Legacies of greater importance than temporal gardens
Posted: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
My heroes are leaving.
The latest of them was my uncle, Bryant Williams, with just more than 95 years under his belt and untold contributions to this community. He quietly crossed over the river just last Thursday.
To me, he was not just my father’s younger brother by about a year, but also employer, mentor, confidant, close companion — particularly during the past few years — and, most of all, friend.
He took up right where my own dad left off in 1978 when he died too young. Uncle Bryant was a second father.
Williams was an avid gardener in his own right, after inheriting a spacious garden at his last earthly home at 111 Greenacres Drive. The builder of that garden was his mother — my grandmother — who had for years pounded away at hard red clay to grow the first doublefile viburnum in these parts and many other cutting edge plants.
Vestiges of her plantings remain. Perhaps the largest Magnolia soulangiana (tulip magnolia) around here grows beside a similar sized Magnolia stellata ‘Dr. Merrell.’ The huge pink flowers of the former and the chalk white blooms of the latter often coincide in March, making a show that draws oglers for miles. She set them both out as whips in the ’50s.
Uncle Bryant went on to enhance and embellish Granny’s garden. He had some of the best potted red geraniums in town every summer, in old urns on pillars by a terrace. I have tried, and utterly failed, to emulate them for years.
But hey, gardens are temporal. Legacies are not.
The demise of the coolest (rather, least hot) July in 38 years in the northern hemisphere is upon us. It’s that global warming thing I suppose.
After the past two Julys, this one has been a piece of cake. We’ve even had enough (barely) rain. Here in the city, there has been less precipitation than in some parts of the county, and much less than most of West Tennessee. Nevertheless, with some irrigation we’ve gotten by.
We’re on the cusp of turning the corner on summer. August, by the back end of it anyway, brings palpably longer nights, softer light as the sun declines to the south, and maybe, just maybe, more of the relatively pleasant days we have been enjoying lately.
Our July garden regimen has been a bit more active than in some years. Setting of woody plants — largely replacing drought kills from the past two summers — has continued unabated (hope springs eternal) as the agony of hauling water has eased, freeing up time.
Bloom is full and color abounds, as annuals infill gone-over early perennials and late perennials are coming into their own.
The panicle hydrangeas (i.e. Limelight, Tardiva, Unique etc.) add a tremendous boost with ghostly white flowers, just when the garden begs for such cooling effect.
After the best spring in many a year, we can’t complain on summer either, at least to this point.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 8.4.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path