Neighborhood Angels

Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’, angel’s trumpets, are blooming their hearts out down the street in my neighbor’s garden. I have mentioned these fine people, Mae and Mickey many times as the source for passalong plants growing here. They live across the street and at the end of our short (three houses) block.They have built a garden that is more like a city park. In this small town, most people know them and drive by periodically to have a looksee at what might be blooming in the garden at any time. They are the reason that we bought the house we now live in. It was originally purchased as a place for our two daughters, Semi and Chickenpoet to live while attending the local college here on soccer scholarships. The mortgage payment was less than two dorm rooms, and it would give us a place to stay when we came to visit them. We lived in northeast Tennessee at the time, about a two and one half hour’s drive from here. As we drove around town with the realtor looking at houses for sale we came over a blind hill and saw M and M’s garden. It was then and still remains breathtaking. Lucky for us the house down the street from them that was for sale was perfect and we bought it. Mae came over while we were checking out the property and introduced herself and we talked a little gardening. I was very pleased to already have a friend nearby who would keep an eye on the girls.Fast forward to present day. Let’s skip the part about the house being the soccer party house during the college years. Let’s skip our move to Texas and back.  Let’s also skip the hair pulling renovation of this house. Let’s for sure skip the purchase of the house next door only to tear it down and build a three car garage with loft above. That should bring us to the situation at present. M and M are a generation older than us. When we moved here eight years ago, they would spend every day from dawn until dusk working in their garden. As did I. We would visit back and forth and exchange plants and opinions about how best to care for them. It was a pleasurable existence.A few years ago health issues started taking their toll on both Mae and Mickey. Sadly Mickey is the only one gardening now and it is a huge task just to keep the lawn mowed. They used to mow together on two riding mowers speeding along in their straw hats and could get it done quickly. They also had two golf carts with bags not of golf clubs but loaded with shovels, rakes, buckets and their little dogs. I have ridden many times with both of them as we perused their large gardens on five mostly level city lots. It was a good way to transport things and lots of fun too. Now there is one lawnmower and one golf cart. Mae occasionally can come outside, but that is rare.I walked up their driveway with camera in hand to inquire after their health and ask to take some photos of the brugmansia. This is the view of it from the street as I turn the corner to my house. I bought this plant, it is now three very large specimens, in a one gallon pot in Atlanta while on a trip with the Financier several years ago as a gift for M and M for watching the house and picking up the mail and papers in our absence. They were growing a white and a pink angel trumpet in containers that were wintered over in an unheated building on their property. They didn’t have a yellow and were very pleased with it.  Finally the plants became so big that Mickey decided to plant them in the ground and see if they could winter over. He cut the stalks down after the frost had melted the leaves and made a cage of chicken wire filled with chopped leaves and straw. That method worked and these three plants have lived in the ground ever since.In the same bed are several banana trees that he digs up each fall after cutting the stalks and leaves them in the unheated building, then replants them each spring. He was quite proud to show me the bananas produced for the first time this year.This is the flower head that contains the baby bananas. In the background are Home Run roses.I miss seeing and working with Mae and Mickey every day. They have lots of family that come and take care of their needs each day, kids and grandkids. There is a big event coming up, the wedding of one of the grandkids, the first of November. She wanted to be married in their garden gazebo that has been the scene of the weddings of two sets of neighbors on our little street. Preparations are under way to have the gardens in the best possible condition.  There will be photos posted of the gazebo when that is completed.  The first frost will have to wait until after this happy day. It’s only right for nature to do a favor for our neighborhood angels.
We have added something to the neighborhood as well. The row of muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, is a pink haze for passersby to enjoy. We have also helped out the property values of our neighbors as we opened our wallets and let the house siphon wealth without satiation for one reno project after another. It’s what we do.

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31 Responses to Neighborhood Angels

  1. Linda says:

    What wonderfull neighbors you must have… In my street there is only me that like gardening…….
    The brugmansias are spectacular!!!!!!
    They must have been, and with all surten steel are, praoud of them.
    I thing the wedding will be amazing…..

