The Gardens of My Youth

by Stefani on 6-April-2008

There is a pile of laundry on my living room floor, a bunch of dirt under my fingernails, and deep contented sigh in my heart of hearts. Evidence of a long weekend well spent.

My mom and I took a little junkin’ road trip to Nacogdoches, then Conroe, then the big antique fest in Warrenton (more about that in the whole separate post that it deserves). We hung out with my aunts and grandmother. We visited old haunts, told well worn stories and made a few new ones. It was all very good. Very very good.

The big hooptie doo in East Texas this time of year is the Azalea Trail. The idea is to drive around old neighborhoods and salivate over well manicured lawns, and white picket fences behind billows of white and pink flowering clouds.

All That's Lacking...

I swear, you ride past houses like that, and you get to thinking that if you only lived there you might never raise your voice or lose your keys or find a petrified peanut butter and jelly sandwich under your son’s bed. You think maybe life in that place would be just a gnat’s wing away from heaven.

I know, I know, people who have wrap around porches have their problems too, but the difference is, they get to think on those problems while swinging and having a glass of sweet tea. I’m certain that makes it better. Certain.

Anyhow, while we were riding around, my aunts and mom and grandmother kept pointing out other flowers and calling out their names. “Goodness, look at the size of that hydrangea!”


“Isn’t that Bridal Wreath?” “Oh the Camelias!” “Look a Confederate Rose!” “Have you ever seen Rhododendrons that color?”


The feeling those long unspoken names inspired was the same one I had after being in Japan for a week, getting off the airplane and seeing signs and hearing words in English; a deep breath after being underwater too long.

Crimson Clover

In an instant, I was a little girl, helping my Momo water her flowers. Some of the names she knew, and told to me. Others she made up or just called, “Aunt Vivian’s Shrub” or “Polly’s Flowers,” after the people who’d brought over a paper towel-wrapped bulb or a cutting from the their own gardens.

Sunny Little Faces

My Momo didn’t go down to Lowe’s or Red Barn when she wanted a new something for her yard, she just asked a neighbor for a piece, stuck it in her magic dirt and it grew. It grew 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide and flowered all year ’round. Or, at least that’s how it seemed to me.

Dreamy Yellow Flowers

So, despite the fact that I have no magic East Texas dirt (I have 1/4 inch of topsoil over 50 feet of Central Texas Limestone), I came right home and bought a Wisteria and a Carolina Jasmine, and planted seeds too – morning glory, zinnia, larkspur and coneflower. Don’t you just like the ring of those names? Go on say them again, “Wisteria. Jasmine. Morning Glory. Zinnia. Larkspur. Coneflower,”

Of course, every year, about this time, I get all good intentioned about gardening and then by about June, I start forgetting to water stuff. So, we’ll see if any of it makes it.

Azaleas and a Picket Fence

I also spent so much time gazing at old homes and imagining the lives lived inside and the days gone by, that I came home with a fresh desire to write fiction. I’m thinking those dreams are going to take a good bit of watering too.

We shall see.

Tune in tomorrow for the nonfiction tale of our junk gypsy weekend entitled, “Rebel Road Sisters Caught Unawares in a Cold Front.”

Ellie April 6, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Ohhh, I do love hearing those names. We too have a very thin layer of soil over slate-sort of stuff. We have just bought some vege seedlings and planted flower seeds, and I hope to remember to water through our Winter wind.
And, please, do try to water the garden of your fiction writing. I would love to curl up with a story of your imagination.

Sarah Jackson April 6, 2008 at 9:12 pm

So many names that remind me of home, too. I miss seeing all of those flowers in the spring. Thanks for the lovely photos!

brit April 6, 2008 at 9:35 pm

I absolutely believe that a porch swing and tea make everything better…I have the perfect porch and spot for that swing…i just need the swing….and all my problems…they will be solved.

Marina (from Denmark. Excuse my English ) April 7, 2008 at 1:39 am

Yes WRITE!!! If anyone I ever read on the internet have talent it would be you. The way you pose your stories. The way you managed to say so much more than the words itself. And above all the way you always have something on our heart when you write. I do not know in what direction your writing dreams flows, but if you ask me you should be writing stories for children.

