My Missouri Life: The editor’s notebook.

There are stories in the March/April 2022 issue of Missouri Life magazine that celebrate gardening, and frankly, that makes me uneasy. I’m afraid my proximity to successful gardeners might somehow blight their efforts.

I grew up in a home filled with houseplants and surrounded by lush, well-tended gardens. My mother adored plants and they seemed to love her in return. I, on the other hand, was allowed to tend an air fern, and even then, I suspect it was silently screaming for rescue.

It took years and a lot of dead plants for me to accept the fact that I’m a lousy gardener. I start off strong in the spring with mulched beds and herbs lovingly planted in pretty containers. Then I forget to water them. I stick shade-lovers in the sun and sun-lovers in the shade. Insects munch on the leaves.

My mother watched my doomed attempts year after year, and while she cheered me on, she rarely offered me a plant from her garden, knowing she would be sending a thriving specimen to its untimely demise.

In 2020, though, she gave me one more chance. She was in her nineties and no longer able to tend her gardens, so she asked me to dig up the irises she had collected and grown for years. I’m not sure what possessed me to take them, but I agreed and planted them near my row of daylilies—the only plant low-maintenance enough to survive me to date.

Spring 2021 came and went with a few halfhearted iris blooms, but the plants were still alive and for me, that was the victory.

In late October, my mother passed away. It stormed that day, but even if the sun had been shining, the world would have seemed grayer. Then, out of the pre-winter gloom, a bit of green appeared. The day after Mom died, a shoot emerged from amid the pruned iris leaves in my front garden bed. That couldn’t be a bud, could it?

Yet as October turned to November and morning frosts painted the grass, that shoot grew and formed more buds, and the buds turned into glorious, yellow, out-of-season blooms.

People who are smarter about plants than I am, which is just about everyone, say that when I cleaned out the flower beds in the fall, I activated the plant’s regrowth. Maybe. But I choose to believe it was a message from Mom, telling me that she’s OK, that she’s with me, and that I sure as heck better not kill her flowers.

PS: We’re cultivating a team of volunteer Missouri Life Ambassadors to keep us in touch with every county in Missouri. If you love to brag about your county, stop by for the details.