comes to the area once in a while to visit friends. I need to remember to invite him to my house so he can see the garden he inspired.
The other day, I posted some photos of a few of the plants that are blooming in my yard with the title “A few of my favorite things.” A friend, Kathleen, asked about one of the plants – a mass of pretty yellow flowers. It is called sundrop or evening primrose, a native perennial. I offered to share some with her, and mentioned that Nancy Wicker had given the plant to me. Kathleen knew Nancy well, and so she commented that the flowers would be extra special.
I remember the day Nancy gave me the flowers. She had dug them up from her garden because they were taking over. The plants were in plastic grocery bags, and clearly had been for some days. Nancy passed away last year, but those sundrops are doing well, and their bright little faces remind me of Nancy’s lovely smile.
Sometimes the memory is bittersweet. That is how I feel when I see the Shingle oak that we planted in 2005. We purchased it in a tree auction at McHenry County Nursery. That was when I first met Mary McClelland and Joe Beeson who ran the nursery. We found that we had a lot in common – including a love of oak trees – and for the next decade enjoyed a friendship.
In 2006, Mary and Joe approached The Land Conservancy’s board and asked that TLC start looking into the issue of the declining oak woodland and savanna habitat in the county. That encouragement led to the creation of Project Quercus, the Oak Keepers program, preservation and restoration of Gateway Park in Harvard and most recently, acquisition and restoration of the Wolf Oak Woods near Woodstock.
Over the years, Mary and Joe donated thousands of young oaks that TLC planted throughout the county with school groups, service organizations, scout troops and 4-H Clubs to raise awareness of the need to help bring young oaks back to the local landscape.
The personal friendship has faded, but the fond memories remain, rooted in the living legacy they created.
That’s the case with Barbara, Dale, Madeline, George, Nancy and so many others – a list too long to include here. People move in and out of our lives for many reasons, but they can always live on in our memories – and sometimes in our gardens.