Eren April 7, 2008 at 3:37 am

Oh Fannie! What wonderful material for you! Simply amazing friend. Must plant some azaleas, forsythias and camelias for next year. Now where is that husband when I need him…he knows where the shovels are.

Diane April 7, 2008 at 4:37 am


I think I want to hang out with you ladies and drive the Azalea Trail!

(I had to chase the sledding children off of my azalea a few days ago with a hearty PLEASE take your SLEDS please OFF my azalea!)

Tracy April 7, 2008 at 5:31 am

I just love when things grow and flower and show off their love for the season. I’ve had my share of green thumby successes, and some sad failures too. Here’s to hoping you remember to water them and they grow and bloom for you!

collins April 7, 2008 at 7:24 am

I love all the beautiful names too. This is my favorite time of the year. Your pictures are beautiful!

erin April 7, 2008 at 7:29 am

that’s it. you’ve convinced me – i need more flowers in my yard. peonies, i think.

april April 7, 2008 at 7:32 am

Don’t you just love the South in the spring-five minutes before it turns hot as blue blazes? I bet the bluebonnets are blooming in your area too-they won’t grow here in western NC for love or money but I really don’t think they should-they are just such a Texas wildflower. Thanks for the tour!

Lisa Clarke April 7, 2008 at 7:43 am

Oh, just look at all of that lovely SPRING! I saw a few pink buds peeking out of the tree branches this morning, but it’s going to be a few more weeks before New Jersey looks as glorious at Texas, I’m betting. I’m so looking forward to it!

SpiderWomanKnits April 7, 2008 at 7:46 am

This is such a beautiful post. Thank You. Vermont is still piles of snow mixed with a bunch of mud but through your post I can smell and feel the reality of spring to come.

miss chris April 7, 2008 at 9:35 am

Love the names. They sound so romantic.

They make me want to pretend that my garden is not a completely hostile environment with its southwest exposure and searing hot temperatures…

And please do, write…

Elissa April 7, 2008 at 10:34 am

that green screen door is making me absolutely drool. i think i just heard it bang behind me as snuck out to sit on the top step and stick my legs in the sunshine. i am just as sure as you are that people with wraparound porches have something on the rest of us. heaven MUST have them.

Mariss April 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

I was just thinking, “She’s such a lovely writer,” about halfway through the post.

Water those words too! I love how you described your Momo’s garden.

kcb April 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

Beautiful. I’ll be spending the afternoon reminiscing about my great-aunts and grandmas and their gardens. Thanks!

Mandi April 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Wonderful.Your post makes me miss my Nona.

emily ruth April 7, 2008 at 2:13 pm

your writing is so cozy…it just makes me want to sit in a hammock under an old quilt & read the day away…i hope you will water that dream of writing…& i hope the writing will include a few petrified peanut butter sandwiches:)

Visty April 7, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I think I come here all the time because you remind me so much of growing up in the South, both with words and pictures. So far away for me now.

Angela April 7, 2008 at 9:26 pm

I will buy whatever you write. You have a way with words like few people I’ve known in my lifetime–and I am a PICKY reader!

Honestly, as I read this post and your comparison of hearing those long forgotten names to being like going without hearing English while in Japan and going without air underwater, I thought to myself, “She knows JUST how to say things so that they make perfect sense— she is such an awesome writer!”

Please write. And I’d be ok with you shooting your own cover art photos too 🙂

Betsy April 8, 2008 at 10:13 am

Yes, you’ve drawn me back with your fresh, descriptive voice. You’ve also made me wonder what on earth I’m doing in Northern New England. Well, a couple of Snow Drops are peeking through and the lilac bush has buds on it. It’s a start.

Susana April 9, 2008 at 6:58 am

Gorgeous flower photos.

heather April 9, 2008 at 6:01 pm

oh, please go ahead and write dome fiction. it would be good for all of us, if you were up for sharing of course.

beki April 11, 2008 at 9:07 am

I love this post. It makes me want to move to an old house in a small town and just slow down.

Mayberry Magpie April 14, 2008 at 9:55 am

Lawsie mercy, there can’t be no place more beautiful than east Texas. Even Mayberry. Thanks for taking us along.

Mayberry Magpie

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