Unlocking the mystery of hidden flower gardens


A recent trip in Holmes County through the wonderful world of farming – the way I remember it – was quite satisfying as always.

Some of these images included well-managed fields and crops, orderly gleaming white homes and barns, hillsides dotted with dairy stock, stately Belgium bay draft horses, and well-groomed horses employed to pull the buggies.

One of the features I most admire are the well-kept kitchen gardens – part of the yesteryears around here, but too much work.

Beautiful. Another garden appearing in modern homesteads are those that are along the lot’s edge and are the reduced form of yesteryear’s flower gardens. In the European areas these displays of God-given beauty still prevail.

As a youth in Unity, Ohio, and North Benton, Ohio, I used to walk around the villages often. This walk included passing a beautiful garden of flowering plants in many sizes and rainbows of color.

God’s grace. These delightful displays of color that were planned, laid out and then tended to in a way similar to those of the Colonial days were serene and worthy of God’s grace.

Many ardent flower gardeners have showy paintings of one or two the flowers, however, the actual yesteryear gardens were alive with different species and colors.

The gardens were planted with peonies, dahlias, foxglove, lupine and other similar plants along the gardens’ edges. Zinnias, marigolds, tulips and daffodils were planted on the rows’ ends.

Shrubs were planted near the garden but not too close to shadow the flowers.

The paths were bordered with baby’s breath, crocuses, snow drops and similar low-growing flowers.

Map of flowers. My granddad’s and mother’s gardens were not limited to just these species. Every type of flower was attempted and many were successful.

During my early years in Unity, my mother and I visited a neighbor who had a large flower garden fenced in by a 6-foot fence that couldn’t be seen by the public.

Hidden garden. This older gentleman had rounded shoulders, possibly from the constant weeding and hoeing that he seemed to enjoy doing constantly. His features were as brown as the soil he tended and his attitude as pleasant as the flowers that surrounded him.

In the enclosed garden, borders of peonies crowded the paths, and honeysuckle, low-trimmed crab apples and quince trees were planted at the end of the rows. Currents, gooseberries and blueberries were nearby.

There were outstanding stands of foxglove and lupines in radiant pinks, blues and purples. There were also white tall dahlias, at least 8 feet tall with blooms as big as baskets.

Dense flowering plants were everywhere and it appeared so crowded that there appeared to be little room for other plants. Nevertheless, the older gentleman was always putting a new plant in a small place in the ground.

Mystery. What fragrances arose from that garden! They tempted the outsider with wonder about what was behind that tall wooden fence. The ever-present scent from bordering pines was overcome during the summer months with flower smells that hung over the garden. It was like a vale of mist.

Perhaps the most noticeable and distinctive scent that brings back memories was sweet Williams, with its homey smell. Another distinctive smell is phlox and other late-blooming flowers, which are the last sweet-scented flowers of autumn.

One of the most cheerful flowers in our gardens is the happy-faced pansy that under many fanciful names has always been loved and admired. It’s Italian name means “idle thoughts” and in German, “little stepmother.” Shakespeare quoted maidens, naming them “love in idleness.”


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