    Hi Linda, they are great neighbors. It is fun to have someone that is interested in gardening so close. The angel trumpets are show stoppers, or I should say car stoppers. You want to stop in the middle of the street and admire them. Luckily there is hardly any traffic on our street. It will be a lovely wedding whether the flowers are frosted or not. They have extensive mature evergreens of all types and the fall foliage should still be giving plenty of brilliance to the scene. Thanks for visiting.

  2. Sylvia (England) says:

    It is so sad when health and old age stops us doing what we want to do. I just hope I get me dream garden while I am able active! I hope your neighbours are able to enjoy the garden and it hasn’t become a worry.

    I love the brugmansias, I am surprised that they can survive the frosts. I like your muhly grass, it certainly makes a lovely picture.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, so nice to see you here. Seeing what has happened to these vigorous gardeners brings home the reality that you need to plan your garden for ease of care and mobility. My steep slope will be a problem for me to maintain in the future and it is being redesigned with that in mind. No deadheading or staking, groundcovers to discourage weeds and more evergreens are the solution. There are lots of bulbs there for spring color too. We all need to think about long term when we are still active. I hope they enjoy the garden too, but know they don’t as much as they used to when they were out in it every day.

    The brugmansias are not supposed to be hardy in our zone. Climate change and his caging them is cheating the weather. The muhly grass is my pride and joy right now, thanks for noticing it. ;->

  3. linda says:

    Hi Frances, thanks for sharing some of Mae and Mickey’s garden. I’m looking forward to seeing more!

    The brugmansia is gorgeous! Mine wouldn’t survive here outside, and I have to bring them in. They’re in pretty large containers, but will probably never be quite so magnificent.

    I’m sure the wedding will be beautiful in such a gorgeous setting, and I’m rooting for them that frost holds off until after the festivities, although I’m sure the wedding will be beautiful either way in such a gorgeous setting.

    Hi Linda, thanks for those good thoughts for M and M. Their brugs didn’t get like this until he started leaving them in the ground, one can only imagine the root systems. Even in winter their garden in fgorgeous, but they don’t see it like that. Even though there is an extensive collection of fine evergreens, they think people want to see flowers and will be disappointed if there are none. There may be some mums added and pansies, I would be guessing. It will be delightful.

  4. Gail says:

    Frances, I do believe that your neighborhood is populated with several angels, humans and plant. What a wonderful gift for the three of you to share gardening stories, plants and gardening joys and woes over the years. Won’t it be fantastic to see the garden shine once more with the wedding preparations! M&M will be so delighted. So will I, because my visit is in October! We must beseech the garden gods to send us rain and hold back the frost until after the wedding (and my visit). Lovely post and the opening photo of the Angel Trumpet is spectacular. Very nice header photo, too! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. We do so need rain, I have started major watering with the hose again. Sigh. You are coming at a good time to see M and M’s garden, I was worried about his health since the only time I saw him was when he was mowing. It was so hot this summer, that may have kept him in. I don’t want to get too probing with my questions about how they are doing. He is a man on a mission now though to get the yard in shape for the grand daughter’s wedding. It’s nice to have a purpose, isn’t it?

  5. tina says:

    I am so glad you posted about M & M. When we arrived at your place I thought at first it was Faire Garden (it easily could be), then I realized from all your photos that it was not. As soon as we came around the corner I saw your house there on the right. These two people have for sure done justice for your neighborhood and are indeed angels. Such an appropriate post and my goodness-what big angels! And bananas too? I hope I get some someday. Of course Mickey is proud! I think it even more wonderful they came over right away and welcomed you and you guys could all talk, definitely three angels in the neighborhood in your beautiful home and theirs.

    Hi Tina, thanks. Everyone always thinks that is my house when coming for the first time. LOL They are wonderful neighbors and we are very lucky to have them close. I have sympathy for both of them, for working in their garden was their reason to get up in the morning, as it is for me.

  6. Hi Frances, your ode to your neighborhood angels was soul satisfying this early a.m. The best line though was the end where you wrote “It’s what we do.” Indeed it is.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks so much. We can’t help ourselves about remodeling. My ideas are more for the garden and the Financier watches way too much HGTV, he doesn’t mind the lack of G, he is into those remodeling shows bigtime. LOL

  7. Cameron says:

    What a lovely and sentimental journey with your fine neighbors. They sound so sweet and their garden is just stunning. We need more folks like them in this world. You’ve captured the garden so well. Just a suggestion, but some of the photo processing places have the capability to create a photo book. Perhaps Mae would enjoy having your pictoral gallery of her garden. Take care, Cameron

    Hi Cameron, thanks for that idea. They might especially like some photos of the wedding day including the garden and their friends and family. Good one.

