Begonia Story


Long ago, while she was still living with us, my mother planted a water-lily begonia and gave it to me. It was a pretty plant with its oversized begonia leaves and tiny white flowers on long, slender stalks, and under my mother’s care it grew and flourished.

When she was no longer here to care for it, it put out new leaves until this winter when it started to decline. I changed containers, moved it to various parts of the house, faithfully watered, but it continued to wither until I finally had to concede that it was a hopeless case.

Grieving for a plant may seem foolish, but I was heartsore. This was my mother’s gift to me. She had planted it with her own hands. I remembered her smiling as she put it on the table by the window. Now, I had lost it.

I am not the only one to have such feelings. “I wish I had brought with me a cutting of the roses my father planted near our house up north,” a friend said to me the other day. “I have roses here, but they’re not the same.” No, for the beloved rose held memories that could never be replaced.

Together we picked

            Roses with such sweet fragrance

            They gladdened the heart.

I know that my mother pined for her own garden and all the growing things she cared for with such devotion. When the Kansai earthquake tore down her home and forced her to leave Japan and all she had, her garden was her greatest loss. “I will never see the sweet peas this year,” she said to me. “I know they will be coming up out of their winter sleep around now. Who will take care of them now? Poor fellows.”

Much as I would have liked to, we couldn’t bring her plants across the ocean to the United States, so my mother had nothing left from her garden. Gamely, she tried to grow a few things here in North Carolina, and I remember one early spring evening when she defied impending frost by covering the budding anemones with sheets and towels. “Frost?” I could hear her muttering as she worked. “Nothing doing!”  Next morning, she stripped off the sheets and contemplated the sturdy plants with great satisfaction. “You see?” she told me triumphantly. “You have to have hope!”

Under her hand my house plants… including the water-lily begonia… flourished.  So one gray winter morning when I looked at the miserable specimen before me, I felt that I had failed her in some way. Well, it was time to throw the poor thing out. I picked up the pot, but then…

There always seems to be an ‘but then,’ but it often takes a jolt, a jarring, a disruption, to make us aware of them. But then the pot slipped from my hands and crashed onto the floor spewing dead plant and earth to the four corners of the room. Muttering unprintable words under my breath, I was about to get the vacuum cleaner when I saw the small green leaf.

Green! No way… but really, a small section of the root was trying to grow. Incredulous and excited, I found a new pot, filled it with new earth, carefully cut out the little living section, planted it, watered, and hoped. And slowly the plant began to regenerate. First a leaf, then two…

Each leaf unfurling

            Brings with it unlooked for gifts…

            Precious memories.

On Mother’s Day this year the water-lily begonia looked healthy and quite proud of its  stalk of white flowers. “There, you see?” I could almost hear my mother exclaim, and of course she is right. Nothing is ever beyond hope… or the heart.





About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

13 responses »

  1. Maureen, I see your mother before me at this moment regenerated from your lovely, picturesque description. Indeed she did guide your hands at just the right moment. The spirit, the very soul of her, resides in your delicate little plant. My eyes were moist as I read your words. Spring’s rebirth in all its iterations offers so much in both the tangible and intangible realms. How lovely are both the poetry and the magnificent quilt. With much appreciation, Fran

  2. Beautiful post. I know yours and your mother’s feelings about plants. I have purple irises that grow in Charlotte that were in NJ first and before that in Ohio in my grandmother’s yard. If I ever see you–I’ll bring you some. They are very hardy! thanks for the post.

  3. I love iris! Thank you! Did they really come from your grandmother’s garden? They must be precious indeed. I do wish we could have transplanted the beautiful plants Mom had growing,,,, her sweet peas in the spring, her beautiful white apricot tree.

  4. Lovely post as always, Maureen. My mother too felt the loss of her garden keenly when we left India. She never did make another garden, but always enjoyed a fresh flowers as a gift. I’m afraid I have a very black thumb. I can even kill a cactus. LOL. But this fall I want to plant a little garden — thank God my husband is good at it.

    • I feel with your mother, Vijaya! I, too, love fresh flowers. I try to keep vases full of them in the house– from the garden in spring and early summer, from the shop in summer and winter. My mom always liked garden flowers the best, so I love them, too.

  5. Dear Maureen,
    What a lovely picture! It reflects your beauty, the beauty of your mother, and the beauty of the begonia that begged to grow and bloom for you.
    Celebrate you today.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  6. My Mother grew up in an orphanage so never had a garden . If she had known how to garden , I am sure she would have planted begonias.

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