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Posts Tagged ‘petunias’

petunias in the garden

I photographed the petunias in the garden today but I don’t have any petunia stories except that my mother used to plant them in the raised beds my father built for her in Virginia. Beds maybe 1′ or 2′ by 4′ or 5′. Nothing fancy. Plants purchased from the farmers market in downtown Lynchburg. Straightforward colors of red, purple and white come to mind. Although I do remember in later years when I returned home after college the selections had expanded and there were striped and maybe spotted petunias in the beds. As a child, in the early evening hours when the sun (and therefore heat) was low, I remember my mom and I would go out and pick the dead flowers to encourage new growth. It came across as something calming for my mother. My dad’s domain was the vegetable garden. The flowers were my mother’s and I think she cherished it.

Even after I moved from home I often managed to garden though I was not drawn to petunias. I have a growing fondness for them and an appreciation of how they fill in a container and complement other plants. As a child I didn’t appreciate them at all except as an opportunity to stick my hands in the dirt to help plant them and an opportunity to hang out with my mom as she took care of them. I was completely clueless as she included me in this process of caretaking and nurturing. I’m still not great at it with petunias. I try to find new varieties that need no deadheading. I seek out colors that complement the “main” plants I have growing in a container. And yet as seasons continue to pass I find myself planting more of those things from my childhood that I took for granted like petunias, scarlet sage and sweet william. Spring is near done and summer approaches. We’ll see what growing opportunities, prompted by the past or by the current moment, present themselves.

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If I were to write about petunias I would be writing about my mother. She grew them in these narrow wooden raised beds my father made for her. It was easy for us to go out near dusk and pick the spent blooms. I think it was a pleasant activity for her. So each time I walk past this container and the others in the yard, I stoop to look for blossoms to pick and I think of her with a smile.

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Back in October I wrote about the unexpected success in growing a potted petunia in the house.  I imagined photographing white blossoms against the kitchen window with snow falling in the background. Will that come to pass?  Well, recently after cutting away all the dead and dying pieces only one green stem remained on the petunia plant.  Nothing else.  I considered letting it go, but what harm was there in continuing to water that stem.  And then one day it bloomed.  A single bloom on a single stem on a mostly barren patch of ground.  I guess there must be some good roots beneath that soil.

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It has been a hard month, a hard summer, a hard year, for so many family and friends.  I read their words and hear their voices, and all I have been able to do, in the end, is absorb and listen.   On occasion I have been able to touch, to hug, and to encourage others to take such action.  Sometimes I have offered words of advice but I am beginning to think that, for the most part, those words of advice could be a song or poem or a passage from a book.  The words from my mouth are not so important as is my literal or figurative presence.  I am lucky to have them in my lives as well.

Despite the title of this post, I do not feel at the center of it all, whatever “it” may be.  As a writer, photographer, storyteller, I feel on the periphery, observing the chaos of life from odd angles that reveal ambiguities, sadness, horror, pain but almost always, great beauty, too.  When I talk with the friends and family who are struggling I find myself wishing … and then I stop myself.  I cannot live other peoples’ lives, but I can and often do ask them, “Without ignoring all that’s going wrong, what is going right? What’s one thing making you happy?”  One lovely friend will have a tendency to say, “Well, at least my cat is not dead … yet.”  And I’ll say, “Exactly!” 😉

These are the rambling thoughts that come to mind this Sunday morning as I hold close in my heart those who may be feeling a bit alone or vulnerable or just unsure of next steps.  I certainly feel that way about some things too.  And with that said, what is one thing making me happy at this moment?  It is the morning sun falling upon this apple creating a little apple universe.  At least I see the stars.

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I did not think the petunias would grow indoors.  I thought they’d bloom for a short while and then fade away, but somehow they have lasted the summer and now bloom confidently into the fall.

They have outlasted the basil, thyme and mints.

They soak up the sun near the hardier herbs – the oregano, sage and rosemary.  The plant’s white flowers shade the poinsettia that is still bright green and the stellar red garden mum, a hostess gift still hanging on.

I think I have tried to grow petunias indoors before with little luck.  They are a complex flower for me, not my favorite and yet I can’t help but think of them as my mother’s plant.

She grew them in wooden boxes and converted tires that my father made and arranged in the yard for her.  We shall see if this plant thrives into the winter months.  Not to rush time, but I can’t wait to see the white blooms against the window with snow falling down.

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