The Dart: Gray has been gardening for decades

Published 12:18 am Monday, June 11, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Nell Gray has been growing her garden at her home on Booker Road since she moved into 43 years ago.

NATCHEZ — Nell Gray was heading out to buy some brownie mix for a church fundraiser when The Dart landed on her house on Cottage Street. Church, Gray said, is her second passion.

Every morning Gray ventures outside to care for her first passion — her garden.

“When I get a flower I just make a place for it,” Gray said as she pulled the dead bulbs off of her daylilies.

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Gardening just comes naturally to her, Gray said, since it has always been a part of her life.

Gray grew up on a farm in Yazoo City with 11 brothers and sisters.

“Flowers are just like kids,” Gray said. “They multiply.

“If my mother found a spot we hadn’t played all over she would plant something there and dare us to step on it.”

When Gray married her high school sweetheart and moved to Natchez in 1958, she and her husband began looking for somewhere to build their home.

The Grays moved into their house on Halloween in 1969. Forty-three years later, what was once a lot littered with pecan trees is now graced by the presence of daylilies, roses, zinnias and more.

Although much of her knowledge of gardening was gained in Yazoo City, Gray said she enjoys reading about the particular flowers she plants.

Standing beside her bed of daylilies and tiger lilies, Gray said she has a few tricks to making the flowers thrive.

“When (the stalk) gets dead you just snap it,” she said. “And it pops right out and forgets it was ever there, but you have to know just how to twist it or you’ll pull the whole plant up.”

Demonstrating another technique, Gray stood next to a tiger lily and shook the stalk, making tiny, black bulbs fall to the ground.

“These (seeds) will take about five years to grow up tall,” she said. “The real important thing with seeds is you put them twice their diameter (deep) in the ground.”

Gray said she works in her garden every day, picking out the weeds and pruning flowers. And there is always something more to do.

Her roses, for instance, were taking over the arbor marking the entrance to the garden, so she chopped them down, even though their blooms took hours of tedious care to nourish.

“The thing you want the most is the hardest thing to take care of,” Gray said.

When she’s not in her garden, Gray said she is usually doing something with her church.

“I take a lot of (daylilies) to church,” Gray said. Gray serves on the flower committee at Morgantown Baptist Church.

With years of knowledge and experience under her belt, Gray understands that sometimes the most beautiful things in life, such as her daylilies, only last a moment. Still, Gray said watching those bulbs open is well worth the tender love and care that they require.