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Echoes that Linger

I never knew Mrs. Thelma Dearing. She died years before we bought her house, but sometimes I imagine her spirit watching over as I putter about the garden. The gardens she planted were lost to neglect by the time I arrived, and at first I did not know she had been a gardener. I began to suspect it, however, when I found lovely plants buried under weeds and vines. My suspicions were confirmed one day at the local library when I flipped open a gardening book and found a dedication in her memory by the Cahaba Valley Garden Club. 

Later I discovered several hybrid columbine, delicate pink and white blossoms that instantly won my heart. I was sure the original ones had been planted by Mrs. Dearing. I transplanted them to an area in the front garden where they could freely multiply. They thrived, and I always think of Mrs. Dearing when new seedlings appear each spring.

March has been a beautiful month. I do love the pastels that bloom this time of year:Top: 'Zephirine Drouhin' rose; 'Red Delicious' apple blooms. Middle: 'Snow White ' azalea; 'George Lindley Taber' azalea. Bottom: Rosa mutabilis; Variegated Weigela.

Recent views around the front garden and patio show colorful Japanese maples and azaleas. The bright orange quince shrubs, bottom left photo, are another legacy from Mrs. Dearing, rescued and transplanted to their present location. Amazingly, they have been blooming since January. Last week's storms knocked most of the blooms down, but even now a few remain. Dogwoods also were gorgeous this year. The final photo is of the birdhouse in a dogwood tree by the patio:

Here are a couple of close-up views of the green threadleaf Japanese maple seen in the foreground of top photo above:

Lou gave me an old green ladder for Christmas. It once belonged to an artist, a gifted man who died tragically young. I never knew him, either, but like Mrs. Dearing I sometimes think about him. The ladder makes a perfect plant stand by the patio:

Is it odd that my garden contains memories of people I never met? Not real memories but echoes that linger. And when I am gone, will there be any part of me that remains? Not a ghost, of course; but if it were, I promise it would be a friendly one!

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Reader Comments (29)

How intriguing to think that hints and ghosts of your garden will remain for others to discover long, long after you are gone. I think about that all the time. But so much of your garden is preserved in photos... you have to think about how to keep them and pass them on for future generations.

I love that green ladder!

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Deb,the friendly ghosts in your garden must be so glad you are their successor. You have a lovely sensitive soul as exemplified by your words and plantings. Happy Spring

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura@PatioPatch

How wonderful that you discovered plants that Mrs Dearing planted so many years ago, love her columbine, such lovely gentle shades. If you rescued her garden then you have certainly added to it and made it your own. Anyone who takes it over after you will be so lucky and I hope would think about you as they work in it!

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

How lovely to inherit such a lovely garden and to unearth the hidden mysteries gone but now not forgotten...you certainly will be leaving your legacy Deb!

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

How lovely of you to honour Mrs Dearing by caring about her plants and the garden she once tended. Your sprinbg garden is an absolute vision - you have me pining for spring but grateful to be able to enjoy yours via the internet. Beautifuul Deb, everything in your garden looks wonderful!

Your garden is just breathtaking. I especially love that view of the bright orange flowering quince among spring greenery.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterspurge

At least the lucky person who inherits your garden will have a complete record of what was planted where and their stories.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Echos. I like that thought. I lived once where there were echoes of the gardener before me. Every spring, bulbs would push up. The first time they did, it was a complete and wonderful surprise. Then I started hearing tales of how beautiful the place had been under her care. My great-grandmother's garden still has echoes pushing up through it, too, as well as an old garden in the woods where there no longer stands a home. It's nice to think that there will be echoes of us after we're gone . Lovely photos.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

What a beautiful post. I think as gardeners we all hope that at least some remnant of our time in our gardens will persist after we no longer can tend them. I made the mistake once of going back to see one of my gardens at a previous house, while visiting an old neighbor, and was rather crushed that everything had been ripped out in favor of gravel and concrete. So it's heartwarming to see that Mrs. Dearing's columbines have persisted, and if she knew that today, I'm sure she would be so pleased, and smile knowing that her garden is now in such capable hands.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Mrs. Dearing would no doubt be happy that part of her garden lives on in yours. Your garden is such a vision of loveliness.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

Hi Deb,

Lovely photos, your garden looks so beautiful :)
Indeed, I too love the pastel and soft shades of this time of year; I have lots of blues around and of course the beautiful, vibrant green of fresh growth is just so beautiful I wish it would stay that way!

