Before I moved to New Creek, which is near Keyser, I lived in the pristine little village known as Leetown in Jefferson County. There I had the privilege of being a member of the Leetown Homemakers Club, now known as the CEOS.
When I joined the club many of its members were much older than I was. They were full of experience and intelligent beyond belief.
Each meeting left me feeling like I had sat down with a bunch of encyclopedias. The members talked about everything from sewing to cooking and from sharing a favorite book to managing financial accounts. They were a diverse group made up of homemakers, business people, a church pianist, professional basket makers and — most of all — farmers. I’m sorry to say many of them have passed away but their memories are growing in my garden.
One by one, my homemakers would bring me a cutting of this, a cutting of that, or a tiny bag of seeds from their plants that had gone to seed in the fall.
My friend Janet Whitmore dug up a sapling from her golden chain tree. Carolyn Hoffman gave me a walnut tree and my iris bed flourished in many colors from Edna Ware, Janet and Virginia Tabb’s iris donations.
Edna dug up a small mimosa tree from her yard, which eventually grew into a glowing pink beauty in the spring when it swayed over my back gate. It was Edna’s spider plants that thrived in my backyard. I think their proper name is cleome. They were just gorgeous.
Virginia was always giving me some sort of herb, flower or plant. She had a huge amount of bluish-purple flowers that are germane to West Virginia that she shared with me along with lily-of-the-valley and daffodils.
One of the county homemaker husbands got wind that I needed trees and flowers. It was Tom Brady that called me one day and told me to bring my truck; he had some maple trees for me. I didn’t have a truck so I figured my Volvo wagon would do.
Tom had cleaned out a fence line on his farm and dug up 16 little maple trees of all different sizes.
I never thanked any of my friends for their growing gifts. They told me if I did the plants wouldn’t grow.
We moved from Leetown to New Creek in 2003 when Vince and I retired and I left my beautiful gardens and yard.
Carolyn’s walnut tree that we planted in the backyard had grown to around 20 feet tall with pods on it. All the flowers and herbs I’d been given had grown so much I had begun thinning them out to share with others.
I lost the golden rain tree to blight, which broke my heart. It had become a beautiful billowing tree. The pods would rattle in the wind during the fall.
Vince and I had planted the 16 little maple trees around the fence line of the backyard. When we left in 2003 the smallest of the maple trees was around 30 feet high. They shaded and protected the yard like soldiers on guard.
When we moved to New Creek, I brought with me dozens of cuttings, bulbs, seeds and memories from my friendship gardens. And so the friendship continues.
Like I said, each one was like an encyclopedia, a treasure. Each year as I work in my gardens I thin out and share flowers, bulbs and seeds with my friends. And as I share, I listen to them telling me where they have planted this or that and how beautiful an area has grown with my help.
It’s easy to put a smile on my face when I’m sitting in the arbor at the bottom of my yard. Looking up at my gardens I see so many faces smiling back at me.