Layanee’s post at Ledge and Garden about her father inspired me to write about my own gardening mentor. Barely five feet, my mother Betty McLaren had a personality as big as her adopted
Relentlessly creative, she mastered woodcarving, furniture building, batik, papier maché, oils, embroidery, decoupage, and her true métier, watercolors. My walls are filled with her remarkable paintings of landscapes, San Antonio Fiesta celebrations, Mexican markets, and beach scenes.
But my mother’s largest canvas and her masterwork was her garden. I remember staying home from school one day when I was in the sixth grade (sort of sick but really just needing a mental health day) and enjoying the great luxury of having Mom all to myself. We dug a hole in the back yard, mixed cement, and created a small pond. This was one of three ponds my mother eventually built in her yard. Fish, fountains, pumps, cypress plants, lilies; something was always being transplanted or improved, winding brick paths laid, new beds dug. The patio which started out by the kitchen door, kept growing until it wrapped around the whole side of the house and was filled with hundreds of pots of impatiens, firecracker fern, pentas, twining cypress vine. Her yard was packed with crepe myrtles, trumpet vine, pomegranite, plumbago, oxblood and day lilies, pyracantha, turk's cap, tradescantia, physotegia, elephant ears, philodendron, ferns, and nameless climbing roses. In the mild
Curving beds, no straight angles. Ruthless pruning and getting rid of weak or untidy growth. Patience and the long view. Having a big vision that informs one’s garden plan. Scale, pattern, and texture matter as much or more than flowers. These are some of the things about gardening I learned from my mother.