My greatgrandmother’s primroses. They grew in the garden in Little Compton, Rhode Island, where she lived with my grandparents for a while. I called her Wrinkly Granny, and she taught me how to wiggle my ears. She is still one of the most fabulous women I’ve ever known. And here she is, bright yellow, growing in my garden. They came to me via my dad and mom’s garden, where they treasured them in the same way I do now.
The primroses are the only really antique plants I have – but I have plants from my parent’s garden in Kingston – day lillies and peonies and perennial sweet peas. There are other plants that are from the people I love in spirit only: hellebore, lillies of the valley, lilac.
I wondered recently why the hydrangeas out front seemed special to me, when they are really very common plants. And I remembered a huge, wonderful hydrangea in my parent’s back yard, and how when my grandmother lay dying I cut a huge bouquet of them for her room, and how glad I was to have those flowers so near to her at her passing.
I can’t imagine a garden without memory. It would be a sterile thing.