Hello Fellow Readers,
One of the greatest gifts of Christmas is spending time with loved ones. I’ve just returned from visiting lifelong friends that live outside of Austin. The first stop was Round Top Texas, where Dorothy from my college days lives. She’s an artist with a gallery right in the center of the charming historic town known for their seasonal antique fairs. Some of you may know the Junk Gypsies show on HGTV filmed in Round Top. There’s Festival Hill, a picturesque campus of stone buildings and bridges with magnificent gardens surrounding a venue for music festivals, theatre, and poetry. They even hold an herbal forum there. We stumbled upon a Pharmacy Garden named after Madalene Hill, known as the Grand Dame of Herbs, who lived to be 95. She co-authored Southern Herb Growing published in 1987 – “Grow Where You are Planted,” her iconic signature at book signings.
Madalene served as President of the Herb Society of America from 1986 to 1988. After which she became a “full-time volunteer” of Festival Hill, helping to expand the gardens to include rare plants and an extensive herb collection, including a Mary Garden. The sign explains, “In medieval times flowers had yet to be given Latin botanical names and were called by common names. Many were associated with the Virgin Mary…”- a strawberry plant (Fragaria vesca) labeled Fruitfulness of Mary and sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorama) named Mother of God’s Flower to name a few. “Some, such as the marigold Mary’s Gold and Madonna Lily, still go by the common names today.” Of course, the gardens are dormant, just like here. Still, I was intrigued by each raised bed labeled by a country of origins such as Africa, China, and the Middle East, filled with herbs specifically grown for medicinal purposes, though many are also edible.
The next stop was the hill country of Lago Vista on Lake Travis to visit Elsa. Her family immigrated from Cuba when she was nine. We met commuting into New York City way back when; her adopted son in the single digits then. Soon after we bought a two-family house, each lived on one floor and became “family”- How we loved to garden the postage stamp backyard. Folks used to think I was her daughter, though I tower over her in height but certainly not in spirit. She’s struggling with her health now, which is hard to see, but a joy to share time. We laughed over memories and reminisced about our mothers now gone. Elsa’s Mom never learned English, though proud to have become an American citizen, and communicated through the love of her actions and her eyes.
As we celebrate the season, I pray for those struggling with illness and recovery. And, that we relish the memories of those no longer here and cherish those that are… if only in our dreams. Merry Christmas. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone.@gmail.com