Possumhaw: Parent of plants

October 26, 2020 10:31:32 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


"I grow plants for many reasons: to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty, or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow."


-- David Hobson, Southern Living




Last week for three days I took on the task of sweeping leaves off the porches, the deck leading to the lake, and the bridge over the spillway. Piles of leaves fell in batches every night. Sam suggested the leaf blower, but I enjoy sweeping leaves the old-fashioned way. It's such an autumn thing to do. There's no right or wrong way to do it. It's a quiet activity. Only the sounds of leaves crackling beneath one's feet and the swishing of the broom.


Under different circumstances, having leaves daily covering porches, deck and bridge might be frustrating, but during this season of home confinement it's become a pleasure. Many things are more pleasurable now. Of course, some things are not. I won't list the "not pleasurable" activities or lack of fun activities. We all know what those are. For some people more so than others.


When I must go to town, I quickly become anxious to return home again. Nowadays my motto is, "Never do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow." It's a pleasure to have time to plant fall mums, pansies,and dianthus. The spring and summer plants have gone into the greenhouse where I examine them, fertilize and water, prune and repot as needed. The other day I saw a T-shirt. Heidi was wearing a shirt with "Parent of plants" on the front. Perfect! When you care for plants it does seem like you parent them as you would a puppy, a kitten, a bunny or a goldfish.


Don't let me deceive you. I'm not a good gardener. There's a beautiful purple clematis vine growing over an arbor in the perennial garden. Every spring I enjoy the wonder of its purple beauties. Then as weather gets searing hot, the clematis dies back. This has happened every year for a decade.


This stay-at-home year I joined Instagram. A friend posted a picture of her blooming purple clematis. Immediately I inquired as to how hers continued blooming and mine did not. She asked, "Do you water it? If you water it the blooms will continue 'til frost." Immediately I began to water the vine, and the flowers are still blooming.


In downtown Columbus the gingko trees are heavy with bright yellow leaves. A sure sign of fall. I will never see a gingko without thinking of Alan Smith. Years ago, after seeing the trees, I drove to Smith's Landscaping and inquired of Alan about buying a few small trees. He asked where I lived. I answered, "I live here."


"Where exactly," he pressed. I knitted my brows and answered.


He said, "You can't grow a gingko in the Prairie."


My lip quivered, "What can I grow?"


"Possumhaw is native to the Prairie. It can grow 20 feet or more. The dark green foliage will turn brownish-yellow in fall; there will be white flowers in spring and red berries throughout winter."


And so, it did. And so, it did.



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.