It rained briefly in the late afternoon on Memorial Day. That means it has rained to a greater or lesser degree on 23 out of the last 29 days. No wonder I am behind in the garden and the weeds are way ahead. But nothing like a little rain to make the garden glow.
Or perhaps it's more a matter of you shouldn't go home again. You might be very disappointed, if not horrified, by what you'll find.
My sister Nancy, who's two years younger than me, called me recently to talk about her upcoming 50th high school reunion. I encouraged her to go as I had a lovely time at mine. She and I attended the same school but our two younger sisters went elsewhere as we'd moved away from that neighborhood by the time they were of high school age.
For many years we lived in the upstairs flat in this building that was owned by my paternal grandparents, Jim and Nora Brazill. They ran this corner store but had given it up by the time we lived there. When I was in Buffalo, NY, for my reunion I went by the old neighborhood to check it out. It still looked quite similar to this when we lived there in the 1950s.
The owners of the store lived on the first floor behind the store. The basement under the stores was stacked to the ceiling with wooden cases of pop bottles. There were two coal bins and two big old furnaces, one for each apartment. On the opposite corner was the Red and White Grocery store.
A shoe repair shop was located behind the grocery and Charlie Stroh, the grocer, and his family lived upstairs. No trees, no grassy yards and no charm left.
When the store was owned by the Paufler family after my grandparents, Mr. Paufler would give all the kids penny candy based on our report card results. I can still picture where everything — not just the rows of penny candy — was located inside the store. The floors were wooden and the ceiling tin.
It was quite a shock to me to see what changes had occurred to this little corner in all the years I've been gone.
There's still grass along the side of the building, so I guess that's a plus. But no shrubs or flowers like there used to be.
The door on the side led upstairs to our apartment. All of us kids played in the empty lot next door as well as in the construction site when the adjacent building was going up.
The upstairs rear was a porch that ran the width of the building and had screens and storm windows. We ate out there in the summer and played and read our books in that lovely space. The downstairs had an open porch that took up half the space with wide steps that led up the door which opened into that apartment's living room. Where the cars are parked was a fenced yard where we had our swing set.
That upper porch was a large enough space that my sister and I rode our bikes up there when we were little. This photo is from the spring of 1951. I'm age 4 and my sister Nan is 2. Note the pinhwheel fastened onto my bike, though I imagine it would not be possible to get up enough speed to make it spin in that limited space.
There was a two car garage with one side designated for each apartment. The street is still lined with American elm trees in this photo taken on Easter Sunday in 1956 when Nan and I are aged 7 and 9. I'm wearing a pale pink topper (as we called those short coats in those days) and my hat is decorated with cherries. I had a similar purse for my favorite doll!
This is the house that was located just beyond ours. Three sisters lived there and the property was always immaculate. The women's last name was Burns and, as was characteristic at that time, they were always referred to as "the Burns girls" though they were all middle-aged.
The Burns house looks almost identical to 1953 when this photo was taken. Nan and I are aged 4 and 6 and going to a neighborhood birthday party but I don't remember whose it might have been. The big difference here is that the empty lot between the Burns' house and the Majors' house has been filled in with another small brick house. We all used to play in that empty lot which was a big depression, probably having been dug out for a house that never got built. It meant you could really hide amid the huge weeds.
A note about our dresses in the above photo: Nan and I each had the dress she's wearing which was patterned with tiny stars. One dress had red stars and the other blue. I think Nan may be wearing my hand-me-down rather than her original dress. I am wearing one of my favorites which was a pale sage green and cream stripe with a black velvet ribbon at the waist.
. . .
After Mark and I re-visited this childhood house in 2015, we checked out the house we moved to after this one. It was in great shape and looked almost identical to when we'd lived there. In fact, the street looked prosperous and well-kept up. I had forgotten that the street was paved with bricks which was still the case and it looked fabulous!
But seeing our house in the pictures above confirmed my decision to never revisit my grandparents' houses that I remember most from my childhood. I would hate to have this kind of reality replace my childhood memories.
I put the flag out and met friends for coffee and now am off to spend time in the garden as it's not raining. I put a vase together Sunday afternoon and promptly forgot about it until now.
I just picked two of my favorite flowers — Geranium phaeum and Aquilegia 'Black Barlow — as they are in full flower at the moment. These Alliums suddenly reemerged this year now that the spot where they are growing is getting sun again after a neighbor cut down a tree.
Memorial Day is a strange holiday in that it is the official start to summer and a big day for parties and picnics. Yet it is also a time for sober remembrance about all the people who serve our country in the military. So this is a fun bouquet in sober colors to acknowledge the two sides to this holiday.
Thursday was warm and sunny and a dream day for working in the garden. I was outdoors at 8:30 a.m. and came in at dinner time. I weeded, deadheaded, refreshed the pine needle paths and just enjoyed being in the midst of the garden after so many days spent indoors looking out. It's supposed to rain again today but I'm not going to think about that until it happens.
Here's what the garden is looking like at the almost-end-of-May.
On either side of the path as you come around the house into the back garden are two plants that are very similar. They're small in stature but assertive in behavior. They both have attractive foliage and a brief moment of flowering with white hanging bells.
I wouldn't be without either one in my garden though they require tough love on my part once their flowering is over. Left to their own devices they'd take over the world and certainly the garden.
Polygonatum humile (Dwarf Solomon's Seal)
Convallaria majalis 'Hardwick Hall' (Lily of the Valley)
I love this moment when the garden switches from the blues and yellows of early spring to myriad white blooms. Next up will be Lilies saturated with color. I'm trying to celebrate this calm moment and hoping the weather stays quiet and cool so I can enjoy these plants a bit longer.
Members of the North American Rock Garden Society were in Madison from Friday to Sunday for a study weekend along with tours, talks and special programs. We opened our garden to NARGS members from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Friday and Sunday. The weather was gray, windy, chilly and veered between a spatter of rain drops and cloudbursts.
Luckily the hours I was outside both days were mostly dry. Don't know when we've hosted garden visitors who were so outgoing, friendly and knowledgeable. These folks all seemed to be at a whole other level of gardening so I greatly enjoyed our interactions.
As an added bonus, I got to meet Panayoti Kelaidis. I've been aware of him since I first visited the Denver Botanic Garden in Colorado in 1999. Officially these days he's the Senior Curator and Director of Outreach for the DBG. I am also a big fan of his blog, Prairie Break, where he documents his visit to gardens around the world. Last week he was showcasing rock gardens he'd just been at in the Czech Republic.
In between the garden tours, I hosted our monthly gal-pal get-togther Saturday morning and went to a 90th birthday celebration in the afternoon. Too busy and too tired by Sunday evening to go foraging to fill a vase. These photos were taken before the rain and will have to suffice as my Monday offering.