I am writing this on Memorial Day and was inspired to write about some of my family traditions centered around gardening.

Some of my fondest memories are working together with my parents, sister and brothers in the garden. I grew up during World War II when “victory gardens” were popular. Our victory vegetable garden was about 50 by 100 feet, which was huge by today’s standards. A neighbor would plow the garden and then we would rake and level it together. I remember as a small child planting seeds in rows prepared by older sister and brothers.

We had extensive hedges on two sides of our property, and the yearly hedge trimming was a joint project with my Dad and brothers.

My sister had an area where she grew a flower garden. She was 8 years older than me and I started helping her with the flower garden. When she left home, the flower garden became mine. My sister is still an avid gardener and this joint interest has created a strong bond between us.

My mother was also a wonderful gardener and she taught me many things. She had a large rose garden and I remember working with her as she taught me how to prune roses. My mother also gave me an area by a fence where we planted sweet peas. When they were in bloom I would pick little bouquets and sell them to neighbors for 25 to 50 cents a bunch. I still plant sweet peas almost every year.

Another flower I planted this year was hollyhock. I have taught my grandchildren how to make “hollyhock dolls” from the buds and flowers, just as my older sister taught me how as a small child.

I had mixed success in working with my own 5 children in the garden. I’m afraid I was too much of a perfectionist with my older children. Finally I gave my youngest daughter  a section of the vegetable garden to plant any way she wanted. She promptly decided to plant flowers. We went to the nursery together to pick out flowers for her garden. She would ask me questions such as height, planting distance and shade tolerance as she selected her flowers. She has an artist’s sense of color and texture balance, so her garden was always the prettiest area in the landscape.

My mother decided to be cremated when she passed so I do not have a cemetery plot to visit and remember her. I decided to plant a memorial dwarf cherry tree and buried some memorabilia at the base of the tree. As I pick cherries from this tree I can remember the traditional visit to a local cherry orchard to pick cherries as a family. We would pick several bushels of cherries and preserve them in quart jars for use through the winter.

I know families who plant a memory tree every year. Each child has their own tree to visit when they come back home and share memories with their own children.

Do you have gardening traditions in your family which you can use to build family memories? This is a good time of year to establish some.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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