I had a call from a reader in Harrodsburg who wanted to trim a flowering shrub as soon as it quit blooming. She wanted to trim so it would be fuller and shorter and wondered if she had her facts right about the timing. It may be that others also wonder when to trim back flowering shrubs. The best time is right after the blooms have dropped off. Then trim all you want because the blooms for next year will only form on the new stems. My grandmother believed that cutting big armloads of flowering shrubs was good for the bush and she was so right. Sharing those flowers is the best thing for the plant. Ma would give me fruit jars to fill with flowers from all over her yard. Sometimes I even cut branches of their peach trees and one of my favorite flowers was the branches of the black locus. Whenever I was at her house, every room would be full of flowers.
Some of my most favorite flowers were the wild flowers that bloomed along the road and along the creek. My mother wouldn’t let me gather them because of the copperheads which abounded on both farms. But Ma would take me to the creek or in the wooded area behind her house and I would stand in the road while she took her walking stick and made a trip to pick bluebells, Indian paint brush or wild sweet Williams and others which were more rare.
Ma grew up in a houseful of brothers and they were fond of playing tricks on their little sister. Knowing her love of flowers, they would often pick her flowers from the woods. Once a brother brought her a folded big leaf and said, “Sally, I brought you something pretty.” She reached for it and when she unfolded it, there was a little snake all curled up and she nearly fainted. She would still get mad at that brother after all those years.
Some of my fondest memories were the trips which she and I made to the woods behind her house. We found many rare flowers such as the wild larkspur, trillium and others. She would only go on those forays when Pa was away in the farthest fields and I was always aware that he would not approve of our little trips to gather flowers. She always had a small spade and a few little sacks in case she found something to dig up to add to her wild flower garden. Her space in the back garden for her wild flowers was made up of dirt which she brought from the woods and it was located in partial shade which resembled the places where they grew in the wild. Therefore her little wild flower garden was full of wild plants which thrived.
After my family moved away, about thirty miles, I was unable to share all those times with Ma but I always spent part of each summer with Ma and Pa and I had great times with both of them. There were other sharing times with Ma in summer. She taught me to quilt when I was so small that she had to put the Sears catalogs on a chair to make me tall enough to reach the quilt frame. She had taught me to crochet but we went up another grade level. Ma always managed to find time to sit on the front porch to enjoy the breeze which would sweep across from the opposite hill across the road from them. Then was when I learned of her childhood and her trying times caring for her invalid mother and doing all the work with several brothers still at home. She always talked as if it was a pleasure to care for her mother. I could just imagine a fourteen year old left with her sisters grown and married and all the cooking, cleaning, washing, canning, etc. all left on her young shoulders. Her father, who could not lighten her work load any other way, would assign her youngest brother to stay at home on the busiest days. She always spoke of her father as “my dear old daddy” and would shed a tear when talking of the long years her mother was bedfast. She had broken a hip and never healed. She also probably had diabetes from Ma’s description.
When I was at Ma’s, I always took part in whatever she did, whether it was washing and ironing or gathering eggs or chasing down the baby chickens when a storm came up. Ma’s old hens each had a little house and a little fence attached so the babies could get out and in and she would let the old hens out every morning. Those little houses were her own invention and a story for another day.
I also was responsible for taking down the telephone wire when it stormed so it wouldn’t attract the lightening. This was a neighborhood system; each house was one long and one short or some other number. That was a frightening chore when the storms came and lightening flashed and little me up on a board reaching for that wire. But for me, it was all a part of being with Ma.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.