Even though it’s fall here in Brazil, I’m in a springy mood today. A friend of mine bought some peonies and that got me daydreaming about the flowers we used to have in our yard when I was a kid.
There was a long, narrow flower bed in the middle of the yard, dug into the side of a large rock (this was in Connecticut, where there are lots of large rocks). This bed already had flowers in it when we moved there in 1947. On one side there were lovely pink peonies. I loved how their tight little buds, which always had red ants crawling over them, would suddenly burst into gigantic, perfumey blooms. And next to them was a bunch of lily-of-the-valley, one of my very favorite flowers because of their delicacy and strong scent.
Next to our front door were two bushes, one with purple lilacs and the other with fuchsia azaleas. Lilac is my next favorite flower scent, and I used to love to cut bouquets of them and bring them inside just so I could stick my face into them every minute!
My sister Bertie and I used to plant annuals in a little plot next to the front door. We always planted marigolds and zinnias, for some unknown reason, maybe because they were so hardy and colorful.
I haven’t lived anywhere for a long time where I could plant flowers and I have to say I really miss it. But I’m enjoying my nostalgic flower moment right here.
I miss having my hands in the dirt.
In my book, I write about growing up in the country and always having a garden of some sort. My sister Bertie and I, when we lived in Newtown, Connecticut, had a yearly ritual of planting marigolds and zinnias in a small plot right in front of our house. We planted them from seed, turning the soil over with a fork and making neat rows. I used to love to water them and watch every day for the tiny green sprouts to push their way up through the dirt.
In another plot at the side of the house, I had a big red poppy plant that was my pride and joy, and we also had peonies, lily of the valley and daffodils that grew wild in various parts of our acre yard, and which we tended with care. Azaleas and purple and white lilacs with their heady scent graced the entrance to our house. Bertie and I used to prune them every year, along with the barberry bushes that grew alongside the stone steps leading to our back yard.
But what I missed in my Connecticut gardening adventures was growing vegetables. When we used to live on Long Island, we had a small vegetable garden. Much as I love flowers, there was no bigger thrill to me as a small child than picking fresh peas in the pod and eating them raw, or pulling a fresh head of curly lettuce out of the ground, or yanking up juicy orange carrots. It seemed like a little miracle to me that such wonderful things could grow in the ground.
Now I’m a city soul and it’s been years since I’ve had my hands (and feet) in the dirt. I have to confess I sometimes fantasize about having a little plot of land out in the country somewhere, perhaps with a small pond, and lots of space to plant things.