Gardening joy learned from grandmother

Published 1:15 am Wednesday, December 9, 2020

By Jan Penton-Miller


Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

My Christmas cacti have bloomed and are on the way out. They must have been a little anxious to celebrate early this year, but their displays were absolutely gorgeous while they lasted.

Actually, a few faded blooms are still hanging on, but have long since passed their peak.

There is something extremely satisfying for those of us who love cacti in providing food, water, and sunlight in the correct amounts all year long in anticipation of the wonderful show of colorful blooms this season brings.

My plants are looking so good, except for the one that I left outside in the cold one night.

The weather dipped below freezing, and I meant to bring the little guy in, but got busy with other things, and it slipped my mind. Now, I have to take care of the unpleasant business of pruning off the damaged parts.

With some extra love and attention my forlorn little cactus should survive, but it will take him a little time to recover from the neglect.

Since all my cacti have suddenly decided to orient themselves to Thanksgiving bloomers I’ll just have to find a few more lovelies at the local garden center for Christmas. I suppose my love of plants and gardening must have come from my beloved maternal grandmother, Mamaw Wilsie.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of another person named Wilsie, but I can’t imagine her with any other name. She was a wonderful grandmother, and I keep many memories of her in my heart. She played a huge part in shaping my ideas of what a grandmother should be, and I’ve always tried to emulate her.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I’m sure she would be pleased to see the impact she made on me.

Mamaw wasn’t a big gift giver in the traditional sense of the word, but she gave so much of herself everyday. She was always the first to rise when others slept, and she almost always had a kind word for others, even when their behavior didn’t merit it. I only remember her losing her temper one time in all of my years, and I was shocked by it. But that event helped me to understand that even though Mamaw was a good example to follow, she was indeed only human and prone to make mistakes.


Many mornings this time of year I sat snuggly before a crackling fire in the old, green farmhouse. Mamaw and I would pour over the Burpee Seed Catalog for hours.

Although the air had a decided chill and the spring and summer flowers were long gone, we dreamed and planned. We delighted at all the color combinations at our disposal and could almost see the beautiful garden to come.


When those first shoots of green began to burst through the earth joy filled my heart. I eagerly watched and waited for the delicate blooms to appear, and a gardener was born.

Write to Jan Penton-Miller at