  8. Dave says:

    Passalong plants always foster friendships. It’s great that you have neighbors who are such good people. It’s too bad that Mae can’t enjoy her gardens as she used too. They look and sound like a wonderful place. I’m amazed that he got bananas!

    Hi Dave, it’s true. The plants will always remind me of my wonderful friends and neighbors, even if and when we move away from here, we will take pieces of those special plants. He is bursting with pride at those bananas.

  9. You are so lucky or should I say smart to have a neighbor like that.

    Hi Donna, this time it wasn’t luck. We bought this house because of M and M.

  10. ourfriendben says:

    Mercy, Frances, this post made me cry! I’m glad Mae and Mickey have lots of family (and you all) nearby to keep an eye on them and help them out. And I’m glad you’re redesigning Faire Garden with ease of maintenance in mind! You’re so right, we’ll all arrive at that point someday (if we’re lucky). Glorious brugmansia photos, and I love the changing ehader display, too.

    Hi OFB, me too. They are so fortunate that their whole family lives in this small town. They even have a son who is a doctor and the daughter and several of the grand daughters are nurses. Mae was a nurse too. They get lots of visitors and care. Thanks for noticing the header. It is fun to choose one for each post.

  11. Racquel says:

    Hi Frances, lucky you to have such wonderful neighbors that inspire you in your gardening. What a shame that their health limits them from doing something they both obviously love and are passionate about. Their contribution to the neighborhood & the lives of everyone they touch will be their legacy. Garden Angels for sure!

    Hi Racquel, thanks for those sentiments. They are well loved in this town where their garden is a legend. The health issues are a lesson we should all heed though. Think long term about paths and maintenance. Think about what can be left to go natural and still look good as the garden you cultivate may have to shrink someday. I used to think I would love to have five acres. No longer, although it would have been nice. Now I am looking for level!

  12. Rose says:

    I was going to begin with a serious comment, Frances, but you left me chuckling at the end. You are really helping our economy by letting your “house siphon wealth…” Perhaps the administration could put you on an advisory board for stimulating the economy:) The way the stock market is going, I might just invest in pink Muhly grass instead of stock.

    Seriously, it’s sad to think that Mae can no longer be an active participant in the garden, but I know that day will eventually come for all of us. They are fortunate to have family nearby and wonderful neighbors. And you have been blessed to have such neighbors yourself!

    Hi Rose, I had to end on a happy note. ;-> I do feel that I am a good patriot with the money that I pump into the economy. The financier agrees. I just saw the pink muhly in Wayside for over ten dollars a plant. That’s not too bad because it can be divided and reseeds. I started with one. It is heart breaking about Mae and also that Mickey has to garden alone. You can tell that the enthusiasm isn’t there anymore. But this wedding is just the thing to give him a goal to work towards.

  13. Marnie says:

    Changes, usually bitter/sweet.

    Fabulous photos. I have really gotten a thing for the brugmansias lately. I’m pretty sure they are going to be way too much trouble in my cold zone, but I want one. Pink or yellow?

    So, how are you liking WordPress? Better than Blogger?

    Hi Marnie, you are so right. Thanks. I do think both the pink and yellow are lovely, it would be hard to choose. I think Mickey put them both in the ground and the yellow was the hardiest, if that affects your choice.

    There are good things about both wordpress and blogger. If it weren’t fot the blotanical thing, I wouldn’t have switched. But I see now that half of my readers come here from blotanical, so it was worth it. I am the opposite of techie and wordpress’ features are geared for someone with that knowledge. But I managed to figure it out well enough to do what I want to do right now. My advice is to get an account and play with it before you make the feed switch. Make sure that you choose a theme with a larger font. If you know code though, you can even design your own page. One thing that I love is the comment box showing each comment as you answer it and your reply appearing together.

  14. Brenda Kula says:

    That photo of the flower is spectacular! What a neighborhood you live in!

