Saturday, October 10, 2009


photo by Elaine A. Russell

When I was little ... growing up in the backwoods of PA...I had a neighbor up the street who had the most beautiful gardens. He and his wife were already "old" by my childhood standards .. and spent their days working in their gardens, drinking cocktails in the evenings and throwing garden parties for their friends at night. The man was a descendant of one of the first settlers in our area, and the house was a veritable museum of taxidermy animals, old books, and great china. I remember they had a taxidermy Great Horned owl that sat in one of the big windows.. and even though I knew it was there.. it always startled me. One of the first jobs I ever was "babysitting" their geese flock for a couple weeks when they went on vacation. But I digress.

I think my love of plants started then. They owned the whole back hillside as well as the property across from the dirt road by their house. This property consisted of a sizable hill full of forest, a creek, a couple ponds, an underground spring, lots of bear/ deer/ wild critters... and tons of wildflowers.

On the flat area across from their house, they had planted extensive flower gardens. One of the most brilliant flowers there was a very tall variety of tiger lily. I remember that the lady called them "turkish nightcaps".. and I imagined that little Turkish elves would come at night, dressed in all their woodland finery.. and wear the flowers as caps. I imagined that the lady elves would be wearing skirts of day lily petals in yellow and orange and red... and they would dance by the ponds under the stars when no one else was about.

Just this summer I went again to visit these woods. The properties are all "suburban" now... it was sold and divided years ago, and now there are 4 houses where gardens once stood. It is very sad to me... and yet.... I was surprised to see this one lone stalk of tiger lily pushing itself out of the ground and raising its petals to the sky...

*I just found out that one of my photos is now published in the Schmap Guide to ABQ ( see link on the right ) WOOT !