A flat of begonias. That’s what my mom, Martha, said she wanted for Easter. And on Mother’s Day, “something with some nice color.”

For as long as I can recall that’s what Mom has wanted most – gifts that enhanced her environment. Things that brought a touch of beauty into view.

One thing for certain, it’s kept my dad, Martin, busy for more than four decades. Over the years, I’ve watched him plant, rake prune and mow in an effort to keep the view something akin to the 16th green at Augusta National.

Of course, you must understand that this is no ordinary yard we’re talking about here. The Vernon Estate, as many of my friends jokingly called it, at one time encompassed four acres of land between Lake Highlands High School and Skillman. Over time it has gotten smaller by half and is now completely surrounded by condos. But I can assure you, it’s still an enormous chore to keep the place clipped and tidy.

The place is festooned with large elm and pecan trees. Fall was always a nightmare for me because I watched as the leaves fluttered like snowflakes to the ground – ground that would have to be raked before the blooms of spring arrived.

Leaf-raking, it seemed, was an endless activity that kept me from the more important activities I wanted to pursue. Vital activities such as shooting baskets, watching TV or dating. So I grew to abhor the act and watched autumn arrive each year with tremendous dread.

When my wife and I bought our first home, I was grateful the trees were small and evergreen. I didn’t mind mowing, but leaf-raking. No way. Of course, a turn of events led me to move to Connecticut, which is leaf-peeping heaven but leaf-raking hell. After two years of maple leaf therapy, I returned to Dallas completely rehabilitated.

But the key was, the leaves had to be raked in order for the beauty of spring to show. And it has been the spring that has buoyed my mother’s spirits through good time and bad.

No matter how difficult our challenges or insurmountable our problems, the outlook would always improve, my mother insisted, when the azaleas started to bloom.

So it made perfect sense to enhance her outlook by planting and pruning.

Trend forecaster Faith Popcorn, in her book The Popcorn Report, predicted several years ago that gardening and home improvement would become more important to Americans. The idea, the author said, would be to enhance and beautify that part of our world where we could achieve the serenity that was lacking in the outside world. Create a place where our nerves could be calmed and our sanity restored after spending the day in the hurly burly world outside our door.

Corporations pay Faith Popcorn a fortune to spot and predict these trends (she did, by the way, predict the Jeep craze for Chrysler). But my mom’s crystal ball was tuned in long before Ms. Popcorn even thought about hanging out her shingle.

Now, as my life grows more hectic and I am pulled a hundred different directions at once, I find myself seeking a few daily moments of calm and beauty.

“What do you want for Father’s Day,” my kids ask.

Hmm, a flat of begonias might be nice.