    Hi Brenda, thanks. We do have some great neighbors here.

  15. I’m having trouble with feeds to PICTURES JUST PICTURES .

    Followers cannot access it at present through their Google Dashboards and it isn’t possible to click to the blog through Google Readers either. I’m assuming people using other Readers will be experiencing the same problem.

    Please excuse this format message – but I’m cutting and pasting it to ‘Followers’ and to other people who have left messages on PICTURES JUST PICTURES from time to time.

    When I have worked out what to do – I will. Meanwhile, I will continue to post daily.

    You can either use this link PICTURES JUST PICTURES or click through from the sidebar of LOOSE AND LEAFY.

    Internet Explorer Bookmarks still work

    (Members of Blotanical may sympathise if I say ‘Isn’t it Wonderful!’)

    Hi Lucy, you have my sympathy. Trouble with the blog and feeds is no fun.

    Lucy Corrander

  16. Chickenpoet says:

    That banana tree is the coolest!! I didn’t know they grew here. Words can’t do justice to M & M’s garden, as well as that muhly grass.
    It is great that you are helping your little community. I am sure that the neighbors who are not as blessed (and talented) as you truly appreciate your generosity and hard work.

    Much Love, CP

    Hello my dear Chickenpoet, that is so sweet, thanks. That’s the deal with the bananas, they don’t grow here. He has to dig it up each fall and winter it over in his building then replant it in the spring. Getting bananas out of it just doesn’t happen here. But his soil is incredible, years of compost will do that. Many many years and tons of compost on those beds. About our neighborhood, if nothing else we have raised the property values. ;->
    Love, Frances

  17. skeeter says:

    What wonderful neighbors you have! If only we all could be so lucky to have a Mickey and Mae in our life!

    I saw Angel Trumpet for the first time at the GA Botanical garden this summer. I fell in love with the huge blooms! Last night the GA Gardner on “PBS” was showing how easy it is to get a trumpet from a trumpet. Just cut a sprig and put it in water and in about two weeks, you will have roots on it! That easy like a Philly plant! He also said no Southern Garden is a garden with an Angel Trumpet in it so I reckon I need to get me one of those little angels…

    Hi Skeeter, we are lucky to have them. That GA gardener show is good, we get it here too. It is on my dvr list. Those trumpets do root easily, give it a go!

  18. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Those brugmansias seem so tropical Frances. I wonder if the same treatment of the bananas could be done in winter and they would survive like the brugmansias.?? You are lucky to have such wonderful neighbors as friends.

    Hi Lisa, we are very lucky, once again. I was given the same banana at the same time and left mine in the ground and covered it like that and it did not come back, but Mickey is a master at the over wintering. He really wanted to grow them and they were a plant that I didn’t really care about. Much too tropical for my garden, and too large too. I would rather have a nice chamaecyparis. ;->

  19. Kim says:

    I’m so sorry Mae and Micky can’t garden together any more. We have dear neighbors a generation older than us, and I know their day may be coming, and I dread it. I also don’t want to think about the day when either Garden Man or me can’t get out there – it’s what we do together. I know I would be lost in the garden without him. But I do so much appreciate your advice about planning for that time – I’d never thought about it.

    Hi Kim, thanks, it is sad. It seemed sudden too, but they are not young and the gardening probably kept them in better health than if they were sedentary. It never too soon to think about gardening for your future, especially with the long lived plantings like trees and shrubs. Pathways should be wide enough for easy passage and a meandering ramp is better than steps. There are lots of things to think about, maybe I will do a post about it.

  20. nancybond says:

    I can’t imagine being able to grow bananas! How wonderful! And those buttery trumpets…gorgeous!

    Hi Nancy, it is wonderful. He was so proud, understandably so. The flowers are turning more golden each day. They were later to open this year than usual, so they are fleeting. Our first killing frost will come mid to late October, or after November 1, we hope. ;->

  21. What a beautiful story, it makes my heart happy.

    Hi Karrita, thanks. It is bittersweet though.

  22. Mickey and Mae are just as lucky to have you and the Financier for neighbors. Between the two of you,your street must be well known in your little town, the garden block.

