“My Grandmother’s Garden Series” – Mabel’s Garden

Garden — By on February 1, 2009 4:25 pm

When I was a little girl, I lived in a rural area in central Indiana. I grew up within a “Yours, Mine and Ours” family (which is the common family type these days) and therefore had three Grandmothers. All were unique in attitude and mindset and all had there own garden at one point or another. Over the next few posts I will write about each Grandmother and her garden. In return, I hope you will write me and tell me about yours.

= = = = = =Aunt Loretta and Grandma Riggle

Grandma Mabel was the tiniest woman I have ever known – perhaps coming from her Irish heritage. She had size one shoes and stood well beneath five feet tall. Her hair was perpetually white and she always had a smile and kind word for everyone. She was mother to five children and taught them all a strong work ethic and the love of books. Here she is with her oldest daughter, my Aunt Loretta; Grandma is on the right. Mabel’s farm was in Central Indiana. I remember it as a large group of buildings, barns and outhouses, all cleanly white washed – with a beautiful white picket fence surrounding the home. My Aunt Loretta still lives on the property.

Grandma took time to listen to me. She spent hours with me talking, playing games like scrabble and cards and generally making me smile. For breakfast she often had a piece of crispy toast in a saucer. She would poor half a cup of coffee over it like soup and eat the toast, coffee and all. I later learned that is a way many Irish farmers used up day-old bread.

Indiana Country Meadow

Although Grandma grew many things on her farm when it was fully operational, by the time I came around the farm had stopped producing. Her vegetable garden, which was used for canning and growing all sorts of vegetables which helped support her family, had been given up long ago. Grandma did not have a traditional garden when I was a part of her life, but she gifted me with her knowledge in spite of that. She had fields and pastures of country meadow. I remember climbing trees, walking fences and riding ponies through pastures of green grass with my cousins while she watched over us.

Grandma knew every herb, medicinal plant and dozens of wildflowers by their country name. We would walk through flowering fields and she could tell me which plants were poisonous, helpful or simply beautiful. It was a delight for me that she cared enough to teach me the details. Although her garden was not traditional like others I knew; its content seemed far wealthier.

Queen Anne's LaceMy favorite activity with her was to pick Queen Anne’s Lace to put in  a vase in her kitchen. We would color the water red with food coloring and within a day the white flowers would be changed a lively red too. When I was small that simple act was nothing short of a miracle. To Grandma it was a science lesson I needed to understand and learn. Everything was a lesson.

In my mind, because of Grandma, a garden is definitively more than a “traditional” perennial bed. She died 15 years ago, but her love continues in my heart. Her gardening inspiration has lasted my entire life and she’s taught me that life is what you make of it. Hard work produces results. She learned to work with what she had and improvise when she did not have money or knowledge. I think that is excellent advice! Follow Mabel’s example – - enjoy what you have and make the best of it.

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!

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2 Comments

  1. Grannie Lane, my namesake, until she was 94, grew only gladiolas, tall and straight like her.

  2. TC says:

    Isn’t it neat how so many of our grandmothers sound like they could be everybody’s grandma? My paternal grandmother was tiny, and hoary headed, with a smile each and every time you saw her. I remember her cathead biscuits and gravy, and watchin her cook on a wood stove. Alas, I didn’t have the privilege of learning much about gardening from her, but from the stories my Mother tells me, she could grow a stick of fire wood.

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