With an eye toward the whimsical, Bartlesville resident Margaret Holden has transformed her empty yard on South Oak Street into a garden sanctuary. In doing so, she used some plants handed down to her from two and three generations.
“I’ve been here 13 years, and when I moved in there was nothing here but big holes in the back yard. My grandson was playing and all of a sudden he disappeared. He had gone down in one of the holes, and I couldn’t see him anymore — [that] is how big the holes were,” Holden said.
When her grandchildren were young, she took care of them often.
“We’d go on walks and they’d find hub caps, and they’d bring them home and paint them,” Holden said. The dozen or so hub caps painted in bright colors were thus reimagined as flowers.
“Then we hung them on the fence. … They would also make cement molds of their hands and paint the rocks. They’d use their foot prints or hand prints or they would draw pictures of birds and other flowers on the rocks. Then … we made the chimes out of broken chimes. That one over there was made from crystals on an old chandelier,” Holden said.
The colorful, cement stepping stones painted by her grandchildren were beneath a huge elm tree, too big to put one’s arms around that shades part of her backyard.
In the front flowerbed a bedazzled cow skull and flowerpot man sit among the blooms. Flowers made from glass dinner plates with small glass bowls as centers add whimsy to the front flowerbeds flanking the front porch.
“The green one my sister made. I made the others,” Holden said with a smile.
She has two grown sons, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“Last year for Mother’s Day they kind of got together and got me a sign that says ‘Grandma’s Garden,’” she said.
“A lot of the flowers were from what they gave me for Grandmother’s Day or my birthday or places where I had done gardens for other people. They would give me starts. Plus I brought three loads of plants when I moved from Emporia,” she said.
Iris were blooming in orange, yellow, white, pale pink and purple in various flowerbeds. There were two wheel barrows with flowers growing in them and six red, one white and one pink rose bushes in bloom. Two pale rose bushes, including the one on the trellis, were about to bloom.
Pointing to a trellis of roses, Holden said “the roses originally came from my dad’s mother’s in Thomas, Okla. He moved and got married in Mead, Kan., taking the roses with him. Then they moved to Emporia with the roses. When I moved down here, I brought it back with me. And the tiger lilies came from my mom and dad’s house in Emporia and some of the irises came from my other grandmother’s house in Mead.
“The little pink miniature rose bush came from my son last year for Mother’s Day, and then I have some of the little red and white flowers that my grandson gave me when he was about 12 for Grandmother’s Day, and they’re still coming up,” Holden said.
Her garden began to attract the attention of her neighbors, who began to ask for help.
“The little boy two houses down came and asked me if I would help him make a flowerbed for his mom for Mother’s Day. He was about nine and now he’s 13. … She loved it, and they take care of it together now — weed it and water it and add to it. We made one flowerbed around the mailbox and one on both sides of the steps on the front porch.
“I’ve made flowerbeds for three of my other neighbors from extra when I would thin mine out,” she explained.
As for her gardening methods, Holden said, “I’d water early in the morning or late at night — never in the middle of the day. … I weed early in the spring before they get big and full in March, early May.”
Then she puts Preen, that prevents weeds, on them after she has weeded.
“It doesn’t kill them, but it keeps them down,” she said.
She doesn’t use plastic flowerbed liner or mulch.
“If you use mulch, you can’t see the weeds until they have a real good root system on them. Then it’s too late.”
“I mow. I weedeat. I mow my neighbor’s yard. He’s a single parent. … I used to do the backyard but now his daughter is 16 and old enough to do the backyard.”
Another garden method she uses is placing artificial snakes on the rock borders of her flower beds to deter rodents and other critters.
Holden encourages the birds to visit with bird and hummingbird feeders.
“In the winter I have a pair of cardinals that live in the tree across the alley. I have some little finches and the squirrels love the feeders. … I run them off as much as I can, but you can’t get rid of the squirrels. Even if you move them, others will take their place,” she said.
At 71, Holden hasn’t slowed down a bit.
“These days I feel great. I don’t take any kind of medication not any prescriptions at all — not even aspirin. I feel good,” Holden said. “My mom and my grandma always loved flowers, and I just got that from them. It didn’t matter what kind — it was all flowers.”