Friday, August 24, 2012

Folklife Friday: Morning Glories

I posted this blog about morning glories about this time last year. This morning, as I wandered in the backyard, checking to see what had changed overnight, my Grandma Gean was heavy on my mind. Would she smile at my feeble attempts?

Morning Glories may be the flower I have known and loved the longest.

My maternal grandmother, Mrs. Georgia Gean, was a great lover of morning glories. She lived in a little four-room house that had been converted from an old church/school house. The front porch, with boards for the floor and tin on the roof, was built across the front of the house, which faced directly west.

Grandma had dug up beds running parallel with the porch, on each side of the front door. Each spring, she would plant these beds with morning glory seed she ordered from a seed catalog.

Long before the little plants were ready to send out tendrils, she built a trellis for them to climb on.

Grandma knew what days in early spring would yield the highest sap, and that is when we would go to collect young hickory trees. Gathering her grandchildren and her chopping ax, she would head to the woods to cut down hickory saplings that were bursting with sap. We would haul them home under our arms, even the smallest children helping. After we got them back to her house, we would work for hours removing the bark from the saplings in long, pliable strips.

On a frame made from the newly naked saplings, Grandma would weave the hickory strips into a trellis that reached up to the tin of the porch roof. The hickory would dry and strengthen, lasting until late October frost killed the morning glory vines.

As the days lengthened and warmed in mid-May, the morning glory vines would grow rapidly, several inches a day. Before long, the vines would completely cover the trellises, providing a shelter from the sun and transforming the little porch into a cool, comfortable place.

Like most people during that time, my grandparents had no air conditioning and spent a great deal of the daylight hours of summer on that porch. They ate out on the porch, shelled peas and beans, and visited with company there. Without the morning glory trellises, the porch would have been hotter than inside the house.

Then, in late summer, the morning glory vines would burst into blossoms that were huge in the morning but closed up as the afternoon heat intensified. People passing the house would slow their vehicles to get a better look at the massive blue and purple trumpets. Some would stop for a visit just to get a better look. The blossoms attracted hummingbirds and butterflies, and much time was well spent just watching.

Grandma, her morning glory trellises, and the house they leaned against are long gone. I would love to go back there for a little while with my digital camera to capture the true beauty found on those hickory strip trellises. I would also let Grandma know that her love for flowers and her determination to surround herself with beauty lives on in many of her progeny.

There are a few morning glory vines in my yard that I have planted, and innumerable wild ones that cover the fence and get tangled in my rosemary and peas vines. I plant some seed every year, but up until now, they have never been as pretty as Grandma’s were. I’ll keep trying as long as I'm here.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians4.8