Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stop to Smell Mom's Flowers

What are flowers good for?

Ever since I caught the gardening bug, it seems I've focused heavily only on the veggies. When you are working with a small yard, flowers can sometimes be dismissed as a space-devouring luxury. Not to mention, I tend to be practical to a fault, and for the longest time (well, my whole life, really), I have thought flowers were kind of a waste. Pretty, yes. But what do they do?

Plus, my mom grows flowers. That's her thing. That last little echo of daughter rebellion states that "I do not want to become my mother."

One of the many coves, pockets and secret areas
at my Mom's house.
From a distance, you have no idea what all is lurking inside!

Last night when I showed up at my parents' for a visit, Mom was filling up two 5-gallon buckets with water, and lugging them around to her flowers to give them all a drink. I grabbed one of the buckets and followed her. After three bucket loads of water and some leisurely meandering around her various flower garden spots, I had a wonderful sense of happiness and a camera full of flower photos.  I took picture after picture, but couldn't possibly capture all the beauty I was seeing. I could feel Mom watching me as I snapped photo after photo, a small smile on her face and her eyes sparkling; she may have been beaming a couple of times. I recognized that spark. Isn't it every gardener's dream, whether flowers OR veggies, to have another person admiring the work? We spend many hours alone with our gardens--happy hours tending plants with our own private joy and passion--not really knowing if anyone else will see the beauty that we do. We love the chance to view our gardens through someone else's eyes.  Maybe my spin is a little different than Mom's. I tend to get more giddy about vegetables than seems normal--especially rare or heirloom varieties--but I know that thrill of sharing.

Mom in the background with a water bucket,
one of her many colors of pansies in the foreground

Mom is always sharing her flower knowledge with me, but to walk around and take a look at everything, up close and personal, is something I need to do more often. What is especially cool about Mom's gardens is that she often picks up pots of plants that are nearly dead, at a steep discount, and nurses them back to health. She plants from seeds. She includes lot of perennials that grow, spread, and flourish, and then fills in all the empty spots, always with an amazing eye; it is truly an artform. Her sense of thrift and budget really appeals to me, and proves you can create something absolutely gorgeous with your passion for growing...not with tons of money, but with time and care.

What are flowers good for?

Well if you want to get scientific, they are good for making new seeds for plants (including my precious veggies) and carrying on the genetic line of a huge bio-diverse plant kingdom. They are good for the bees and other pollinators (which in turn helps us, since we need those pollinators for much of our food). Flowers can often be edible, medicinal. Also, flowers can be amazing companion plants to vegetables, helping to fend off pests and diseases. On a more emotional level, though? Flowers touch on something deep in all of us, if we only stop to look and smell. And in this case, they connect a daughter to her mother, and to that mother's mother. As we walked around together and she excitedly told me about her varieties, I got a sudden flow of warm memories; those sunny afternoons when I was a child, poking around Grandma Harber's gorgeous flowers. All kinds of varieties, all tucked in various nooks and crannies, in much the same style as Mom. My mother gained her love of all flowers directly from her own mother (as did all of Grandma's nine children...every single of them grows flowers in some way, shape, or form). Last night Mom admitted, "I sometimes didn't understand why Grandma wanted all these flowers. So many! I couldn't believe all the times she'd mention that she had seen some variety somewhere, and wanted to find it for her yard. I always thought 'Where are you going to put more flowers?'"

At that statement, she stopped and we looked at each other, and made a quick scan across her ever-filling yard. It was too much-- we had to laugh.

Obviously mom has become her mom when it comes to flowers.

But that won't happen to me.


Here is just a small taste of my Mom's flower gardens.
Not even close to showing just how many flowers this woman has.
Scroll through and see which are familiar to you!
What flowers do YOU grow?

Asiatic Lilies

(she has several colors)

Black Eyed Susan Vine flowers
(How to Collect Seeds from these)


Mom didn't know this one.
I found out for her: Globe Amaranth.
I also found out you can make tea with it!

Black Eyed Susan

(what a pretty variety!)

White Lilies

Black Eyed Susan Vine flower.

Tiger Lily


What is THIS?
Help me, readers.
This is the tiniest little flower you can imagine!
Smaller than my thumbnail.
Google has not helped me...please let me know if you know what it is!
*Update, Mom found it!
Potentilla Monarch Velvet

Sweet Pea.
It took Mom a long time to find this color.
There are white ones climbing the same trellis, but this is the color she
was searching for; Grandma had sweet peas like this.

Mom showing me the Sweet Peas

One striking variety of Hollyhock

Hollyhock, another variety
This flower comes in a TON of it!

A little barrel with two kinds of dill,
and a leek thrown in for good measure!

Balloon Flower
When Mom and I looked at the photos together, we saw
the inner flower...which we had not noticed before!

Blue Plumbago

Did you know that BLUE is a rare color for flowers in nature? I found this article after I'd already published this post, which just so happens to include a photo of the lovely plumbago, pictured above. The article explains the science behind blue-colored flowers (which only occur in 10 percent of the 280,000 species of flowering plants). Very interesting read, check it out!

In case you are wondering, YES, I am starting to grow flowers. I am managing to cram them into all kinds of spaces among my veggies!


  1. This made me smile! I was the same way too until I read about the pollination and how flowers are important to attract bees to the garden. My grandmother does both, she has hydrangeas, roses, one tiger lily plant she adores and others along with veggies and fruit trees. All I had here was marigolds and I crave some roses but I guess they don't do in tropics.. Here the nurseries is full of no-flowering landscaping plants which I truly HATE. Now those are the real space hoggers we do not need. Your mom's garden is truly inspiring. Cherish it :)

  2. Your mom's flowers are beautiful... and that tiger lily? My gosh, that is one of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen. My mom is very big into flower gardening too, so I love seeing what she has going on since flowers aren't my area of interest in gardening.

    Hope you're having a great summer so far, Andrea!

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