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My mother's garden has been an eclectic and truly magical mix of her favorite flowers that my siblings and I were neither old nor wise enough to appreciate.
There were geraniums, angel wings, iris, snow drops, violets, nasturtiums, cowslips, lilies, pansies and angel trumpets, to name but a very few specimens among the acres of azaleas, dogwoods, camellias and plants she rooted, loved, and shared with family and friends for more than 50 years.
When my newly married parents built their home that still stands today, its feet were ensconced in a barren cotton field overlooking a drainage pond and natural spring.
Over the years, pine, oak, fruit and a myriad of trees intentionally planted or unintentionally shared by avian and four-egged passersby, created a woodland magnet for all the dirty-faced, barefooted, green-apple-picking and tree-climbing children who grew up in our neighborhood.
It was in this wooded setting that my mother's garden grew: up and under trees, in rocky crevices, in stone-lined beds, in pots and planters, and on stakes and trellises.
Despite having mosquito-bitten toes, scratched legs and a knowledge of every inch of the property, we did not know where my mother's flowers grew.
Although my parents sometimes bought from nurseries, most of their loveliest "finds" were just that.
On family excursions and trips my parents took alone, the trunk of the car always contained at least two or three interesting additions to Mother's garden, discoveries made on walks in mountain woods and beside roadside ditches, or happenstance "giftings" from gardeners whom she befriended along the way and with whom she made lifelong friendships.
My father seldom walked in the front door without something tiny and green peeking out of an old pot or a brown stick with roots wrapped in damp newspaper.
In the years when my mother could still walk and see well enough to stroll through her yard, flower lovers and serious gardeners from nearby towns persuaded my mother to take them on tours of her yard.
Of course, each tour always either started or ended with a cup of coffee and fresh baked bread in her kitchen overlooking the lifetime of loveliness her gentle hands created.
When she became too infirm and her sight was too poor to continue working in her flowers, one of my sisters who lived nearby would frequently take her for memory walks through the yard to "see" her flowers.
Her unsteady feet, long ago having memorized the myriad paths she had made during her more than 60 years on this land, would find their way as her nearly sightless eyes would identify each plant, and she would begin a story of a plant becoming a well-loved part of her garden.
Sara Calhoun Davis is retired as associate dean in the school of Education, Health, and Human Performance at the College of Charleston. She and her husband manage a foundation to raise funds for the Jeremy Warren Vann Scholarship in teacher education at CofC.
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