The BamaSteelMagnolia (TM) Diaries – Chapter 5: How Green is My Thumb or Grandmother’s Flower Garden, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 5: How Green is My Thumb or Grandmother’s Flower Garden

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I’m going to tell you a little known fact about me…I am just a few credit hours short of an Associate Degree in Horticulture. So, what happened? Well, in April 1976 while I was in school, Gomez the ex had a car accident and broke his neck at placed called the hangman’s vertebrae. (I have been told this is the same place Christopher Reeve broke his neck.)

We had been married for 18 months and the accident actually happened while he was on the job. I had kept busy that day doing newlywed daily “stuff”. Late in the afternoon I prepared a nice dinner in anticipation for his arrival home. I don’t know what to call it, but sometime along the way a “feeling” had overtaken me. I was awash in a sense that something was wrong…very wrong. I just couldn’t shake it.

When the ex failed to show up at dinner time and no phone call came telling me he would be working late, that “feeling” just deepened. As the day darkened, so did my uneasiness. Finally just as dusk was setting in I heard a rap on my front door. When I answered it Daddy was standing there…and I knew.

Daddy stepped inside and said, “Honey, Gomez has been in a little fender bender and they have him down at the hospital. We need to go down there.”

As we raced to the hospital I was filled in on some of the details. Somehow, Gomez’ parents had been informed before me and they had gone to the hospital, seen him, then called Daddy who came to tell me in person.

When I arrived at the hospital Gomez was in the ER and I (even though I was his wife) wasn’t allowed to see him. I had to wait for what seemed like hours while they stabilized him before I could see him. Then they finally wheeled him out of the ER on a gurney to move him straight to ICU. When I saw him I thought I would faint, but I was faintly crying and tried to keep my composure.

Gomez raised his hand up off the gurney, waved me over to him and said, “Straighten up.” What the heck kind of response is that to a worried, concerned bride. I should have known then things just weren’t quite right…

The doctor filled me in on the details…broken neck…ICU…traction…surgery…fade to black…

That spring and summer was spent in a blur as Gomez was in the hospital. He had surgery which involved taking a plug of bone out of his hip, placing it between his broken neck bones and then reinforcing that with a steel plate. He was sent home to recover after almost a month in the hospital and that summer was spent taking care of him while he recovered.

For a while we stayed with my folks in the beginning in case I needed help lifting him. I had to shave him, help feed him, help him in and out of the shower and anytime he had to get out of bed put this huge body brace on him. Much later he graduated to a soft neck collar and then he could take care of personal needs more independently. By August he was ready to return to work for half days.

Of course during this time school became a non-issue for me…it just fell by the wayside. Then come August I started a job with a local bank and I never went back to finish the Horticulture…sometime later I did go back and take Early Childhood Ed. classes…another tidbit about me…

My first apartment had been filled with house plants…polka dot plants, prayer plants, asparagus ferns, ripple plants, mother-in-law tongues, jade plants…it was a veritable green house. I even had a terrarium for while. Remember those?

There was a little lady that lived in Trussville, AL name Mrs. Leath and she had a greenhouse in her back yard. She sold plants out of her greenhouse and years later that venture turned into a thriving business for her and she had to move it out of her backyard. She was my source…

Later, when I had my first house I kept up my houseplants, but I began to take interest in my yard. I wasn’t into “yard work” but, I was discovering gardening. Where did this come from?!

I began planting things…it was trial and error for a while. But before it was all said and done and we moved from that house I had between 35 and 50 azaleas. I’d planted dogwoods, crepe myrtles, the standby monkey grass and Rose of Sharon. My surrogate grandparents and neighbors, the Loveladys, mentored us and we actually had planted several full fledged veggie gardens…tomatoes, garlic, beans, squash, zucchini and cucumber. The Loveladys were also generous in sharing lilies, irises and other plants they had…some considered heirloom.

Lovelady Iris

Lovelady Iris

Orange Daylily

Orange Day Lily for the Loveladys

By my second house I had given up on house plants, was building a gardening library with books, books, books and great gardening magazines. I planted more azaleas, Stargazer Lilies, Ginger Lilies, Burning Bushes, Black-eyed Susan, Hellebores, lavender, hosta, columbine, gomphrena, more tomatoes, Japanese maples, pieris japonica, Mahonia…well, you get the idea…I was a landscaping fool…

Azaleas 2

My azaleas this year…

Blue-green Hosta (2)

My Hosta

I drove by that house not too long ago and was crest fallen to see that the current owners had pulled everything up, chopped down the trees, azaleas, gardenia and just have poorly kept grass…

So where does this love for growing green things come from?

Well, I have to say it must be a family thing. Is it genetic? I can’t say, but I do know this. My great-grandmother, Becky Shafer McGee, the very woman who inspired me to quilt is said to have been a woman with a green thumb. My Momma, Becky’s granddaughter, says Becky could grow anything.

Then there was my granddaddy, or PaGee as I called him. PaGee was the man with the tomatoes…and the marigolds…and the green thumb he evidently got from his momma, Becky. PaGee’s tomatoes got him a color photo on the front page of the local paper.

PaGee & tomatos #2

PaGee and his tomatoes…this is the picture that was in the newspaper

Momma was next in line…PaGee’s daughter. Even to this day we have to watch Momma because she will get out in the yard and piddle around with her things for so long she is red faced when she comes in. Worried we’ll ask, “Momma, have you been out too long and over done it?” Of course the answer is never yes. There is never too much dirt under our finger nail…

Just the other day Mom called and told me about going up to my house and getting some clippings and some seeds of some things in my yard that she wanted to try and root so she could have some for her yard.


Mom’s peony

My Papaw, Daddy’s dad always had a garden, too…and cotton. Going to his house I would pretend I was in “old timey” days and Papaw would let me pick peanuts or cotton. That was a big deal for a gal of the `burbs like me.

Jonas Hicks - PaPaw circa late 1950's or early 1960's

Papaw – Jonas J Hicks

So, I have been influenced and mentored along the way most of my life by gardeners of all kinds. Some by blood, some by example and some by both.

That is why the Grandmother’s Flower Garden block is in my diary quilt. Gardening and a love of green, growing things have been and are an important part of my life.

This was a simple, fun little block to make and is a mixed technique piece. I first pieced the “petals” of the flower together using the English paper-piecing method (on freezer paper), then I hand appliquéd it onto the background square. Easy peasy!

Grandmother's Glower Garden

Grandmother’s Flower Garden

So this one is for all the inspiring gardeners and all the wonderful growing green things in my life…

© 2010 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “The BamaSteelMagnolia (TM) Diaries – Chapter 5: How Green is My Thumb or Grandmother’s Flower Garden, by Beverly Hicks Burch

  1. Hey, Sugar.

    Great article. Your Mom got that look in her eye when she saw some of her plants…yes, even on this day when the heat index is probably 110 degree F. Loved the photo of PaGee. The other one we have, taken at the same time, is quiet faded. I’ll have to send this photo to our picture file and get Sweat Pea one on photo paper for her to display. Aren’t the Peonia and the lillies georgeous. Hopefully we can get a new garden started on the bank just below our lower drive way.

    Thanks for the heads up on the article.


    Diddy and Momma

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