Tag Archives: gardening

The Dahlia Wonderland

Darcy’s grandfather was a kind man who enjoyed many hobbies. He loved to golf and play tennis at his beloved Tam O’Shanter club, and he zealously gardened. He was particularly interested in growing dahlias.

In the 1980s, he passed a handful of precious tubers from his personal stash of dahlias to my mother-in-law. She told Better Homes and Garden’s Perennials Magazine in 2008:

“(T)hose dahlias fended for themselves while I was raising my children…”

Her father passed away in 2004, and this caused my mother-in-law to seriously consider cultivating his special breed of flower. Which she has done ever since, to celebration and acclaim.

Throughout the year, she labors over an environment-friendly drip-irrigation system, feeds the roots and tubers casings from her worm farm and creates “green gold” from carefully built and tended compost heaps.

August is the month when her garden blooms with the 125 different varieties of dahlias she grows. The American Dahlia Society describes the 19 different types of forms of the flower as “pompoms,” “water lilies” and “peonies.” I prefer to label them as lollypops, origamis and fancy daisies. Every Sunday this month, I’ve walked through the veritable candyland of these beauties, overwhelmed by the variety, sheer size (some blooms are bigger than my head) and the technicolor palate of colors.

When I joined the family, she cultivated a dahlia with my first name. She has incorporated more blooms into her garden based on my daughter’s suggestions (“More pink!”) and even my son’s suggestion. (“Can you find a black one?” She could and did, and this year, it won “Best in Show” at the County Fair.)

The Dahlia That Bears My Name

What I love about hobbies is that they can pass on traditions from generation to generation. Ancestors on both sides of my family wrote poetry, fiction and were diligent journal-keepers. I carry this on.

My mother-in-law has her dahlias. Again, from Better Homes and Garden’s Perennials Magazine:

“Asked to choose her favorite dahlia, (she) hesitates as if being asked to choose which of her two sons she loves more.

‘It’s tough because each flower has such wonderful qualities,’ she says. ‘But my favorites are the ones that were my fathers.’

It moves me to wander among these flowers cultivated by my husband’s grandfather, loved and worked over and fed and watered into abundance and great beauty by his mother. And today, they were admired and cut and put into vases by the fourth generation of little gardeners. Maybe someday, they too will grow these dahlias.

I only need 3 more people to “like” me on Facebook to be official! I promise to be cool on there and you won’t need to “unbaby me.” In fact, I may start just posting a bunch of cat pictures. Both of cats and the actors in Cats, The Musical.

What traditions do you carry on?


Filed under My Favorite Things, Traditions Revisited

Edible Garden

I miss the city. But one of the big upsides to being in the ‘burbs is having land. We have space to grow our own food. Last year, we grew a bumper crop of tomatoes. This year, my husband wanted to add more edibles.

So Darcy and our son worked for a month to create a salad garden.

Our soil was in a word, rocky. Over 500 rocks were excavated from the small patch reserved for greens. After the rocks were removed and roots were dug up, Darcy painstakingly sifted the soil, and added new potting mix and compost to the patch. Today the greens were ready to be planted.

I have to say that this project sort of annoyed me. Darcy was literally digging ditches. There were other things he could have done, like building a chicken coop, which I was more into.

Now I am eating my words. He designed, built and properly planted chard, cabbage, lettuce and cilantro.

This year we are growing:

Several varieties of tomatoes
Rainbow chard

We’ll see how it goes. But I am excited to eat the fruits of my son and Darcy’s labors.

Maybe Someday?

Next year: CHICKENS!

Do you grow your own food? How is your garden progressing this year? If you are gardening, I’d love to see what you’re growing. Please feel free to write a post and link below!


Filed under Discovering joy

My Favorite Things: Grandma’s Homemade Sweater

Perfect Moment Monday “is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.”

Confession time: my mother-in-law makes me feel inadequate.

Not in the normal ways a MIL does. You see, she’s the real-deal, a genuine article domestic goddess.

A NORMAL person (or, say, me) will take up cooking as a way to make homemade meals for the kiddos, and will gradually perfect simple recipes like mac & cheese, brussels sprouts and turkey meatloaf. My MIL, as soon as her own kids were born, decided to cook for her family too. The difference is she became such a culinary master that she gradually, through word-of-mouth, began catering local affairs until she built an august establishment which still provides the cocktail nibbles for some of the biggest events in town. (Her partner now runs the show.)

A NORMAL person (or, say, me) might decide that gardening could be a fun past-time and a small herb garden, perhaps, might be planted. My MIL also decided to plant a garden. A garden that has exploded into a local wonder featured on every major local gardening tour, a garden that wins multiple gold ribbons and was recently, I kid you not, featured on the cover of a Better Homes and Garden publication. Don’t believe me? Here is some photographic evidence of a small, teeny-tiny portion of her almost one acre extravaganza.









Here’s another corner:








A NORMAL person (or, say, me) might take up knitting as a fun hobby to pass the time, and might produce exactly one lopsided item: a scarf with visible gaps where the stitches should be. My MIL became such a master of knitting that she began producing items for an exclusive department store.

Today she presented my daughter with a sweater for Valentine’s Day. It’s typically gorgeous and intricate, bearing all her usual hallmarks of overachievement. But I long ago realized that all of her success in the domestic arts is really, at heart, an effort to show her family how much she loves them. And seeing my daughter reap the rewards of that love was My Perfect Moment.


Filed under My Favorite Things