January 2018

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, September 2012

State Fair zinnias

When I think of my friend Sue’s yard, I see zinnias, ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea and Rocky Mountain Red geraniums. These were her favorite plants.

She loved State Fair Mix. Every year, she’d buy a flat to plant the annuals in the sunny back corner of her yard around the false indigo (Baptisia). Not too long after she moved into her house, I got a start of the baptisia, which has grown into a large healthy plant in my yard.

We met nearly 40 years ago, each of us married with young sons. We were in a group with several other couples and we’d get together every few weeks or so for dinners on Saturday nights. We’d play group Jeopardy! or charade.

We had a lot in common. Sue worked at a garden center in Broad Ripple called the Hoosier Gardener, and I worked in my uncle’s garden center, Heidenreich Greenhouses, on the southside. We went to Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, each of us on a multiyear study plan, which meant we didn’t graduate until our thirties, her with a degree in religious studies and me in education and journalism.

We had many weekly dinners and watched dozens of movies together. She got me watching Law & Order, taught me about Umberto Eco and read Tarot cards. She also read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. She turned me onto Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series of detective novels one day when I called her from an airport, asking her to recommend something for me to take on the plane.

Sue died Sept. 11, 2012 and while I’m rich with memories, it will be the baptisia and zinnias that will always remind me of her.

Mock orange. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

My friend Linda gave me a clump of no-name mock orange (Philadelphus) when I moved here. It came from her late grandmother’s century-old farm in Illinois. Every time I smell the mock orange, I think of Linda’s generosity. I also think of my late mother, who loved mock orange and had a few worked into her wedding bouquet.

Jim Story was the very first person to send me a letter when I started writing my weekly gardening column in The Indianapolis Star in 1989. He gave me a prairie trillium (T. recurvatum), which blooms every spring, and a tiny, no-name hosta. Jim died in 2005 and when I see these plants, I am reminded of Jim’s generosity and all the lessons I learned from him, especially about gourds.

Cathy Peachey gave me a Clivia miniata a short time before she died of breast cancer in 1994. Cathy owned a couple of CATH Inc., coffee shops, where they served pecan sticky buns that rivaled the memory of my German great grandmother’s. The lemon bars weren’t bad, either.

Clivia miniata. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I divided the clivia and gave it to Sue. Not too long ago, I divided it again and gave it to Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens, where Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day was born.

These stories about plants and the memories they hold offer comfort when I walk through the garden. And though none of these is in its prime on this Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, they are blooming in my heart.


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