In Greg's Garden - The Adams Family

By Greg Grant, Senior Editor

I’ve always been a bit silly. I do silly things, I say silly things and I watch silly things. 

It’s kind of odd, as my dad is the opposite of silly, all business, while my mom is only half prone to fun and games. Where I got a full dose I’m not quite sure, but from casual observation it seems to come from my mom’s frolicking Emanis side of the family.

For an entire life, my favorite television entertainment has included cartoons, comedies and light-hearted sitcoms. The way I see it, the world has more than its share of depressing doom and gloom, so why immerse oneself in it by watching more of it on the TV? I want frolicking good times, side-splitting laughter and happily-ever-after endings. 

It’s one of the reasons I love gardening and nature, as they both infuse me with happiness.

We didn’t watch an inordinate amount of television as kids (my mom wouldn’t let us plus we had better things to do) and I don’t even own a TV now, but I do remember a number of my favorite shows growing up. These included Bugs Bunny, The Little Rascals, The Three Stooges, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, The Carol Burnett Show, The Wonderful World of Disney, The Andy Griffith Show, Flip Wilson, Sanford and Son, The Munsters, and The Addams Family.

Although The Addams Family was about a ghoulish bunch and didn’t exactly alter the world order, I had my very own semi-normal Adams family in our Longview neighborhood that did change my life.

Kevin Adams was one of my classmates. His family moved away when we were in junior high, so in the big scheme of things I didn’t know them all that long. But knowing the Adams family certainly transformed my life.

My Adams family consisted of father Don, mom Jimmy Lou, oldest brother Donald, middle brother Michael and youngest son Kevin. They were a rough-and-tumble bunch that specialized in mischief and fist fighting, if memory serves me correctly. They lived next door to their grandparents Roy and Mary Adams on one side and Autry and Marie Daly on the other. They actually rented their house from the Dalys. Mr. Daly and the elder Mr. Adams worked for the same East Texas oilfield company.

Back then when you went to a kid’s house to see if they could play, you didn’t traipse dirt all through the house playing with their stuff. You waited patiently on the porch until they came out to play. Back then you spent most of your free time outdoors — riding bikes, hiking through the woods, building things or playing sports.

I’ll always remember waiting on their back concrete steps surrounded by Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus drummondii). I don’t know if it was the twisted orangered flowers, the red-orange “love apple” fruit, the steady stream of visiting hummingbirds and sulfur butterflies, or a combination of all that endeared me to this native pass-along, but endear it did. 

There are very few plants that will grow in sun or shade, wet or dry sites, and alkaline or acid soils, but this is one of them. Thanks to the Adams family I saw my first and later tinkered with my own breeding/ selection program to expand the palette of colors and habits.

New potatoes | Vego Garden

I’ll also never forget the elder Mr. Adams, his large vegetable garden and his invitation for me to help him plant (and later harvest) Irish potatoes. Planting pieces and digging out handfuls seemed like magic then and they still do today. New potatoes remain one of my most cherished culinary delicacies and I once again owe that experience to the Adams family.

The wife of Mr. Adams was a dear, sweet woman who loved for me to sit and talk with her. I remember how sad I was when I returned home from band camp one summer to find out that she had died peacefully in her chair without so much as a goodbye from me. She had the largest American holly (Ilex opaca) in her front yard that I’ve ever seen. It was so big that we youngsters could crawl around in the middle of it without ever touching a spiny leaf. They also had native pignut hickories in the yard that some visiting man had grafted to tasty pecans for them. That fascinated me.

And of course if it wasn’t for Kevin Adams, I would have never met Marie and Autry Daly, the most soft-hearted couple that ever lived. When Kevin and the Adams family moved away, he turned his lawn-mowing job at the Dalys over to me. He could have handed me a box of emeralds and it wouldn’t have been as precious or memorable.

Bluebird | Vego Garden

It was the Dalys who introduced me to bird houses, bird feeders and bird baths. It was also the first place I saw Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera sp.), Mexican petunias (Ruellia malacosperma), bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum purpurea), pomegranate (Punica granatum), and Burr oak (Quercus macrocarpa), not to mention rat terriers, martins and my beloved bluebirds. 

Marie Pavi rose | Vego Garden

Mrs. Daly loved her plants and loved me as well. I’ll never forget her filling up three hummingbird feeders each day and laughing at me trying to catch and haul her green anoles to my house.

 I’ll also never forget her always stopping me on the mower, making sure I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, and the dish of jellybeans she kept in the house just for me. I named my pink ‘Marie Pavi’ rose in her honor. 

Mr. Daly outlived his beloved wife and taught me about proper mower and tool maintenance in his orderly backyard tool shed. He’d walk the property targeting grass burs with the sliver of a well-worn hoe while I mowed “the back 40.”

It’s funny how just a few folks or a few moments in your life can alter your hopes, dreams and future forever. The Adams family did that for me and I’ll be forever grateful.

Editor's note: Greg inherited the lawn-mowing job for the Dalys when the Adams family moved away. He saw his first pomegranate among other interesting, new-to-him plants at the Dalys’s home.

Texas Gardener pomegranate | Vego Garden

New potatoes remain one of the author’s most cherished culinary delicacies and he owes that experience to the Adams family.

It was through his connection to the Adams family that Greg became immersed in the wonder and joy of the Dalys. He discovered his beloved bluebirds while mowing and helping with yard chores. Later he named his pink sport of ‘Marie Pavie’ rose  in honor of Mrs. Daly.

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