On Saturday Mom, Rob, and I went to the Old-Timey Plant Sale at Birdsong Nature Center near Thomasville. We’d been looking forward to it for weeks. There were lots of rare and hard-to-find plants, and we didn’t have to feel too guilty about the money we spent because it was all for a good cause. Proceeds went to Birdsong, one of our local treasures. Birdsong was once the home of Betty and Ed Komarek, pioneers in the science of fire ecology, and now it’s a non-profit nature preserve.
Rob on the front porch at Birdsong
I was so excited as we drove up Birdsong’s long, sandy driveway, because we were suddenly surrounded by woods, enfolded by them. There was nothing ugly to see. Plus, it was spring, the first day of real spring-like weather! It was warm, and the sun was golden and sparkling.
Rob and I met Mom at the sale. She was so excited because she’d just discovered (before she left the house) that she’d successfully rooted a wild azalea--her first. “Last spring,” she said as I stood there holding some pots, “Dad stopped by and he just couldn’t get over one of my azaleas, a yellow. He thought it was so pretty. So I told him I’d root it for him and he said okay. Well, I was so stingy, I only made the tiniest cutting, not more than an inch or two. I stuck it in a pot and left it there, and don’t you know, this morning it’s blooming!”
She was absolutely thrilled.
“Are you going to call Dad and tell him?” I asked. (They’re long divorced.)
“Oh, no,” Mom said. “I thought I’d give it to you!”
"Well, I'd take good care of it," I said.
We started shopping in earnest. I bought five roses (Silver Moon, Ochlocknee, Penelope, Abraham Darby, and Souvenir de Madame Leonie Viennot), Rob bought three tomatoes (Cosmonaut Voklov, Speckled Roman, and Black from Tula), and Mom bought fringed campion (Silene polypetala) and red catchfly (Silene virginica).
We stowed our plants in our cars and then we were free to really have fun. We went walking in the woods and meadows of Birdsong with nothing heavy to carry. We had an awesome time. Gin House Field was full of bluebirds—the darkest blue.
“Like lapis lazuli,” Rob said.
We tramped along to the Listening Place, a sort of free-standing screen porch overlooking Big Bay Swamp. We sat in some golden, pollen-coated rocking chairs in the warm sunshine and talked about Jacob (my brother)’s wedding, which is coming up in July. He’s getting married for the first time at the age of 40, so we’re all very happy for him.
Dogwoods and wild azaleas had sprinkled themselves through the woods.
“Oh, isn’t it neat,” I said as we started walking again, “to see familiar plants growing in the wild, the way they were meant to be? Dogwoods are so much prettier in the woods than they ever are in somebody’s yard. I guess it’s like seeing a giraffe on the plains of Africa rather than in a zoo.”
These are the kinds of pronouncements I tend to make while hiking. But Mom was very nice and agreed with me. She was so excited to see the delicate pink azaleas, half-hiding among the trees, like fairies . . . or like heavenly apparitions.
“There’s another . . . and another!” she said. "Oh, the pretty little things!"
Now for the high point of the day: About two o'clock, after we’d enjoyed a little veggie-burger picnic in the shade, we were exploring a quiet, seemingly forgotten garden near the Komareks' old house when we made a great discovery. We found a glorious cluster of native crabapple trees growing at the edge of the woods. They were in full pink blossom—they were at the height of their beauty—and they were buzzing with bees.
“Oh, aren’t they beautiful?!” Mom said, clearly ecstatic over our find. “And just listen all the bees!”
“Crabapples!” I said. “They’re too pretty! And look at the buds! They’re like pink pearls!”
Mom and I spent a good fifteen minutes exclaiming over the trees as Rob sat in a nearby chair and rolled his eyes.
“Oh, have you ever seen something so pretty?” Mom said.
"I really haven't," I answered honestly.
“And the bees are so happy. I’d like to plant one just for the bees.”
“You should,” I said. “You really should. You should get one for your yard. They always have them for sale at Native Nurseries.”
“Well, maybe I will,” Mom said. “I could replace that ole Bradford pear that never blooms.”
“Oh, that would be a great thing to do.”
We were smelling the pink flowers and stroking the trees’ smooth, white-spotted trunks.
“Can you get in there among the branches so I can take your picture?” I asked.
“Oh, you don’t want ole me on your picture. Let me take one of you.”
“No, I look dumb . . . and you’ll match better. You’re wearing pink!”
Gamely, Mom ducked in among the flowering, frothy (and thorny!) branches and I took her picture.
It’s so wonderful to experience something beautiful with a like-minded person, somebody who feels as strongly about it as you do. There is such a feeling of fellowship and utter un-loneliness, and the beautiful thing becomes even more beautiful.
Anyway, we sure had a good day.
The Komareks' house is surrounded by lush gardens full of native and heirloom plants.
Rob and me. Photo by Carol Kimel
Inside the house. I believe these are mostly bird books. In the old dining room, there's a special bird-viewing window that takes up an entire wall.
Mom with the fabulous crabapple trees