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

What a beautiful memorial Deb!! Your blog photos never cease to amaze me! Mrs. Dearing's columbine are lovely and your ladder gift is just the special touch!
PS I feel like I need to come back and spend more time!!!! :-)

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEve

I think Mrs. Dearing would be so pleased to know that a wonderful gardener has carried on where she left off. Your garden is gorgeous this spring!! I have to tell you that you have inspired me to get a little bridge to go over my dry creek bed. I don't think I will be painting mine, but the style will be very similar. I am so exited. It should be arriving any day now!! I'll be sure to post pictures when I get it constructed.

Deb I love that Lou knows you so well he gave you that lovely old ladder as part of your christmas gift and knew you would love it,
we tread in the footspets of others all the time, it's nice to find nice evidence occassionally, the Blackcurrants and Primula vulgaris mentioned in my post are from the previous owners, the Blackcurrant has too big a root to be moved though, I just hope who ever buys my house when I'm gone will love plants and nature and not rip it all out,
you have some beautiful blooms most of which will not thrive in my garden, I love the columbine,
Deb re berries are there any native berries you could try, Frances

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIsland Threads

I am very sure Mrs. Dearing would be quite pleased. You have created such a beautiful garden on the property she once owned and being a gardener, it would be certain she is smiling whereever she might be. It was kind of you to transplant the plants she likely tended.

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

What beautiful columbine! I'm sure Mrs. Dearing would be thrilled that part of her garden still lives on and is being taken care of by another garden. The ladder is so special as well - what a great gift! How nice to have such stories and history in your garden.

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

I have a green threadleaf Japanese maple as well, and I think it is especially beautiful at this time of year. Your spring photos are lovely. It is interesting to carry on the legacy of someone else....you do it so well.

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Sage Butterfly

I'm sure Mrs. Dearing would love you and be thrilled that you've created a garden. I put in a garden at my house in upstate NY that the new owners neglected. I always hope the the next owners will revive it. Our gardens are always bigger than just us. :o)

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Hi Deb, It has been about 10 years since the old gardener up the street passed away, but every year his garden springs to life. I do believe that there is a little bit of immortality in a garden.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

So glad you have such special memories in your garden! I hope that when we leave our home we will leave such special memories behind!

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Bama Gardener

When we bought our property it was nothing but lawn and some Japanese hollies carved into meatballs. However, it was a clean slate to start fresh---still working on getting rid of the lawn.

This post of yours is very inspiring as well as touching. The garden is fortunate to have you as its new gardener. Mrs. Dearing would be proud and thankful of you. The garden looks lovely and the plants lovelier.

It is every gardeners hope that their gardens will live on. The legacy left by Mrs. Dearing is now in your able hands. She would indeed be proud.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Debs, you've done so well in your garden that the 'memories of the past' should be pleased. Your garden never fails to amaze with such colour and vibrancy :)

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

What a perfect way to start my day - srolling through your spring garden visiting friends neither of us has met yet have brought such joy. A beautiful post.

Our season is about a month behind yours - the apple tree has barely shown its buds and roses are merely a promise.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

Yes, I often think that I should feel something of previous people who lived in our house. Your pictures really did cheer me up on this very miserable day.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

What a lovely post. And a wonderful garden. Your Japanese maples are beautiful. I think any ghost would be happy to stay there forever.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

While in England last month I visited Denman's a garden I had wanted to see for some time. It was shocking how it had dated, how so many shrubs were so far past their best - but the trees were wonderful and I think it will be your wonderful wood that will endure and leave your voice in the garden. Christina

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Oh Deb, this is a dear and touching post about Mrs. Dearing and the artist . . . and your presence too will always be there for others who follow. You have created a wondrous garden . . . magical and stunning. Your gorgeous photos prove that beyond doubt. Lush and Lovely!! A joy to visit.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarolflowerhill
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