We wouldn't put away her gloves and trowel just yet.

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We wouldn't put away her gloves and trowel just yet.

Nobody was surprised when Mama announced that she was "absolutely NOT gardening" this spring and summer. She has done this before—just as she often announces in November that she is "absolutely NOT going all out for Christmas." The end results are similar. "No Christmas tree" means maybe just the one instead of three. "No gardening" means 2 rows of tomatoes instead of 12.

Even so, the family pretended to believe her when she said she was abandoning her vegetable garden and her flowerbeds. But each visit home for Sunday lunch brought evidence to the contrary. Finally, we had to call her out. Here's what we spotted on our visits home—and how Mama explained herself. Not that she has to.

Two large containers flanking the front door

"That's not gardening!" Mama exclaimed in disbelief. "Why would you even think such a thing? Everybody knows that putting containers by your front door is decorating, not gardening. That's the silliest thing I've ever heard."

Six hanging baskets on her front porch

[Please reference container comment.]

"Buy 5 azalea bushes, get 5 free" coupon on her kitchen table

"I cannot believe I have a grown daughter who doesn't know the difference between gardening and landscaping," Mama says, shaking her head sadly. "It's not gardening if I need your daddy to dig the holes. That's landscaping. Everybody knows that."

Her back deck filled with so many flowers to plant that she could open a Lowe's.

"When you move out of that condo and have a yard of your own, you'll come to understand the value of a dollar," Mama says. "Your daddy works hard for his salary. So when I run up on a sale that will get us twice the plants for the money, I have a responsibility to take advantage of it. That's just basic home management. Aren't those purple petunias the prettiest things you've ever seen in your life?!"

Two long rows of tomato plants out back

"Planting tomatoes is not something I just up and decided to do because I felt like it," Mama insisted. "I  couldn't find any fresh ones that I liked at Publix, Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, the curb market, the quick mart, or the farmer's market. What on earth was I supposed to do? Let my family go without? It's just not in me to be that selfish."

Squash, okra, peas . . .

[Mama doesn't want to talk about it any more.]

A new gardenia bush, mandavilla, hibiscus, lantana . . . and now she's planting ferns

"Okay, so I'm gardening," Mama said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Mind your own business. Want some gardening ideas for hanging baskets? Sure would help that bare balcony at your condo."

And so it goes in Mama's garden—the one she wasn't going to plant. Can't wait to see her not decorate for Christmas again.

No matter how big Mama's garden might get, she still has the time, strength, and fortitude to keep Baby Girl AND the boys straight:

We're not sure who gets a bigger dose of Mama—her boys or her girls. At least the boys can fall back on  that "selective hearing" thing that Southern men have mastered.