2017-04-20 / Editorial Page

As Miss Ruth’s Garden Slumbers

Across The Savannah
By TOM POLAND tompol@earthlink.net


Reflecting on my parent’s yards. (Photo by Tom Poland). Reflecting on my parent’s yards. (Photo by Tom Poland). My sisters and I continue to go through our parents’ possessions, preparing for an estate sale this summer. Each time I go home now I am reminded of the former glory of Mom and Dad’s yards. They were rife with azaleas by the doz­en, a magnificent magnolia, which Mom planted 57 years ago, a but­terfly bush, geraniums, a green lawn, white picket fence, daffodils, gardenias (Mom called them cape jasmines), and enough flowers to supply a small florist. In short, their yards were a Southern Living show place. Not so today. There’s simply no time for us to keep the yards in tip-top shape. Someone someday, however, will have a yard with “good bones” as the garden club ladies like to say.

The ritual of keeping Miss Ruth’s garden in good shape is suspended for now. We will still keep the grass cut and all that but the precise work that keeps flower beds in glorious shape has to wait for now. Few things are as they were, including the fishpond. The bird feeders are empty. Sunday as I cleared away a massive oak limb (big as a small tree) I heard the hummingbirds overhead twittering and chirping away. I don’t speak “hummingbird­ese but I could tell they were asking what happened to the nectar-filled feeder outside Miss Ruth’s den window. It’s dry as a bone. And another sign that major, indelible change has set in comes from the fountains. Dry as a bone.

In a small way, some of the es­sence of Miss Ruth’s yard lives on in my sisters’ yards and mine. My sisters and I have fountains and lil­ies, Japanese maples, azaleas and wild azaleas and other flowering plants, part of the legacy we in­herited. In my backyard is a mag­nificent gardenia I planted from a cutting Dad gave me. I have several varieties of lilies too that were gifts from Mom. I just need to keep the deer away. Not an easy thing by the way.

Cutting a few stargazers for me remains a beautiful ritual of spring, but watch out for the pollen. It will stain clothing. When Mom gave me my stargazers she advised me to cut the stamens out but I never did. To me they were part of the flower’s beauty.

Each time I go home I still see the yards as they were. Memory makes for a good photo album. I remem­ber plenty from how my boyhood home’s yards once looked, and they looked very much like a Jim Har­rison painting of a regal Southern yard with a white picket fence.

This spring is the third since Mon died that I have not loaded up all my gear and headed to her place to work in the yards and get the fountains running. Instead, my sis­ters and I are carefully and slowly taking apart our childhood home. Boxes are the chief tools we use now. As I wrote in another column a while back, it’s a sad, inevitable task.

Better times lie ahead. I look for­ward to other springs when some­one will have Miss Ruth’s yards pristine once again. I look forward to a time when the yards receive care from a future owner who ap­preciates a good Southern-themed yard, complete with dogwoods, azaleas, and fountains all bubbling away. Somebody someday who appreciates nature and beauty will have a good start bringing their own touch to a yard of the South that, for now we’ll say, is slum­bering a bit. I have no doubt that someday hummingbirds will be feeding at the window again and the fountains will sing their watery anthem as someone new goes on with the business of living and lov­ing the outdoors when future glori­ous Southern summers arrive.

Visit my website at www.tompo­land.net

Email me at tompol@earthlink.net

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