Posted by: ktzefr | April 23, 2014

Geraniums, Cows, and Continuity

IMG_3037Yesterday I bought geraniums.  My mom planted geraniums every spring in two big stone pots that sat on either side of the front steps to our house.  Mine, too, greet you at the front door.  I just realized this today: since childhood, summer has meant having two red geraniums greet me at the front door.  I like continuity. 

In those days we took buckets to the barn and collected “rich” dirt from the barnyard, black dirt that smelled of living things.  Cows had their heads down, grazing in the pasture.  Bessie and Babe.  Jersey cows.  Jerseys are dairy cattle, and there are some famous ones.  A cow named Brown Bessie was the champion butter cow at the Chicago World’s Fair, averaging more than 40 pounds of milk a day for five months (plus 3 pounds of butter a day several times) and Elsie the Cow, of course, is the famous mascot of Borden, Inc.  You’ve seen her face on Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk.  Johnny Cash sings in his last recording (Like the 309) “Give a drink of wine/To my Jersey cow.”  We never gave cows a sip of wine, but they often ate wild onions in the spring time and the milk tasted terrible. 

Anyway, back to flowers…


We used to have a long, wooden window box at one end of our porch and this is where my mom always planted petunias that bloomed profusely in the full sun and dangled in long chains down the porch’s rock wall.  She always mixed the colors — purple and red and pink and white — pretty against the river rocks.  For many years now, I have also mixed up my impatiens and created a profusion of color on our shady back deck, but a couple of years ago all of them died.  Apparently, there was a fungus going around that attacked impatiens.  Last summer the local garden place had only a few plants and offered to sell them, but there were no guarantees.  I bought them, anyway, knowing that there are no guarantees in life. 

Results?  They were absolutely gorgeous all summer with nary a hint of fungus.  Yesterday, however, when I went to the garden center there were no impatiens.  I was told that Virginia Tech is working on a cheap fungicide.  The one they have now is great at killing the fungus, but it costs too much to produce.  Producing more impatiens is cheaper.  But nobody wants to have to replace them if they die.

I thought about how much in life depends on money, the abundance or lack of it, and all the decisions big and small that are based almost solely on dollars.  And guarantees. 

The last two years I’ve saved some money on annuals, remembering how my mom brought some of the potted plants inside every fall and put them in the cellar where they lived in the damp, cold, darkness all winter long.  In the spring, once out in the sun, the begonias bloomed again.  So I’ve been bringing mine inside, too.  We don’t have a cellar, so they’ve enjoyed the kitchen or bathroom or wherever I could find a space in the sun.  They’ve bloomed the last two winters!  Those pink flowers were such a treat this past season with so much snow and ice and cold on the outside.  First of May the begonias go back outdoors.  Unless, of course, it snows again.

The wild violets and purple periwinkle flowers are blooming; there are small, green puffs waiting to turn white on my snowball bush; and there’s the tiniest bit of lavender color in the lilac. 

Everything knows when it’s time to come back to life.  This is something to think about, too.




  1. Katie, my mom, too, always planted red geraniums and white impatiens, though I have to say that these past two summers I haven’t nurtured nary a plant. It’s for that reason I had no idea about the plight of the lovely impatiens. How sad. Loved that you brought your plants inside over the winter (that’s a sign of a true flower lover!), and of course, I always enjoy your wonderful photos! Happy spring 🙂

    • Thanks!!!

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