Letter from Publisher
May has always been one of my favorite months for many reasons—warmer temperatures, longer days, birdsong and the very fact that almost everywhere we look, we’re greeted by fresh green colors and flowers (yes, dandelions are flowers, too). As far back as I can remember, spring has played an important part in my understanding of the natural world. And I mentally thank my mom for her role in teaching me from an early age to enjoy everything that spring brings.
Growing up on the Northwest Side, our backyard garden was small and simple, yet it came alive in May. Tulips filled in as the daffodils faded. An old apple tree arched its branches over the yard, barely skimming the clotheslines. And while the fruit wasn’t very attractive (nope, my parents didn’t believe in pesticides), the pink-white blooms were glorious. A pink magnolia grew next to the garage, and gorgeous purple lilacs bloomed on old branches by the back gate, next to the original concrete garbage can at the alley. My mom would bring in a couple of sprigs, pop them into a green blown glass vase she’d bought years ago in Jamestown, Virginia, and we’d enjoy the scent of lilacs. The blooms made me want to read Louisa May Alcott’s book Under The Lilacs, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as the real flowers.
Mom had planted four pink peonies alongside the garage, and I remember checking them daily to watch as the buds developed, and having great fun shaking the ants off of them, too. After they bloomed, it was my job to do the deadheading, and I did my best to encourage re-bloom (I didn’t even know it was called deadheading when I was a kid, I just wanted more peonies). Growing between them were tiger lilies and a jumbled red, climbing rose that ran up a faded trellis on the garage. Continuing my mental tour, we grew what she called a “snowball bush” by the neighbor’s fence, and more climbing roses on the chain link that ran between our yard and the sidewalk.
Each May, Mom would buy the same annuals—bright red firecracker salvia and varieties of marigold. Then she’d get out the green planting bench her dad had made umpteen years earlier, and she and I would spend time planting flowers. I’d fill a bucket with water and she’d start working. Dig the hole, add a cup of water, put in the marigold, add dirt, tamp it all down with her hands and then another cup of water. Move on to the next plant. Nothing sophisticated, but it’s a spring ritual that she started when I first began to walk and which I continue to this day at my own home. Now, my garden plantings have changed to native plants and heirloom veggies, and my spring enthusiasm has only grown over the years.
All of us here at Natural Awakenings Chicago would like to wish you a very enjoyable spring, and a happy Mother’s Day, no matter how you choose to celebrate. Me? I’ll most likely be in my garden, working on the plants, listening to the migrating birds and raising a toast to my mom.