Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Faux Gardener

Let me tell you a story. It's a gardening story about my mother and a little about me. 
My mother never in her 83 years of living tried to give anyone the impression that she liked gardening. She didn't like the hot sun and wasn't the least bit interested in sweating.  She loved air conditioning more than fresh air. She was city girl through and through.

The year before she passed away, she moved to a retirement community, where she made new friends and participated in all the activities. She became part of a group of women called the Fun-shine Group. They were so popular the other residents wanted to sit with them. The tables were set up for four, but they always managed to squeeze in a few more chairs. She proudly told me about how the dining room staff had a special sign made just for their table. I think it said, "The Fun Shine Girls shine here. "

My mom was having a ball. Many times she would be too busy to talk.  I learned never to call on Friday afternoons...that was Happy Hour in the lounge! My sisters and I were tickled pink that she was blossoming.

I have no idea how she came to agree to help her good friends Jeri and Judy clean up the Rose beds, but she did. The grounds were lovely, but, the roses were looking poorly. Someone organized the day and got everyone gloves and tools. Imagine my shock surprise, when I heard my mom was going to work in a garden.

I didn't talk with her that evening, but, called the next day in eager anticipation to hear how she had faired at gardening! She told me all about it. How they cleaned out the old canes, weeded the beds and even how long it took.  Not one complaint from her! 

You can't imagine how excited I was to hear this tale; finally my mom and I would share an interest in gardening. I was off and running with fantasies of garden visits, planting containers and mulling over catalogues. 

Me: "Mom, did you have a good time? Did you enjoy gardening?"  
Mom: "You've got to be kidding,  I hated every minute of it! All the volunteers decided it was too hot and quit and Jeri and I were stuck cleaning the mess out all by ourselves." 
Me: "You mean you didn't like any of it?"
Mom:  "Absolutely, not!" 

My balloon was burst; we weren't going to be bonding over the garden fence, there would be no mulling over catalogues and  no garden strolls.   
Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina' will have to substitute for Hollyhocks for now!

Nothing  ever changed her opinion about gardening. She marveled at how much I loved to garden and how many plants I had stuffed into my yard.  When pressed she admitted that there was one plant she especially liked.  It was the Hollyhock, she loved the single ones in pinks, yellows and reds.   They must have been special for her to even know the name of a garden plant! 

I plant them every year, but, this year, I haven't found any of the singles. I'll keep checking the  nurseries. 
I love imagining  how much she would have enjoyed seeing them...from the house!


PS This is an editing of a Mother's Day post I wrote for Mother's Day 2008.  My mom had just passed away and it was a healing balm to tell funny 'Bernice' stories.  We miss her dearly and nowadays telling stories about her makes us all smile.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone." She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. My mom was also an indoor city girl, but she appreciated a lovely garden and always enjoyed seeing mine. Happy Mother's Day, Gail.

  2. I love this story about your mom. My mom was different. She was a real garden girl. I gave her one small pot of coneflowers about 5 years ago and when she passed away last year, she had a 25 foot strip of coneflowers. She could stick anything down and it would grow.

  3. Happy Mother's Day, Gail! What a fun way to remember your mom today. I'm sure she was proud of your gardening.

  4. Happy Mother's Day! Your story is sweet and humorous, too.

    My maternal grandmother was the gardening influence for me and my cousins. Her entire front yard and one side yard were flower gardens. She grew many flowers from seeds. Then, she had foundation plantings of flowers and blooming shrubs such as hydrangea all around the house. She also had a huge veggie garden and mowed the lawn grass out back herself. She gardened in the cotton dresses that she made--no shorts or pants ever. My mom grew irises and daylilies, but passed away at age 51 so we never really got to talk about gardening as I didn't buy a home until after her passing.


  5. What a great story! Sounds like your mom was a spirited lady even if it wasn't in the garden!

  6. What a sweet story. My Mom was a gardener but she was a Vegetable gardener. I can just imagine what she would think when she looked at my garden now. She would just shake her head and ask where are the veggies. ha... She did plant a few flowers but nothing like I do. I hope you are having a wonderful Mother's Day.

  7. What a sweet story -- and worthy of sharing many times over. Your love and understanding just shines through it, and I love how she could make you laugh. I can't wait to see you in Asheville this week!

  8. I enjoy reading stories about you and your Mom Gail. Yesterday was an especially hard Mother's Day for me.

  9. This is such a dear story Gail and your photographs are simply stunning. I am sure your garden looks fabulous from indoors and that you Mom would have loved it from any window . . . especially during Happy Hour! ;>))

  10. My Mom didn't like gardening either. Dad had a huge vegetable garden...he would work in it and Mom would lie on a blanket and sunbath. She did, however, cook, can and preserve all the vegetables that we had leftover.I really enjoyed this story.

  11. Gail what a wonderful story...my mom liked her gardens although she was more of an annual and veg gardener....my dad enjoyed some gardening and puttering in the yard...it was a therapy for him I realized as it is for me...wish i could have shared it with him.

  12. My mother is a consummate gardener...But I moved away at a young age and wanted nothing to do with what she liked....Until I got my first plot of land to play with...Then the gardening bug hit....I gardened for 10 years before mom saw what I planted...Tears were in her eyes when we realized we planted the same thing without each other knowing it....Your mom's story is touchingly wonderful and made me how complicated mother daughter relationships are and yet still thrive dispite the differences...


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson