Posted by: ktzefr | May 7, 2010

Celebrating Mother’s Day…with Memories and Flowers

“…a flowering tree releasing/all its blossoms at once,/and the one standing beneath it/unexpectedly robed in bloom,/transformed into a stranger/too beautiful to touch.” ~ Lisel Mueller, “How I Would Paint Happiness”

Golden Chain Tree, US Virgin Islands

Memories from Kentucky; blooms from the tropics… (double click on pics; use back arrow to return to blog)

My mom loved flowers.  Every spring when I was growing up we took buckets to the barn to collect what she called “rich dirt” — soil that had been naturally seasoned with cow manure.  It was black, after being “marinated” for months, and better than anything you could buy in a bag.   She filled the wooden window box with petunias, the two stone planters with red geraniums, and the clay pots with impatiens, begonias, and red and green speckled coleus.  My mom treated her flowers with the same tender care she treated all of us and they rewarded her every summer with glorious blooms.

We planted as early as possible so flowers would have a longer bloom life and be in tip top shape when the relatives came home.  Every summer relatives and childhood friends made the pilgrimage back to the hills.  Thomas Wolfe’s famous observation (“You can’t go home again…”) was oft repeated, taken literally, and cause for a good laugh.  This just wasn’t true for hill folks.  Wolfe’s meaning — one can’t go back to childhood, cannot turn back the clock and be in that moment again — was understood but not discussed.  Summer was for happiness — and flowers.

white petals with drops of dew

My mom used to come to DC to visit us at Cherry Blossom time; she helped me “put out” my spring plants in pots on the back deck; we went to the arboretum and parks and botanical gardens.  I bought “rich dirt” in bags, but it never smelled nor felt quite the same as a bucket of Kentucky hill dirt.

One year we took Mom with us to Bermuda and, even though we generally prefer to be on the ocean, we chose a hotel inland that was surrounded by gardens.  Mom couldn’t get over how every blooming thing was so much bigger in the islands.   We were in a taxi heading from the airport to our hotel, enjoying the giant hibiscus and bougainvillea alongside the road, when the driver looked in his rear-view mirror and smiled.  “Welcome to paradise,” he said.  Mom looked over at me, rolled her eyes, and — thinking only in the Biblical sense — whispered: “This is a pretty place alright, but it’s not paradise.”  She did enjoy the island, however, and loved the flowers.

My all-time favorite: the Flamboyant (flame) tree, Virgin Islands

An orchid to wear to church on Easter or other special occasions was a big deal in the hills when I was growing up.  Afterward, it got put in the refrigerator and wasn’t of much use.  The last time I bought my mom an orchid the occasion was her great grandson’s wedding.  Here she is (on the right), at 96, with her friend Wilma.

It’s funny how some of the prettiest sights in nature are fleeting.  Some of the best moments are, too.  All the more reason to stop and smell the roses, make hay while the sun shines, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…”

On this Mother’s Day enjoy your moms, if they’re still around; remember and honor them if they’re not.


(Thanks to my husband and son who are both better photographers than I am for these beautiful blooms from the Caribbean and South America.  The bougainvillea are mine — San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)



  1. red hibiscus, singapore plumeria, parrot’s beak and pink plumeria, you are making me homesick for Hawai’i!

    • 🙂 My Hawaii pics are all on slides (remember those?)…will have to get some out and see if they make good enough quality pics for the blog. I was amazed to see the giant poinsettia hedges in Hawaii.

  2. Very touching story about Aunt Lou, she was such a loving person I miss her and your Aunt Estell my grandmother. God bless you for your writings and sharing the memories with us.

  3. Sweet photo of your mother. She lived a good life.

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