Last night, a gardening pal and I joined a group of our fellow Master Gardeners for a couple of "garden walks." These walks are usually fairly close to town -- but last night we drove far out into the country. Dirt roads, barns, corn fields stretching on for acres, and even a big Christmas tree farm. We were so far out in the country that Siri wouldn't have been able to help us if we had gotten lost! (Luckily, we didn't.)
We almost didn't go. I've got a wedding in (gulp) 9 days. My friend - who just returned from a week's vacation up north - is flying out to the west coast for another this morning. Really. Neither of us had time for this.
But we went. And I'm so glad we did!
Both gardens we visited . . . were dahlia farms (one for business; one for sheer love of dahlias).
Dahlias are just gorgeous flowers. Stunning, in fact -- and especially so when you see big fields of them, all different types and colors and sizes! They are truly the stars of late summer and fall gardens -- blooming and putting on quite a show when pretty much everything else is winding down.
Dahlias are also a lot of work -- and especially at a tough time of year to be out in the garden! Because dahlias grow from tubers, and those tubers need to be dug up each fall (but not until AFTER the first hard frost) and lovingly stored in a cold (but not freezing), dry location where they overwinter until the threat of frost is passed each spring. I can't even begin to imagine the work these gardeners do -- to dig up and overwinter and re-plant thousands of dahlia tubers each year.
But, oh my! What a payoff!
In addition to their obvious charms, dahlias hold a very special place in my heart.
My mom loved dahlias.
She always grew them in her own garden, and was constantly trying various methods of overwintering her tubers. (Her condo did not quite have a cold enough storage space, so often her tubers got moldy over the winter.) When I was going through my mom's files last fall, I came across a huge file folder stuffed with articles and information she had printed out from the Internet -- all about overwintering dahlias. (Hope springs eternal when you're a gardener. . .) I always gave my mom at least one dahlia plant for Mother's Day. We marveled at their beauty every year when they bloomed -- and especially when they made it through to bloom the next season.
I've been thinking about my mom a lot these last few weeks.
It was a year ago now that my mom's health was in rapid decline. It was a very hard time for me. I was struggling with decisions, shock, feelings of helplessness, the burdens of responsibility. But most of all, I was struggling with overwhelming sadness.
Those feelings are all re-surfacing now, a year later. Missing my mom . . . and replaying all the not-so-pleasant parts there toward the end.
But being surrounded by dahlias last night turned out to be a surprising gift.
It was like I flipped a switch in my head.
Instead of remembering all the hard stuff of a year ago, I started remembering all the happy times of gardening with my mom instead.
How much she loved dahlias.
How delighted she would have been to see so many dahlias -- all in one place.
How each dahlia . . . was kind of like my mom . . . smiling right at me.
I'm in a much better place now.
Flowers are magical.