Hello Fellow Readers, Fall is for gathering in the coziness of the season. I recently had the joy of visiting my piano teacher from way back. She’s now a grand 89 years wise. I’m not sure how long ago she became “Mom J” (J for Jackson), but I have fond memories of her 80th birthday party when she introduced me as her “other daughter.” Her daughter Dot is also a cherished friend since childhood, and we all share the love of digging in the dirt. We planned to visit Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. As it turned out, Mom J wasn’t up for a gallivant. I didn’t mind as it gave us a chance to tend to the Jackson Garden.
Treasures tending to the Jackson Garden
We cut back the Shasta Daisy’s retired stalks (Leucanthemum × superbum). Below, next year’s growth remains an evergreen carpet of the promise of spring, one of the reasons this classic white daisy is a favorite.
Mom J’s Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis) was crispier than usual due to the draught. We cut back the foliage but kept the outstanding dry seed heads standing for winter interest. Then there are glorious Morning Glory vines; hers still squeaking a bloom here and there. I sought out seeds to bring home.
“I used to save them too,” shared Mom J, “then forget about them come spring.”
Why not save seeds of annuals that are prolific self-seeders, such as morning glory, ageratum, and nicotiana. Nothing to lose and only to gain rather than forget to sow what you’ve gathered.
Dot asked if we should cut back the lavender. Unlike most herbs, lavender is considered a woody shrub that is best left standing. Come spring, cut back what dies back over winter.
Miracle Plants Passed Forward
I’ve never had luck with Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata), likely because they prefer alkaline soil with good drainage, and mine is acidic. Mom J shared the history of her beloved “family plant,” which came from her mother’s garden in Maine. “I’ve given pieces of it to all four children, and they have plants growing in their gardens.” What a lovely legend and somewhat of a miracle as Baby’s Breath doesn’t like to be disturbed once established.
Another miracle is her Oxalis triangularis, commonly called Purple Shamrock or Love Plant due to its three purple heart-shaped leaves. It’s typically a houseplant as it’s hardy in zones 8a to 11. Mom J is in zone 6b, yet hers is thriving outside. True, her charming little garden is in a microclimate tucked next to the foundation. She insisted I take a portion of her Love Plant home.
“I hope the little oxalis will grow and bloom for you next year!”
No doubt, the love planted by Mom J will thrive in my heart forever.
As a child, a visit to Longwood Gardens is one of my first memories of falling in love with gardens, thanks to my own dear Momma. Mom J, Dot, and I visited Longwood several times in recent years. The topiaries of the various critters grew bigger than life from what I remember as a kid.
“Mom J” joined the angels on February 13, 2022, at a grand 94. How fitting the family chose this photo illustrating how she captured every magical moment in her life as she captured the hearts of all of us who love her. Thank you, Mom J, for all the wisdom and love you’ve shared. You will stay forever in our hearts.
Column Updated 2/24/22