    Bananas and Angels Trumpet don’t impress me much anymore. Getting them that big and getting bananas is impressive in that zone though.

    Hi Christopher, what a nice thing to say, thanks. I hope you can come and see our little street sometime in the future, you will see what I am talking about with the view as you come over the hill on M and M’s garden on the way to my house. We do get a few people driving by to see the flowers, especially in the spring with the bulbs blooming.

    I am not a big fan of the large tropicals, they don’t suit the style of my garden, but I have to give credit to Mickey for those trumpets and bananas, that is quite a feat of garden magic.

    And thanks for showing off your little hitchiker in your post today and the link. Your garden will get some more gifts from the Fairegarden too.

  23. deb says:

    This post is sweet, sad, and beautiful. You made me cry a little. The brugmansia is amazing.

    Hi Debbi, thanks for those kind words. The aging of the gardener along with the garden is something we must all face someday and try and prepare for it. The brug looks like it comes from another world. I am sure the people who drive by their garden have never seen anything like it, especially around this neck of the woods.

  24. Silvia Salix says:

    The angel’s trumpets are beautiful, I’ve never seen them so large!
    But what really caught my fancy is the soft pink grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris. It’s just the loveliest haze of grass I’ve ever seen. I googled it, and it seems that it may just like my wet and cool garden. Now if I can only get a hold of a few seeds.. seems like most sites sell a giant amount of seeds.
    Your neighbors sound like lovely people, it’s too bad that gardening is becoming so difficult for them.

    Hi Silvia, they are gigantic, and not supposed to grow like that in our zone. He is a masterful gardener. I would go ahead and get a giant amount of seeds if you want to try the muhly. I have not gotten it to grow from seeds sown myself, only the stray volunteer self sown is what has been found, and not many of those. Division is how I have come to have so many, and over several years time too, but worth the effort at this time of year. Give them a try!

  25. Shibaguyz says:

    Gorgeous pics… however… now we want a banana tree!!

    Hi Guyz, thanks. If you could grow one in your zone, you could have your own bananas to add to your food garden and get a pretty leaf too. Aren’t banana leaves used for serving certain dishes? You could have a big party with cheerleaders! ;->

  26. Cindy says:

    Frances, I’m stunned by Mae and Mickey’s brugs. I finally decided to enjoy them in other people’s gardens because my own efforts never produced such beauty!

    I was just thinking about looking for some Muhly grass to plant in various spots in the gardens. Your picture of yours confirms that I really NEED to do that!

    Hi Cindy, thanks and welcome. I remember seeing some big brugs in the River Oaks area of Houston, but not in The Woodlands. I did grow the muhly in my garden in Texas, it did well in that sandy soil. It seems to do okay in our clay too, so get you some muhly and maybe a knockout rose too. ;->

  27. Phillip says:

    Wonderful post Frances. What great neighbors you have and their garden really contributes to the neighborhood. I have that same brugmansia and I used to always bring it inside during the winter but finally decided to try leaving it out and I haven’t lost it yet. Mine is loaded with blooms right now, I just haven’t had time to photograph it. (P.S. – your font is huge on my computer – is it supposed to be this large?)

    Hi Phillip, thanks. Hooray for your brug living through the winter. Maybe that is one of the hardier ones, lucky it is one of the prettiest too.

    About the font, all I can say is yikes! I am a little under the weather today and cannot deal with more css code, but it is supposed to be large enough to read without reading glasses for us older folks. But not so large that it is a problem for others. I will work on it when I feel a little stronger to tackle that sort of thing. ;->

  28. walk2write says:

    Your story of your wonderful neighbors reminds me of the first house we bought years ago in S. Illinois. Our elderly neighbor down the street, Ben, seemed a bit crotchety at first, but once he found out that I liked to garden, he became a great friend and fountain of knowledge and advice. I was more sad to leave our neighbors behind when we moved than I was to leave the house. I hope your neighbors get to celebrate with good weather and health.

    Hi W2W, thanks for the good wishes. Your neighbor Ben sounds wonderful. Having someone to share garden talk with is the best, you will never run out of something to discuss and those older gardeners have lots of knowledge about your locality’s soil and conditions that books or even blogs cannot provide. It would be sad to leave neighbors like that.

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