Hometown Gardener

Paul and Nila Dowlearn-Owners of Wichita Valley Nursery.  Paul’s recent books, “The Lazy Man’s Garden” and “Touch the Earth” are available at the Nursery, 5314 S.W. Pkwy, Wichita Fall, Texas.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, young and old. This is but one special day, however, I think most will agree that every day is Mother’s Day… Or should be. Nothing can compare with the love, safety, and security Mothers provide.

Frances Vernon Escue Dowlearn left us suddenly in a car accident. We were not prepared as she was in very good health. I then realized that every noteworthy accomplishment and good deed I had ever done was to please her. She still lives within me. The memories and old pictures surround me. Her teaching has served me well.

Mothers grow us up. They also grow plants. In doing so, they teach us about Nature. Many grow food and teach us how to pick and prepare it. Others grow flowers for our spiritual benefit. Some grow both.

I still have many plants that were handed down from my Mother through her Mother. I have grown and sold many pecan trees that were gathered from the huge old tree that still survives at the house I grew up in. That gift from Grandma is now spread far and wide throughout Texoma. The realization that I play a part in this makes me happy.

As we grow older and raise our own children the teachings and life experiences always come back. We remember the source. It was my Mother who took me out back and had me dig a hole to plant a peach pit. She showed me in the most practical manner possible why we had that hard thing in the middle of something so juicy and sweet. I don’t remember how long it took but one day she took me to the spot and showed me the young sprout. I was perhaps the age of three. “That is not a peach,” I exclaimed. “No,” she said, “It is a tree that will grow peaches.” It grew and made good sweet fruit.

I had to jump the fence and swipe a peach to find that out. We had moved to our new house and the old place on Ave. R was just a rental. Although we repeated the experiment at our new house (at my insistence), the new tree did live long enough to bear good sweet fruits but did not live long. The last time I saw my first tree on Ave. R I was 27 years old, driving around killing time with some friends. I was proud of that tree.

By the time I was in my thirties, I had found my chosen profession. Although I love the art of growing food and helping others design and build outdoor living spaces, I have always thought that growing and planting trees is the most important thing I do. Many will outlive me and their owners and perhaps even the manmade structures we build. Many of the trees I have planted out here at our house have not lived long but some have. Those successful trees have kept me going as I continue to study and observe. At age 68 I am still fully engaged in learning from our collective Mother… Mother Nature.

Both the pecan and peach taught me another life lesson. That is that seed grown trees, as opposed to grafted trees, will tend to possess the traits of their immediate parents. The seed pecan from Grandma’s Burkett tree (likely a grafted tree) was round like the original Burkett just not quite as large. Both peaches we planted were pollinated by other sweet peaches so naturally they made sweet peaches.

This taught me that the teachings I got from modern day agriculture experts were not entirely accurate. They led me to believe that you must have a grafted tree to insure a good quality fruit or nut. We still sell grafted trees but I have in my possession an heirloom seed grown tree given to me by Mary (Happy Mother’s Day to Mary) and John Rhoades. This tree, which we have named the Benson peach was brought to the U.S. by Mary’s family. The peach traveled with family from North Carolina to Georgia and finally Lakeside City, Texas. The Benson makes a white peach that flowers early and ripens in late summer. A “late peach.” Late peaches are not recommended or planted by local peach farmers due to the advice given by modern ag science. Yet, these Benson peaches are the most vigorous growing peaches I have ever attempted. They still have young fruits hanging tough despite this year’s late freeze. We’ll see if they will make it through summer. My three year old trees have yet to make a ripe fruit but trees of the same age planted by mutual friends of the Rhoades made a bumper crop last year.

Right… So, we need a rain. A few of us in Texoma did get under some thunder last week. We saw some light rain (less than a 10th”) here at the house. Even that little bit cheered me up. Temps are back to normal for the time being. I’m due to plant some stuff today. Always the optimist…

I want to thank all those who came to buy plants to honor their Mothers. Saturday was a very good day at the nursery. We were busy all day. That will help us survive the losses due to the “you-know-what” virus. Pray this will come to pass soon and pray for rain. Thank you!

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