Thanks to Burpee Seed Company, I had some nice adolescent annual flower gardens in Mount Lebanon, PA in the late 1950s.
by James K. Sayre
Somehow, I don't remember how, I mailed off for a copy of the Burpee Seed Company catalog. Perhaps they had run a small display in either the Popular Science magazine or the Popular Mechanics magazine, both of which I read regularly in the late 1950s.
Anyway, I ordered a few of the common annual flower seeds from Burpee including Morning Glories, Zinnias, Cosmos, Marigolds, Petunias and Bachelor Buttons. I started my flower garden in the backyard of my parent's house. Fortunately, it was quite sunny, facing to the south, with morning and afternoon sun. I put a row of nails at the bottom and the top of the small back porch and strung up some string to create a place for the Morning Glories to climb. I planted the Heavenly Blue variety, which in a couple of short months produced a steady supply of large beautiful flowers every morning in the summer.
I also cultivated some areas around the two old Forsythia bushes that were planted near the back of the house. In succeeding years, I grew more ambitious and spaded up and planted along the side fences. I added Asters, Portulaca, Yellow Cosmos, and Pansies to the mix. Finally I tackled the fire circle at the rear of the backyard (burning leaves in the autumn was fine back then...). There I had several concentric circles of different flowers. In the center were the Spider Flowers (Cleome) which grew to about four feet high and had very large interesting flowers of pink and white. I also grew some Sweet Sultans, which had beautiful flowers of different pastel colors and which also had a great scent to boot. In the summer, I would cut small bouquets of flowers and put them in vases that would be set on the dining room table and also on a buffet. My mother definitely encouraged my flower growing activities; the rest of the family basically ignored it.
When I got into college, I was busy working in summers and after two years moved away to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend the University there, so the flower gardens petered out, left to self-seed and fend for themselves.
After I graduated from college, I moved out to California and lived in shared housing. I did have a couple of nice gardens, getting into growing vegetables for the first time. Broccoli, Fava Beans, Corn Tomatoes and a couple of others were attempted.
Now that I have a bit of land in the S. F. Bay Area, I have even grown a couple of Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees... Forty feet high and counting. I await their flowering and seeding, which should happen any year now, since they are over five years old...
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