Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

What I Planted for Moms and Dads

We biked over to our daughter's house. And I've just loaded my front basket for the ride back.

We biked over to our daughter’s house. And I’ve just loaded my front basket for the ride back.

One of those seismic transitions in life—when the world seems suddenly to be a different place—is when your daughters become mothers.

It’s a happier transition then when your parents and their generation pass along, and suddenly, despite still feeling inside like a barely adult person, you realize you’re among the “elders.” But, I have found the role of “grandpa” to be very satisfying—most of the rewards of loving contact with young kids, less of the stress.

Or, as I like to say, “sugar them up and send them home.” You can quote me on that.

Anyway, so today is another Mother’s Day. To my daughters and beautiful wife, to mothers who are and are to be, to my mother in the great beyond—it’s a day to celebrate you, to celebrate the gift of life and love that you have passed on to the world.

So is seems like a great weekend to plant things.

Due to the harsh winter of 2014, we had three trees that died in our yard. Two of them struggled for life last year, so we waited until this spring to use Dr. McCoy’s Star Trek language on these trees, to paraphrase: “They’re dead, Jim.”

So the day before Mother’s Day, we went tree shopping. Given the cost of what we ended up finding, I suggested the trees were also for Father’s Day. Anyway, I was lobbying for one crab apple, because one crab apple died in a garden in a perfect “crab apple” spot. We’re not shy on this kind of tree—we have seven other crab apple trees—but Audrey agreed. Our other rule is that we wanted “something different.” A cherry tree and a red bud had died—but we have a weeping cherry and three living red buds, so our main shopping was for “other.”

We went to a local greenhouse and a local home supply chain store. We ended up with a bush and a tree from the greenhouse and two other trees from the chain store.

All in all, on this weekend of life celebration, this is what I dug holes for in my yard and gardens:

  • A pretty pink-purple Asian lily, a gift from two of our mom daughters to their mother.
  • Butterfly bush.

    Butterfly bush.

    A butterfly bush. In our climate, sometimes butterfly bush roots make it through winter, sometimes not. Since the butterfly bush blooms in its first year, it’s worth planting again when one dies out, and one in our garden had died.

  • Four milkweed plants. We went to a daughter’s house in Marion for a day-before-Mother’s Day party, and I noted the plants growing in her back garden and backyard. She has active young kids, and although you do want to plant as much milkweed as you can (save the Monarch Butterfly), you don’t want to plant this pretty native flower where young kids roam. The butterflies lay their eggs on it because its volatile sap makes them bad food—while the sticky white sap doesn’t usually do much to human skin, if a kid gets said sap on his or her finger and touches his or her face, apparently the results can be dramatically bad (some potential for great pain and possible temporary blindness). So I dug out the plants and planted them in out-of-the-play-path areas of my garden. There, they will probably die—milkweed notoriously do not transplant well due to their deep roots. But we’ll see if I was lucky enough to get enough root fragments on any of these plants.
  • And the three trees: A ginkgo, a magnolia and a crab apple. Ginkgo is clearly new to our yard, and should give us pretty foliage in the fall. We do already have a magnolia bush, but the new magnolia we planted is a species that should grow in a more tree-like pattern and is also a different color (lemon yellow) than our existing pink bush. The crab apple, while seriously redundant, is a pretty pink color we don’t have, and is a weeping tree, which again makes it a bit different.

Right now in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, crab apples are well past their prime. Our two shy apple trees are again not blooming—maybe next year. Lilacs are still going strong—the first wave has bloomed and passed, but the smaller, dwarf pink varieties are just budding out. Early peonies are in full flower, traditional varieties are just starting to bloom.

And bluebells! Many new ones planted last year bloomed this spring in my gardens.

And bluebells! Many new ones planted last year bloomed this spring in my gardens.

It’s going to rain today, but nonetheless has been a pretty late spring day, with nice flowers to recognize moms with.

On this Mother’s Day, best wishes to all you moms out there, in my family and in anybody else’s. May our shared scary experience of procreation bring us more joy than pain, may we pass on a love of God’s earth and its flowers, trees and butterflies to a new generation, and may all of you enjoy this day and every day.

But most especially, to my wife and daughters: Audrey and I know that, although children grow and become their own people, you never stop being a worried parent. And it’s a lesson that now the next generation is getting engaged in.

And so life goes on. It’s messy, but it’s also beautiful thing.

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Gardening Seems Good Near Mother’s Day


Red Admiral in our yard, visiting the day Audrey finished planting her petunias.

I married a great mom. I know that’s hardly an unbiased opinion, but a snapshot of our six kids suggests someone did something right.

Nina just graduated from Creighton University and has a job as a social worker. Ben is doing well at Iowa State. And all of the others of our children are college graduates. Jon works for Microsoft now, but in less than a month is off to Paraguay with his wife Nalena as members of the Peace Corps. The three daughters who are married are all, currently, staying at home to care for young kids—an interesting development, in this day and age, for such a group of liberated, educated women, but as my daughter Katy recently blogged, there is no such thing as “just” a housewife with young kids.

All of us have bumps in the road of life, and none of my kids lives a perfectly happy, idyllic existence. But, who does? Anyway, both Audrey and I get along pretty well most of the time with all of our kids, and that’s saying something.

Parenting and gardening aren’t the same. You can grow lush plants and be a cad. Similarly, you can have a brown thumb, but be wonderful with your own offspring. Still, it’s possible to be a decent parent and good gardener too, and I do see some parallels between caring for plants and the care you give to other growing things that you love.

Audrey and I have recently completed round one of our spring gardening. Grass seed has been sown and has sprouted, broken trellises in the front garden have been replaced and four new clematis plants have taken the place of morning glories. One rose bush died last year and has been replaced. Five new little trees have edged their way into our crowded forest of a back yard.  Petunias peek from planters on our rear deck and from pots on the fence, courtesy of Audrey.

Garden stuff

About a week ago–back from garden shopping trip to Menard’s. Rose and four clematis, along with five tiny Arbor Day trees, were planted by me, several flats of geraniums and petunias were given spots by Audrey. She did much more planting than I did.

Somehow, all this planting seems motherly. Audrey referenced her mom when she asked me about my methods for tree planting—she noted that her mom always filled a hole with water for tree planting. I do that, too, with larger trees, but didn’t bother with these tiny Arbor Day Foundation twigs.

My mom loved roses, so planting a rose bush honors her. Planting the trees would be something my dad would do, but the tree mania is primarily something that Audrey and I share, so I would say it’s mostly for her this Mother’s Day.

For Mother’s Day, we bought a swing, and need to assemble the stand. It will sit out in our back yard and probably be used. We enjoyed our treeish little corner of the world, and will soak in some of the warm spring glory on this Mother’s Day in our new seat.

On this lush Iowa Mother’s Day, may some growing thing remind you of how it wasn’t just the universe, but also a particular woman, who gave you life. May you recall her fondly, even if your relationship wasn’t or isn’t perfect. And to all the moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day.

And for Audrey, happy Mother’s Day, dear. The tomatoes and peppers and herbs and petunias all look up to you, but they can’t compete in your heart with Amanda, Jonathan, Theresa, Katy, Deanna and Benjamin. The garden of our life seems to be yielding rich fruit, and for that, you and I both can be grateful.


Iris, in bloom, in my garden, almost a Mother’s Day miracle.

Audrey and Amelia

Audrey with her granddaughter Amelia. Happy Mother’s Day to both Katy and Audrey!


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