Column: To some, not much separates flowers from weeds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2001

There were about 30 more growing days in my part of Nebraska than there are in Minnesota.

Thursday, April 19, 2001

There were about 30 more growing days in my part of Nebraska than there are in Minnesota. Spring came on about two weeks earlier than it does here, fall lasted about two weeks longer.

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My mother, an avid gardener, always seemed to associate the beginning of the growing season with the holy season of Easter and approached them both with reverence. By late January, or certainly by early February, she would have had the seeds sent for and such perennials as she wished to add to those already in the yard listed.

For as early as I can remember I always gloried in a double celebration. There were the new clothes, the Easter eggs and the visiting relatives for one thing. Then there were the barefoot sandals, the straw hat to shade me from the sun and best of all a child’s size rake, hoe and spade. It was my mother’s fondest wish that I share her love of gardening and music.

I didn’t have much choice as far as the music was concerned, but to my great regret I always felt I let her down in the gardening department. Heaven knows I tried, but it was always a bit difficult for me to distinguish a flower from a weed.

Worse I tended to get a little carried away by the spade. I used to dig splendid deep holes in the back yard, not far from the driveway, for my father returning from a meeting of some sort, to step in. He was apt to wax a bit profane about the holes in the yard.

&uot;If you’re really trying to keep me from coming home in one piece,&uot; he’d snarl at my mother, &uot;why don’t you give the kid a shot gun and let her pot away at me. I’d prefer it to lying out all night with a broken leg from stepping in one of those d_mn holes.&uot;

Although she never said I was a disappointment to her, I always felt that I was and tried hard to make it up to her. As I grew older I bought her all kind of vases, and house plants I thought she might like, subscribed for magazines dealing with gardens and bought gardening books.

I was in college, though, before I finally had the illusion that I had hit the jackpot. Before we left Cedar Rapids to move to Albert Lea, my mother had greatly admired a flowering plant in the yard of one of her friends. The friend called it a &uot;moon flower.&uot; I have no idea what its scientific name was. It was beautiful, though. The blossoms were large and white and, as I remember, much the shape of a morning glory.

Unlike the morning glory it opened after sundown. We moved to Minnesota in the fall, and had a hard time finding a place to live. In the confusion and anxiety of it all, gardens were somewhat forgotten.

Then in June just before being released for summer vacation I noticed growing in a yard not far from the dormitory some flowers that looked like the moon flowers. I was delighted. I prowled around between classes until I found the man who took care of that yard and asked if I could have some of the seeds.

A taciturn sort, he didn’t ask any questions unfortunately. He found a pasteboard box and … obviously under the impression that I knew what I was doing … practically filled it. There were hundreds of seeds.

I lost no time in sending them home and was not surprised to hear that my mother, always generous, had shared them with a number of her friends. I didn’t get home right away, friends were getting married and having showers and the like. When I did get home I found my mother a little uneasy about the seeds.

&uot;Did the man who gave them to you tell you the name of the flowers?&uot; she asked me.

&uot;I saw them,&uot; I said. &uot;Aren’t they growing?&uot;

&uot;Like weeds. I think they are weeds. They look to me just like Jimson weeds. I’m going to pull mine up, but what’s worse I’m going to have to talk to everyone I gave seeds to and tell them.&uot;

Well, trust my mother to be right. I found out later that Jimson Weed, a member of the nightshade family, has some scientific purpose, which happily I’ve forgotten.

Apparently no one held the mistake against my mother, though, several slyly suggested that she had a daughter with a weird sense of humor. One of her friends grew rather attached to the flowers and actually let them grow, even placing a small wire fence around them for protection.

We never passed that woman’s house that my mother, eyeing the fenced in Jimson weeds, didn’t remark somewhat bitterly that it was the most pathetic thing she’d ever seen.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.