The Houghtlin Garden is in some state of disrepair, like the shotgun and bungalow houses spread across Wards 1-4. My garden needs the same attention, passion, and investment. There is a similarity in my mind between the love I feel when I get out of my car to take photographs and the look of my garden this Spring. Regardless of the state of a shotgun house, I always see the significance of this American architecture, what it once was, and can be again. There are the bungalows filled with stories and architectural details. I see the garden in the same way. Spring flowering has taken over and ignores the fact that there is work to be done. I’m not good lifting 40-pounds bags of mulch anymore, but I can drag it on a tarp; a reality check that I can’t work as long or as hard as I once did. All I can say further about that is – damn!
“The old woman paid no attention to the camellia until that morning, when a fleck of pink caught her eye. The single saucer-size blossom was more magnificent than she could ever have imagined. More beautiful than any rose she’d ever seen, it swayed in the morning breeze with such an air of royalty, the old woman felt the urge to curtsey in its presence.” ― Sarah Jio, The Last Camellia
Camellias prefer a position that is in dappled or full shade. An area that gets morning shade is best as direct sun in the morning can dry out too quickly the developing flower buds. Camellias are woodland plants and do not cope well in a sunny, south facing spot. The neglected housing situation has nothing to do with where they are, but who the head gardener is or has been on the City Council. It isn’t fair to say, nothing has been done, just not enough. New leadership with the will to see it through, who welcome investment, who cares about the quality of life available to the people in their Wards, that’s what is needed. This housing saved, and restored will be filled with work force, retired, senior citizens, first time home buyers, singles, young professionals, fireman, nurses, policeman, and kids on their bikes.
Seeing the pear trees a blaze, driving through the historical districts of Rocky Mount, I am filled with nostalgic for home, for my youth, for the remembrance of things. Wherever you are, take my hand and think about what you would write this spring about gardens, riding your bike through a safe neighborhood and each home along your way that you still remember. Rocky Mount neighborhoods must become places to grow up in, or grow old in, that will be rememberd with love.
“Memory in these incomparable streets, in mosaics of pain and sweetness, was clear to me now, a unity at last. I remembered small and unimportant things from the past: the whispers of roommates during thunderstorms, the smell of brass polish on my fingertips, the first swim at Folly Beach in April, lightning over the Atlantic, shelling oysters at Bowen’s Island during a rare Carolina snowstorm, pigeons strutting across the graveyard at St. Philip’s, lawyers moving out of their offices to lunch on Broad Street, the darkness of reveille on cold winter mornings, regattas, the flash of bagpipers’ tartans passing in review, blue herons on the marshes, the pressure of the chinstrap on my shako, brotherhood, shad roe at Henry’s, camellias floating above water in a porcelain bowl.” Author: Pat Conroy
Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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