A rich, thick fragrance meanders through my neighborhood from two mature gardenia shrubs. They are almost 6 feet tall and covered with creamy white, exotic blossoms. Their fragrance evokes the time when a gardenia corsage was the hoped for thrill of any girl invited to the Prom.
In what I call my ‘other life’, living in the mid-west, growing a gardenia indoors was a challenge with few successes. They just don’t like dim light, dry indoor air and the times I was too busy and forgot to water them. Mealy bugs and white flies feasted on their waxy leaves. If I was lucky enough to get buds, they’d drop at the first sign of my neglect.
Here in SW Florida, their luxurious blooms lend dignity to any old building. I’ve seen them beside a shabby shed needing paint, an old abandoned mobile home, and as foundation plantings in front of very nice, cared for, homes. This climate is their home and they flourish in it.
It always evokes a bit of nostalgia to see a rose bush, peony, or spring bulbs living far beyond the years of the original gardener. Wandering in an abandoned farmstead you can still see evidence of the gardener who lived there at one time. Iris, an old-fashioned rose, daffodils, spirea – none would be there except for the planting of a long ago gardener.
I like to imagine what the life might have been like for that farm wife. She might have put her coffee grounds out to feed her flowers. She may have watered them with her dishwater when the well or cistern was almost dry. Did she overwinter her geraniums on a windowsill?
I’ve never met Joyce Sawyer. I don't know how many years ago she planted the gardenias I enjoy today - it was before I came. Joyce has passed away – but the legacy of her lovely gardenias lives on. ~pam