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  • September 30th, 2008 | 6:49 AM
Tuesday Memory Challenge

This week (as the weeks before and the weeks after) are all about getting the landscaping done. I've been studying native plant books and pictures and doing research and asking questions and trying to visualize the entire yard and not quite managing it. I know how I want it to FEEL but not always how I want it to LOOK. So since I already have plants on my mind, this week's memory challenge is about the plants of your childhood.

What I remember first about plants as a kid was that there were never any inside. There were a few potted flowers on the front porch but not much. Usually a Christmas cactus someone received as a gift or a pot of hothouse mums that were bright and cheery around Easter and looking dead by fall. In the back yard we had a fruitless mulberry that I felt sorry for every year after it received its annual pruning that result in a giant mass of knuckes, reaching for the sky. 

In the backyard there were a few walnut trees that I loved. They were huge!
My rope swing was in one of them and I would climb on the fence, holding onto the rope, and then launch myself like Tarzan. When the walnuts would ripen we would spend a weekend gathering them and then laying them out on screens to dry. Peeling the skins would turn my fingers green. Later I would help my grandmother crack the nuts and freeze them.

There was an apricot tree in the very back yard. (We had two back yards.)
I was a horrible to that tree. I didn't like it for some reason. Maybe because I really don't like apricots at all...the texture....bleck. As a kid I used to hammer nails into that poor tree just to see the sap run.
The rest of the backyard was mostly just dirt because nothing would grow under the walnut trees.

In the front there were a couple of trees that I only remember as huge. I don't know what kind they were but there were a pair of them, one on each side in the front and surrounded by grass. They were always "base" when we play hide and go seek or the batter's box when we played baseball.

Along the side of the house were three orange trees.
When we opened the windows on that side of the house the citrus smell would flood the rooms.

There was a privet hedge between my grandmother's house and the house next door.

When I was really young, an old woman I only knew as Ginny lived there. She made the best Congo bars. I wore a hole in the hedge sneaking over to see her as much as I could.

In the parking strip next to the street there was nothing but Lippia, a flat ground cover that was covered with little white flowers in the summer and the little white flowers were covered with bees. Every bee sting I ever got was from going barefoot on that ground.

There were flower beds up next to the house but not the orderly kind. It's funny as I think about it now - my grandmother was such a neat and tidy person inside but the garden never seemed to bring her the same kind of joy. I don't know that she ever added plants as much as she just took care of what was already there.

There were some roses, planted on little mounds with dirt basins around them.
I'd get in trouble for breaking the side of the basin but I liked to watch the water rush out of the break. Next to roses were lots of calendulas.
I think they were supposed to keep the bugs away from the plants.

My favorite of all the plants in the yard was the nastursiams.
They were a project in school. We planted the seeds in egg cartons and brought them home. My grandmother didn't want them in her front garden but eventually I got her to let me plant them near the roses. I think she was sure they would die but year after year they kept coming back.

Out of all the plants in my childhood garden the only ones that were California natives were the walnut trees.

Your turn. What plants do you remember from your childhood?
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 9 comments — Leave comment )
September 30th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Great pics. Suddenly I have a hankerin' for apricots.

Um, this is gross (big surprise coming from me, huh?) but the main memory I have from childhood is a MASSIVE Japanese beetle invasion in the sixties. I helped my grandmother scrape the critters off her rosebushes-- literally by the handful! *shudder*

Edited at 2008-09-30 04:20 pm (UTC)
October 3rd, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)

Ick on the beetle invasion! You just helped me remember the "pincher" bugs we had trouble with. I had one stuck to the center of my hand when I was about 5. I was screaming and my grandmother just laughed at me.
October 3rd, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
Funny how adults found so much amusement in our terror. :)
September 30th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
Grandmother's house:

Plants (inside) - African Violets, spider plants, small cacti, and one cacti that I still have a scar from today. That thing was HUGE.

Flowers (cultivated) - Black eyed Susans, daises, tulips, daffodils, hostas, lily of the valley, lavender, And the roses. They were huge, and dangerous, and inevitably, I got stuck in them.

Garden - raspberries, rutabagas, corn, potatoes, carrots, blackberries, lettuce -- she never did anything with it, just ploughed it back into the soil, cabbage, watermelons, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, sun flowers... And I'm sure there's some I'm missing.

Trees - Most were deciduous: Maple, oak, dogwood, lavender, a couple ashes, I think. But there were plenty of pine trees too. They were the best, because I could rake the needles out of the way and me and the dogs would go sit under there during the summer because it was nice and cool. I came home more often than not with pine sap on my clothes/hair.

Parents house: Roses, impatiens, hostas, and some sort of vine that used to crawl up around my window. I know it was ivy, but not sure what kind. My mother didn't have a real garden, just some plants around the porch. ALSO, she had spider plants inside. The things just... were everywhere.

We only had one tree, an oak. It got struck by lightning when I was like 14, and my mother swore up and down it was going to fall on her head and they cut it down. I liked the tree, because it shaded my window, without it, I got smacked by sunlight every single morning, no matter if my curtains were closed or not.
September 30th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Brilliant red climbing roses against the white of our garage.

Little Johnny-jump-ups that grew wild in the grass. Whenever my dad decided to mow the lawn, I would run frantically around digging them up to transplant them because I couldn't stand to see them run over.

My favorite tree was a Tree of Heaven that grew behind the root cellar. I spent an incredible amount of time in that tree because it had the best spreading branches.

The neighbors had a fantastic mulberry tree that draped itself over their garage. I used to climb it and sit under the canopy on the roof, stuffing myself with the berries when they were ripe. My mother used to get so upset. I could never figure out how she knew.
October 3rd, 2008 04:21 am (UTC)
I love the image of you climing the Tree of Heaven. And of you saving the Johnny-jump-ups.
September 30th, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)

At our house: I remember spider plants and philodendron plants that seemed to never, ever die. A Christmas cactus that only bloomed at Easter. A jade plant. My mother grows things well. I killed an air fern.

My grandmother had begonias in pots that went out to the porch in the summer and came in in winter. Again, Christmas cactus. Philodendron. Spider plants. Outdoors: pansies, begonias, buttercups, jack-in-the-pulpits, English ivy, orange day lilies, a Japanese maple tree, boxwood hedges, poppies, roses, lilacs, and more.
October 1st, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
There weren't too many plants in New York City, where I grew up, but we did have a special maple tree in the corner of the square of dirt we called a back yard. I'll never forget how upset I was when the tree surgeon came and I saw branches falling.

Now I live in the country with a big garden. Playing in the dirt is the best meditation for me, and the best way to clear my mind for writing.
October 3rd, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)
I totally agree about playing in the dirt being a wonderful meditation. That's why I can't wait to get my yard in. When I get stuck with words I can go outside and putter in the garden.
( 9 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

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