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For Mother's Day, the gift of gardening

Susan Martin

May is the time for Mother's Day and gardening, and often the two blend together.

Some of my favorite memories this time of year include my mother's love of plant shopping, which we always found time for Mother's Day weekend.

In the early days, she drove to the nurseries and greenhouses with the "way back" of her station wagon ready to be loaded up. In later years, I was behind the wheel.

This week I asked others to share Mother's Day memories via Facebook, and gardening was a common theme.

David Cucinotta recalls how, in the late 1960s, he and his brothers would save up money to buy their mother, June Cucinotta, a flowering plant.

"My brothers and I all had paper routes in the Village of Williamsville and with our earnings we would go to Land O’ Trees Nursery on Wehrle Drive with our mom and pay for a new azalea or rhododendron for her Mother’s Day gift," said Cucinotta, who now lives in Massachusetts.

Their mom still has one or two of them in her garden, he said.

Local chef/vocalist Jim Rebholz of West Seneca remembers his mother, Kathryn Rebholz, planting the garden at this time of year at their modest home in Buffalo. She would buy the very same plants and put them in the very same place as the year before, he said.

Then she would top off the garden with cocoa shells, which they loved the smell of after a heavy rain, he added.

Williamsville resident Mary Lowther recalls taking her mother, Joan Bradford, for an annual buying spree at a Fredonia nursery, a week after they enjoyed a homemade Mother's Day meal.

"She loved our annual visits. The bonus was my two brothers lived there so there were visits with them too. My sister Theresa and I continue the annual ritual and always talk about Mom ... and visit the boys," she said.

Flowers were part of Janice Schlau's mother's holiday as well: "Mom and I spent Mother's Day the old-fashioned Polish way. She was pinned with a gorgeous corsage from Mischler's Florist. She favored gardenias, so it had to be ordered in advance," she said.

"We drove to St. Stan's (Stanislaus's) cemetery with a trunk full of geraniums to plant up the urns at my babcia's (grandmother's) grave," wrote Schlau, owner and pastry chef of the Prosit food truck in Williamsville.

All this was followed by dinner at a fine restaurant that changed through the years – John's Flaming Hearth, Park Lane Manor House, Salvatore's Italian Gardens – for which her mother, Eleonore Zdybowicz, would dress up, dinner rings and all.

Through the years I have written about my mother's passion for gardening and our annual trips to buy plants.

In one column, I recalled how one of those outings was always to find a pair of potted ferns to fill the planters flanking our front door. This started when I was school age and continued after my husband and I bought my parents’ home years later.

But, even then, my mother always came along because she was, among many things, the Fern Expert.

An excerpt: “ 'The ferns have to match,' ” she would say, as we would begin eyeing every hanging fern basket in sight at a local nursery or garden center.

“ 'Try that one, no that one,' ” she would instruct, as I held up fern after fern after fern, twirling them this way and that to check all sides."

Finally, we would make our selection and place our ferns carefully in the car. Heading home, she would remind me to water them.

“Really, Mom? Ferns need water?” I would tease.

My mother died four years ago, but the fern tradition continues – and so do the memories of those outings of many years. Station wagon and all.

Shopping for your garden is different this year, but greenhouses and nurseries are here to help

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