Georgia Department of Agriculture

Happy Mother's Day - Horticulturally

Mother’s Day is one of the horticultural high holidays – one in which flowers play an important part. 

On Mother’s Day as a child I always looked forward to going to church with a perfectly pointed, little rosebud pinned to my lapel along with a carefully selected rose leaf as a background.  I loved anything to do with flowers, and wearing one was a way I could honor a truly wonderful mother.

I owe part of my love of flowers to my mother.  She encouraged and assisted me along the way.  She dug flowerbeds and set out irises and daylilies.  4-H projects – she was there.   If she ever worried about me exploring the woods for hours on end looking for pipsissewa and rattlesnake plantain, trout lilies and mayapples and returning just before supper, she never let me know.  And she never objected to me picking flowers. She seemed thrilled with every bouquet I brought in.  Sweet Williams or black-eyed Susans – she praised them all.  She may well be the reason I can use almost any plant in a flower arrangement.  (In fact, I try to use as many different things as possible when arranging flowers for church – if the sermon gets boring I can take inventory of the number of kinds used.)

Anyway, Mother’s Day is the day we say “I love you” and “Thank-you” to Mama.  One way we can do so is by wearing a corsage or boutonniere – a red rose to honor a mother who is still alive and a white rose to honor one who is deceased.  Anna Jarvis, the founder of the modern Mother’s Day celebration advocated carnations – her mother’s favorite flower.  I have seen the tight bud of a peony, a sprig of mock orange and sweet-bubby/sweetshrub blooms used as well. 

Miss Jarvis had a falling out with the florist industry who she felt was commercializing the holiday and cheapening its sentiment.  While there are plenty of times I want to chase moneychangers out of the temple, I won’t begrudge florists making a profit, especially when there are many non-gardeners who benefit from their assistance.

If you don’t grow your own flowers, your mother may appreciate something from your local florist.  Florists used to have the slogan, “Say it with flowers.” A bouquet or vase of flowers can say a lot.  Don’t be afraid to add something unusual or unfamiliar.  Include anthurium, protea, liatris, orchids or heliconia. A bouquet of red roses is fine, especially if they are your mother's favorite, but don't limit your options.

A potted plant or hanging basket from your local nursery is another gift possibility.  There are many selections available now such as geraniums, petunias and impatiens that can provide color all summer. 

If your mother has a garden but needs a little extra muscle to help her deal with the infirmities brought by the years, cut the grass, pull some weeds, prune some shrubs and spread some mulch.  She probably needs the help and you probably need the exercise.  Get out there and do it.

Consider planting a Mother’s Day garden at your home or church so that your family, friends or fellow church members can make their own corsages and boutonnieres.  Include red and white roses.  Climbing or rambling roses with lots of buds are a good choice if you have the space.  Since large carnations like those sold by florists are not ideal garden flowers, plant some dianthus.  Dianthus is a hardy carnation with smaller, often fragrant, blooms.  There are varieties that are red, pure white as well as the more common pink. Another option is rose campion, a carnation relative that has rmagenta-crimson or white flowers.  Plant peonies, a sweet-bubby bush and a mock orange if you have room.   

And plant some flowers for cutting.  Any flowers.  If your mother is like mine, she loves them all. 

                                                                                                                                     -- Arty Schronce

Arty Schronce lives and gardens in the historic Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta. He encourages everyone to discover the pleasures of plants and gardening. 

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