A GROWING CONCERN: Memories of mother with snapdragons and ‘liking butter’

IT’S MOTHERS DAY and that has me in a reflective mood as I look back on being an orphan for the last 5 years.

I miss my parents, naturally, but I am fortunate enough to have adopted many of their fine attributes.

They both had received their masters degrees in floriculture from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. This made for interesting post-greenhouse work and table conversations.

My mother so enjoyed life, always commenting on how whatever we were doing was “the best time ever.”

What was really awesome about that was that you, whoever you were, always felt it was true.

Of course, plants and especially flowers were her playground [floriculture: the cultivation and management of ornamental and especially flowering plants].

And we, her children, were some of her most cherished playmates.

A great memory I have, and that I have performed myself over the decades, is “snapdragon puppetry.”

If one breaks off an individual flower from a snapdragon bloom and then lightly pinch both sides together, their namesake dragon face shows as the throat and mouth open and appear. You then can squeeze and release in order to have them talk.

My mother would gather several colors and varieties, and sometimes, with a fine tip marker, add on dragon-like facial features — and away the puppet presentation would ensue.

With character development, life lessons or just sheer childish amusement, the dialogue and short performances of these spontaneous productions would unfold.

It was fun, memorable and in deep reflection, admired.

Here on the Olympic Peninsula, snapdragons are an amazing garden performer that blooms from now until the heavy frost of late fall.

Outstanding cut-flower varieties which doubled as said “performers” included the Rocket Series.

My mother used them then and they are still used today as a standard florist cut-flower because of their very sturdy stems and large showy “dragon flowers.”

They are available in a myriad of colors, as are the Sonnet Series — a heavily branched, wind-resistant cut-flower snapdragon.

Try some snapdragons and “break a leg.”

Now, no conversation about my mother is nearly complete without the mention of her pansies and violas.

These plants bloomed very early and late, even in the gardens of the “frozen tundra” which is part of the north — Green Bay, Wis.

So they truly are just amazing here on the wonderfully mild Peninsula, especially in your garden.

My mom was almost hypnotized by the cheery little faces found on the bright, colorful flowers of pansies and violas.

Because these plants do so much better when the older flowers are plucked away, she harvested them and created beautifully magnificent patterns, floating them in fine crystal bowls.

Not only were they little works of flower art, but they were incredibly functional as well.

No matter how many of us there were at the table (larger tables just afforded more crystal centerpieces) no one ever had to bob and weave in order to converse with anyone else due to large floral centerpieces. Right-on, Mom.

Then of course, and I do truly hope and believe that many of you, as kids, knew as well if you liked butter because of how your chin would reflect a buttery yellow color when someone held up a dandelion flower underneath it while facing the shining sun.

Since dandelions are abundant and extremely hardy here on the Peninsula, if you haven’t already done so why not give it a try?

If you think you like butter, take a family member or friend outside into the yard, face the sun and have them hold a dandelion flower up to your chin.

What is the color? Then laugh at such an act of childish delight.

My mom would say it was “the best time ever.”


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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