Saving the Gardens for Miss Margaret

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An historic house and garden, full of heirloom bulbs, was rumored to be torn down. Gardeners try to preserve the lost and forgotten bulbs... a beautiful life lesson in discovering a flower's will to live.

Honestly, it’s hard to find the desire to go outside in 118 degrees. The heat is unrelenting and oppressive….an environmental pressure cooker. The gardens just stare at me as if they are saying  “Make it stop!!!!”  Bright yellow leaves are falling all around, as flowers just  hang their faces towards the earth.

Gardeners  know that it is impossible to fight Mother Nature during extreme heat waves. Drought, hard freezes, storms and floods are simply part of weather cycles.   

As a “bulber” (That’s slang for someone who lives and breathes bulbs) I am grateful that heirloom bulbs see beyond the elements. The present day triple digit temperatures will soon be just a fleeting thought for these old bulbs. I imagine these old bulbs as old Texas ranchers. “Remember the heat wave and drought of 1953? Ah yes, good times!” Heirloom bulbs are in it for the long haul. In fact, I’m always amazed at a bulb’s sheer will to live.

I recently visited Rockdale, Texas. In the 1900’s, Rockdale was a thriving town full of historic homes and gardens. Milan County has a rich German heritage, and Oxblood Lilies can be found naturalizing in old homesteads.

One particular house that always caught my eye. A stately, two story, brick home that boasted architectural features that were pure ‘eye-candy’ for this architect’s daughter. Dark wooden, spiral staircases, elaborate crown molding, and stained glass made this house look like something right of Martha Stewart’s imagination……but the gardens were truly something to behold.

The gardens of this old house were known throughout Milan County. Spider Lilies and Oxblood Lilies lined quaint brick walkways, which wove their way around the house. Paperwhites and a variety of Daffodils grew around the front porch, greeting people with year-round garden cheer. There were Crinums, Iris and Star of Bethlehem planted lovingly around old, historic trees. Certainly, this was a deeply adored home and garden.

Then, one day, the house grew silent……

Weeds grew up and choked the landscape.

Shutters fell and hung raggedly onto the house.

Years of summer heat waves and drought went by…….

Lightening struck, and fire swept through the historic house. 

The old house was left exposed and in ruins. 

Rumors of the tear down simply broke my heart. The house semed to just give up. Little life was left in the property……that is, except for the heirloom bulbs. 

The bulbs seemed almost oblivious to the falling down, vacant estate. The old bulbs just  kept on happily blooming, just like they had for the past 100 years. Over the next few years, the Masters Gardeners, Historical Society and flower lovers, like myself, tried to salvage as much of the old house and gardens as possible. 

My final visit to the old house felt like saying goodbye to an old friend. I stood in silence and surveyed the barren property.

The trees were gone. 

The little brick pathways were gone.

The stained glass and spiral staircases were gone. 

The entire property had been flattened, and all that remained of the stately old house were piles of dirt and debris.

There is an erie silence when trees have been torn down. The birds seem to understand the loss, and stop singing their songs that once filled the air. All I could see was brown piles of rubble and little green things sticking up like grass.

“Wait……What? Little green things?”

I had to just shake my head and smile.

Of course these bulbs would survive a bulldozer!!! Why wouldn’t they? They are heirlooms! A little cut here and there is no match for a 100 year old bulb. So I began to reach down and started pulling up the bulbs, one by one, to freedom. The little grass-like foliage was like a bulb hand reaching up through the debris.  Many of the bulbs were completely broken and  damaged. To most people, easily discarded…..but I still picked them up. 

Over the next few months, I loved seeing the ways the bulbs continued to live. Most of the damaged bulbs started putting energy into making new little baby bulbs, eventually putting all the bulb energy into the next generation…..literally, saving itself through it’s offspring.  Parents do that for our children……I just had no idea a bulb would too. Lots of life lessons, my friends…..too many to share in just one flower blog. An heirloom bulb is the quintessential example of something that will beat all odds in order to live. The poster child for strength, perseverance and fortitude. A good example to all of my other flowers on how to handle the heat and drought!!!  

Some locals came by amazed at the girl in the dirt, digging broken bits of bulbs on a very hot Texas day.

They just smiled…..

“Miss Margaret sure did love her gardens.”

I smiled too. I knew that her beloved bulbs from her gardens would be well preserved. 

“Want some bulbs?” 

That moment started the ‘Great Oxblood Giveaway’  To date, Miss Margaret’s bulbs have been sent out, free of charge, from Oregon to the Carolinas, and many states in between. Miss Margaret’s gardens became a beautiful example of hope, inspite of what might  happen around us.

The will to live is in all of us…..even in flowers. The heat, the drought, the storms and the tear-downs of life can really effect a flower’s will to live. Some of us, like flowers,  have more ‘grit’ than others and  really do stand against all odds…..like Miss Margaret’s  heirloom bulbs. A bulb’s perseverance and endurance is a beautiful reminder to all of us, whether is storm or in garden favor…..

We are all just waiting for our season to bloom. 

Happy gardening, my friends. 

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.