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November 20, 2008 - Janet DelTurco
We lost a gardener this past weekend. My sister-in-law, Evelyn learned to garden from her mother, Katie, and she tended the same garden for well over 80 years. The house where she lived, first with her parents and sisters, and later with her husband Jim, was a log cabin, originally sitting where the old post office, or Columbian annex, is now. The house was moved to Grammes Street many years ago, while Evelyn was still a child, and there Katie planted her garden. Though there were minor changes, especially in the later years, some of the flowers, trees and shrubs endured through the years. Katie’s roses were especially beautiful, and mother and daughter took great care of them. They grew in front of the house and in an island bed in the back garden; climbers, shrub roses and a few lovely hybrids, their names long lost. On both sides of the front porch, a favorite summer sitting area, were clematis. One white and one purple, they grew vigorously for the most part. I can remember a few times that the white ones succumbed to clematis wilt overnight, as clematis sometimes do, and Evelyn took this as a personal affront. Most of her flowers were gifts from friends or family members, and it was always a sad time when “Hildy’s white clematis” or “Irma’s double purple” would die. But there was always a replacement, and even now the purple Jackmanii flourishes on the side of the porch on its ancient trellis. Stargazer lilies were Katie’s favorite, and Evelyn took very few possessions to the nursing home three years ago, but a vase of silk stargazers were among them. When we bought the house next door, I knew I would get plenty of gardening advice, which I badly needed at the time. But when I did not follow her suggestions, she made no secret of her disapproval! She loved peonies, and I was in disgrace for years when I dug out a whole row of them in my yard. And there were some mustardy yellow yarrow that I detested, and I dug them out a little at a time, trying to make it look as if it failed to thrive. But she was on to me I lived next door to her for almost fifty years, and she gave me many of my flowers over the years. Grape hyacinths, daffodils, and sedum are ones that come quickly to mind as they have spread until I have now shared them with other friends. I am sure that cuttings or roots exist in gardens all over Seneca County that had their start on Grammes St. My rhubarb came from Jim and Evelyn’s vegetable garden, and every year she shared berries, apples, peaches and cherries with all the neighbors. I looked forward to bunches of asparagus every year, until one time she told a friend who mowed for her to “cut the darn stuff down”, it was getting too much to take care of. And there it went. As her strength waned, she was determined to keep Katie’s flowers blooming, and worked long hours outside in all weathers to keep things looking neat. I remember one day she told me that she was so tired she had to crawl up the back steps to get back into the house. She also told me that I should never tell anyone about that. And now I have broken that promise. But I think she wouldn’t mind now. Goodbye, Evelyn, I will always keep those garden memories green.
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