Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Garden Legacy

This past weekend we visited my parents in Louisiana, and I had a wonderful time photographing their beautiful little vegetable garden.

It's that time of year when the garden is just beginning to "come in," and they are already harvesting tender little green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, and squash.

It won't be long until the cucumbers and tomatoes will be ready ...

I love photographing the vegetables, especially up close. It amazes me to see how the pretty little blooms turn into squash or cucumbers, almost overnight.

I love the delicate looking, yet sturdy, little tendrils of the vines that latch onto the garden stakes and wrap themselves around the stems of the plants.

Our granddaughter Avery Grace was with us, and Mama and Daddy delighted in showing her the garden. She has always loved to explore their gardens, especially when it's harvest time. Here, they are looking for squash that are ready to pick ...

Inspecting the tiny okra plants ...

She was pleased with the "harvest," but had trouble holding it all ...

I think gardening is a wonderful experience for children. Not only do they learn about Nature as they plant their garden and watch it grow, but I think they also learn gentleness, patience, and nurturing in the process.

I'm so glad my parents have been able to share their love of gardening with Avery. I'm sure she will have many fond memories of the times she spent with them in their gardens — not to mention the delicious home-grown cucumbers and tomatoes that are her favorites!

Here are some pictures of Avery visiting their garden last year. Gotta love those garden boots, and look how little she looks. What a difference a year makes ...

One of my all-time favorite pictures ...

And here she is planting tomatoes with her great-grandaddy when she was four ...

Thank you, Daddy ... for this priceless legacy you're giving Avery by sharing your love of gardening with her.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Tribute 2011

As we celebrate this long Memorial Day weekend with picnics, barbeques, and family gatherings, let us also remember the true reason for the holiday — to reverently honor and pay our respects to those who gave their lives in service of their country, preserving and protecting the freedoms that we all enjoy today.

I wish I could personally thank each and every one of them for the sacrifices they and their families made for our country.

I would also like to remember with gratitude our servicemen and women who, as I write this, are risking their lives every day to keep America out of harm's way. May God protect them as they protect us, and bless them and their families for the sacrifices they make for us.

While we should honor these heroes every day, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day. I hope we will all take time out this weekend, as "one Nation, under God," to proudly fly our flags and bow our heads in gratitude as we remember our fallen heroes ...

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Rest of a Story

I can't count the times I've written the words, "I would love to know the rest of the story," about the subjects of my posts, be it a person long gone from this world, an old house that has seen better days, or history witnessed by an ancient tree located on a battlefield. A few times someone has written me to fill in blanks, or to share with me what they know about the subject ... but most of the time, I am left to ponder and imagine on my own, my curiosity never being satisfied.

Today, I'm going to tie up a "loose end" from the heartrending love story of Helen Johnstone and Henry Grey Vick, a wealthy planter from Nitta Yuma, Mississippi. The story of Helen and Henry was part of a post I wrote featuring a lovely little country church in Madison County, Mississippi, called "The Chapel of the Cross." If you missed it and would like to read it, you can click on the link.

Helen was the youngest daughter of wealthy Annandale Plantation owner John Johnstone and his wife Margaret, and the story began in the mid-1800s, around Christmastime, when an attractive stranger, Henry Grey Vick, a descendant of the founder of Vicksburg, appeared at Annandale Plantation to request help to repair a broken wheel on his carriage. Henry dined with the Johnstone ladies that evening, and before leaving the next morning, he and Helen were in love. Henry returned often, and in 1857, the two were promised to be married. However, Margaret, who was by then a widow, was not ready to give up her youngest daughter, and insisted that the young couple wait until Helen was twenty. Henry and Helen agreed to wait, and the wedding was scheduled for May 21, 1859, which was Helen's birthday.

As Fate would have it, four days before the wedding, the headstrong Vick met his death on the traditional field of honor — the dueling ground.

Grief stricken beyond consolation, Helen led a torchlit procession — on the day her wedding was to have taken place (also her birthday) — from Annandale Plantation to the Chapel of the Cross, where Vick was laid to rest in the family graveyard.

While Helen would later wed George Harris, who ultimately served as rector of the church on three different occasions, there are those who say her heart never totally mended from the shock of her fiancé's sudden death. The story of Helen's and Henry's ill-fated love became known as the legend of "The Bride of Annandale," and will forever remain part of the church's history.

But Helen's story doesn't end there. In August 1862, three years after Henry’s death, Helen Johnstone married George Harris, a Confederate chaplain. He served as clergyman for the Chapel of the Cross for years and during the course of their marriage, Helen and George moved several times following his service as Rector. They had three children, and Helen spent her life with George caring for their children and assisting him in the church.

