Garden hero's lessons are for all seasons


Do you have a garden hero - someone who can transplant giant clumps of ornamental grass without breaking a sweat and conquer any evil fungus or bacteria? My garden hero is my grandmother.

Budde Gordon can make anything grow. I call her Gami. She has always had a very green thumb. In Petersburg, Mich., she's known as the lady in the little brick house with the cat on the roof. Her lush cottage garden around the house has always made other gardeners green with envy.

Morning glory and three or four varieties of clematis are laced over the back door. A pot of my favorite sweet cherry tomatoes could always be found for a snack. Gami says tucking a few treats like those in the flowerbed makes weeding more enjoyable. If nothing else, it was a motivator for this budding horticulturist.

Heroes don't share all of their secrets, but Gami shared a few. Creating structure and easy-reach gardening spaces were two lessons she taught my cousin Sherrie and me. She says you have to give plants some space to spread out and become the things of beauty that God intended. Gami showed us how to use kite string to make a knotted trellis from the top of a swing set to the ground.

Her backyard clothesline wasn't just for shirts and skirts. Gami shared it with a monster honeysuckle vine. The fragrant clothesline made the laundry smell better than any dryer sheet of fabric softener.

Budde Gordon
Budde Gordon

Under her watchful eye, we would pluck small weeds from her raised brick flowerbed. This was her transplanting area. The sandy Petersburg soil was perfect for new roots to grow and a perfect classroom for two eager 7-year-old helpers.

A gentle touch is another one of Gami's gardening powers. "Each plant has its own rhythm," Gami says. "You have to take your time and watch them grow. They will let you know when they need your help." Her fingertips could prune a grapevine, deadhead a mound of mums, and rub the ache out of your neck at the same time.

Gami became one of the resident gardeners and newsletter columnists at Lenawee Medical Care Facility. (Imagine that!) She often wrangled her visiting sons, daughters, and grandchildren into pulling a few weeds or watering the garden, while catching up on the latest family activities.

Just like the plants she has nursed all of her life, she sprouted beautiful children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her lessons in the garden also taught us lessons for life.

And also like those plants, they had time to sprout, bloom, and wither.

When they die, they are lovingly surrounded by new shoots that will grow up and create future generations of beauty - just like she was when she died on Friday.

I just hope she passed some of her gardening powers on to me.