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Gardener's Notebook: A look at the roots of Mother's Day

May long weekend traditional time to start gardening for many
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Flowers are also a popular Mother's Day gift. (File Photo)

YORKTON - It is hard to believe that it is already May! I know we’re all getting eager to be gardening: do you wonder what the weather will be like in 19 more sleeps---that’s the May long weekend, the traditional time when we hope that gardening season really begins!

This weekend is also Mother’s Day. Did you ever wonder how and when Mother’s Day began? Let me tell you about a lady named Anna Jarvis, born in 1864 in West Virginia. After she obtained her education, Anna worked in a variety of jobs: in the public school system, as a bank teller, and eventually as an advertising editor with Fidelity Mutual Insurance.

Anna was always very close to her mother and was heartbroken when her Mom died. After her mother’s death on the second Sunday of May in 1905, Anna decided to mark the occasion by having a special service for her mother and all mothers at her church in Grafton, West Virginal. Anna sent 500 white carnations to the church for the service, to be given to everyone who attended. Carnations, in the language of flowers, represent faith, love, charity, and purity. Anna no doubt felt that they were the perfect floral tribute for her Mom’s memory.

Over time, this lovely custom of giving carnations to mothers expanded to red and pink carnations for those who have living mothers, and white carnations for those whose mothers are deceased. The second Sunday in May became an official holiday in 1914.

Anna never married, and when she passed away in 1948, she was buried next to her mother. The church where that first memorial service was held is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

Anna’s mother, Ann, worked very hard to improve the lives of mothers and their children in her community. She understood the deep heartbreak of childhood mortality, because only four of her thirteen children lived to become adults. No doubt this had a profound and lasting impact on her daughter Anna, which is probably why she was so determined to honor her mother after a difficult life.

I think you know by now how very close I was to my Mom. There is not a day that goes by when I do not miss her, and I will love her with all my heart, forever. I am so blessed to have a lifetime of wonderful memories of times we spent together, many of them formed in the garden from the time I was a small child. We worked together in the garden, talked about everything, laughed as we worked, and every day with my Mom was an absolute joy. She was beautiful, loving, kind, generous, creative, imaginative, hard-working and absolutely tireless (I could never keep up to her!) and not only was she my Mom, she was my dearest friend, my mentor, my guide, my fiercest protector, and now, my angel. Thank you for everything, Mom.

If you are lucky enough to have a Mom still living, make Mother’s Day the day you shower her with a beautiful bouquet that she can enjoy, whether of the traditional Mother’s Day carnation or whatever flower is her favorite. Roses mean love, orchids stand for beauty and strength, tulips and gerbera daisies for cheer, lily of the valley for devotion. And remember, women of kindness, caring, nurturing and compassion in our lives can also be recognized, even if they are not related to us.

This Sunday I will remember my Mom, Keith’s Mom, and many aunts who are gone but will always be loved and will never be forgotten. Happy Mother’s Day. Visit the hort society at and have a great week.a

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