In 1896, the Harrises built their "retirement house" on some land Helen had inherited in the Mississippi Delta, near Rolling Fork, Mississippi. The original house was destroyed by fire almost immediately after it was completed, but Helen and George rebuilt another one on an Indian Mound located on the property, and called it Mont Helena. I have photographed Mont Helena on several different occasions and never cease to be awed by its beauty ...

George died in 1911, but Helen continued to live at Mont Helena until her death in 1917. They are both buried in Mound Cemetery in Rolling Fork.

And that's where the story ended, until a couple of weeks ago when I happened to be in Rolling Fork photographing the ruins of "the Big Red Barn," a beloved Delta landmark. If you would like to read that story, you can click on the link.

But back to Helen and George ... while in Rolling Fork, I visited Mound Cemetery and found their final resting place in the shade of an old Crape Myrtle tree.

Helen's grave marker is a simple stone cross bearing her name and dates of birth and death (May 21, 1839 - November 19, 1917).

Reverend George Harris's grave ...

And so ends the life story of Helen Scrymgeour Johnstone Harris, whose last thoughts — according to people who were present when Helen died in 1917 — were of Henry. She believed that Henry was visiting in the room with her discussing plans for their upcoming wedding. “She called out to him, happy that he had come for her at last.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mimosa: The Sleeping Tree

The Mimosa Tree shown in the above picture is a few blocks from our house and I've always admired it from a distance, but had never taken the time to photograph it ... until yesterday. I was both amazed and delighted with what I saw through my lens, and don't think I'll ever look at a Mimosa tree the same way again.

But before I share the pictures, I'd like to share a few facts I learned about Mimosas:

    Originally from China, the Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), was introduced to the United States in 1745, and is cultivated primarily for use as an ornamental, mainly because of its fragrant and showy flowers.

    It is also known as Silk Tree, Sleeping Tree (because its leaves slowly close during the night and during periods of rain, the leaflets bowing downward as if the tree were sleeping); and Powder Puff Tree, because its flowers resemble a cheerleader's pom-poms.

    Due to its ability to grow and reproduce along roadways and disturbed areas, Mimosas are considered in some areas of the country to be invasive.

    The Mimosa tree can grow up to 40 feet tall in the South, and blooms from early to mid-summer.

But enough facts about Mimosa Trees — let me show you why I found everything about this tree amazing -- from its showy flowers and delicate leaves to its graceful branches bending low.

The tree I photographed is probably 20 feet tall and has a canopy of approximately 30 feet, and as I stood under its branches and looked up, its leaves looked like delicate little ferns blowing gently in the breeze.

Here's a look at the leaves up close ...

But the most interesting feature of the tree is its flowers, and although they are showy from a distance, they are truly spectacular up close!

The feathery "pom-poms" are the stamens, and if you click on the pictures, you can see their tiny green tips, which remind of fiber optic filaments ...

I hope you enjoyed seeing a Mimosa tree up close as much as I enjoyed capturing this one with my camera. If there is a tree in your neighborhood, stop by and take a closer look ... they are truly amazing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hidden Jewels

I spent a pleasant half hour or so in my yard yesterday afternoon enjoying a gentle breeze and admiring my flowers.

I think our patio and courtyard is prettier this year than ever before, and I decided to capture the flowers at their peak before the long, hot summer takes its toll on them.

Our Lilac Chaste Tree is one of my favorite plants in the courtyard, and this time of year it is at its most glorious ...

The hummingbirds, bumblebees, and butterflies love it, too.

I am so glad I tried the new Sunpatiens (a new variety of Impatiens that tolerate sun). I wasn't sure they would do well in the courtyard, but they are thriving ...

And the Snapdragons are flourishing ...

I went back outside just before sunset and took this picture of the waterfall when the lights came on (you can click on all these pictures if you'd like to get a closer look).

And speaking of "closer looks" — I haven't used my macro lens in a while and thought I would practice a little and get a few close ups of the flowers in the process.

White Sunpatien bloom ...

I love the little heart-shaped center in this bud. Isn't it sweet!

I've never had much luck growing Petunias, and although the leaves on this one look rather anemic, it makes up for it with its blooms.

Have you ever looked at a Petunia up close?

Let's look a little closer ...

Look at the beautiful little "jewels" that were almost hidden deep in the center of the flower.

You just never know what "jewels" you might find if you take the time to get a closer look at your surroundings — not just in flowers and Nature, but in people, too.