Texas Gardens: Del Rio

When I was seven we moved from Fentress in green, humid Central Texas, to dry, dusty Del Rio on the Texas-Mexico border. The yard surrounding our new house presented no trees, no shrubs, no grass: nothing but hard white caliche.

My father rented a small tractor, broke ground, planted Bermudagrass seed, and, since the word conservation hadn’t been dreamed of, watered it liberally. It came up thick but felt rough under bare feet. That spring and summer, each time my grandfather visited, he brought burlap bags filled with St. Augustine runners from his yard and planted them in the Bermuda. Within a year, we had a lawn, plush and free of grass burrs, where shoes were unnecessary.

My mother gardened. She planted morning glories and moonflowers on the west side of the carport to provide shade the house from the searing afternoon sun. Along the driveway she planted daisies and Lilliput zinnias, and in front of the house, giant zinnias. In the fall, she replaced the giant zinnias with yellow and bronze crysanthemums.

The second summer, Mother spent the month of June in Dallas with my grandmother, who was dying. I was deposited with Daddy’s family in Fentress. We forgot about flowers.

The day after my grandmother’s funeral, my parents and I made the four-hour trip home. Arriving in mid-afternoon tired, windblown, and sad, we drove up to our house to find the flower beds in full bloom–reds, whites, pinks, golds. 

That riot of color lifted our spirits in a way nothing else could.

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