Today I was reminded what I love about southern hospitality. Wikipedia defines southern hospitality as “a phrase used to describe the stereotype of residents of the Southern United States as particularly warm, purchase sweet, recipe and welcoming to visitors.” I think a portion of that statement could be amended to read “… residents of Springmoor Retirement Community…”. What a warm and sweet welcome we, patient Wake County Extension Master Gardeners (EMG), received from the Springmoor residents as we gathered to plant a vegetable garden together as part of the Wake County Extension Master Gardener’s Therapeutic Horticulture program. EMGs who volunteer in the Therapeutic Horticulture program provide instruction to seniors on indoor plants, floral design, container or raised bed gardening.
Thom Morgan, Springmoor’s landscape director, greeted us on a cool, spring morning with more vegetable plants than we had room to plant! (Food always plays an important role in southern hospitality as provision for visitors!) Four Springmoor residents – LaVerne, Ann, Charles and Rachel – soon joined us dressed in the most fashionable gardening garb I have ever seen! Welcoming hands were extended to us along with soothing southern drawls of, “Welcome, we are so glad y’all are here. What can we do to help y’all?” (Note to self: Southern manners/etiquette – how can I bottle that?!)
EMG Pam Norton gathered two of the ladies, LaVerne and Ann, at a table to make seed tapes. Pam showed the ladies how to make “glue” with flour and water, apply the glue to a newspaper strip, and then place that strip in the garden. I may be more excited than them to see how this sprouts!
While the seed tapes were being prepared and planted, EMG Julee Jones was busily coordinating the planting of tomato, pepper, basil and cilantro plants with Rachel and Charles. As I photographed them working, I was aware of the smile growing on my face. I was watching southern hospitality at its finest – conversation was flowing cheeringly, information was being exchanged, and a helpful spirit prevailed.
As I looked up from the vegetable planting taking place, I spotted LaVerne and Ann who had moved from seed tapes to tomato cages. I usually wrestle tomato cages solo in the spring, but here were two southern ladies who, without hesitation, rose to the challenge of separating those impossible things. I may have to invite them over to my house next spring… and serve sweet tea, of course!
Charles took a break from planting when I asked him to show me the vegetable garden he had recently planted on his own. I spied his many tomato plants and asked what he and his wife were going to do with all those tomatoes. And with typical southern hospitality he simply said, “Share.” I asked him if he likes tomato sandwiches as much as I do, and he does. “What do you put on your tomato sandwich?”
Charles replied, “Just mayonnaise. Maybe a little salt. And it has to be with white bread.” That was a southern tradition in my childhood. And yes, Charles, it has to be with white bread!
Of course, our time together didn’t end without one more act of southern hospitality – sharing garden cuttings. I was admiring a beautiful Brown Turkey Fig in the Springmoor garden and mustered up the courage to ask for a cutting from Thom. I am so thankful he said ‘yes’ (true southern gentleman) because now I will have a lovely reminder of the Springmoor gardeners and everything I love about southern hospitality!