Mrs. Horrell’s Paperwhites

For many years I walked from my home on Poplar Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi down North Street to the Welty Library.

North Street is broad and level, making for an easy, leisurely walk. Long ago, the way was lined with splendid homes, but in my last year in Jackson, the only private residence on the street, a modest, sturdy, two-story cottage built in 1923, belonged to the Horrells. When last I passed by a “For Sale” sign was planted in the front yard, where long before, Mrs. Horrell had planted masses of narcissus.

Warmed by a broad western sun, her paperwhites were among the earliest in the city to bloom, coaxed out of the ground by the toddling sun of mid-winter. She also had clumps of old daffodils, a  of beautiful swath of blue-and-violet bearded irises, and a row of gnarled, ancient rosemarys that filled the air with scent and the eye with points of cloudy blue in the warming winds. Mrs. Horrell once told me the narcissus lining  front walk came from her grandmother.

The area has been zoned commercial, so once the property is sold, the house might be razed, and the in-place plantings will most likely be lost. Developers’ architects view landscaping as ancillary or incidental, and plantings in-place are expendable. New developments in old neighborhoods obliterate yards that helped define the character and delineate the history a neighborhood.

You can still find old plantings struggling beneath mats of Asian jasmine throughout the city, and one November, many years ago, we freed an old street corner of choking vines, weeds, and rotting wood. In March, clumps of the old daffodil, ‘Butter and Eggs,’ came barreling out of the Yazoo clay.

Place, too, has a memory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.