Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A growing tradition

I come from a long line of women who seek therapy in the cool, deep dirt of their gardens. Grandmothers, aunts, and of course, my mom are all avid gardeners. Their homes were/are surrounded by flowers. Their summer salads were/are punctuated by tomatoes and cucumbers that they’ve sown in a patch of dirt a few feet from their back door.

I recall my maternal grandmother’s peony bushes, full of fat, pink flowers every spring. Their lush fragrance filled the air for several feet in any direction. In her backyard, she grew vegetables that my cousins and I picked and ate straight from the garden.

On the other side of my family tree, my great-grandmother filled pots of colorful annuals and lined her steps with them. Rose of Sharon bushes grew high along the front of her house. My father’s mom had a lush patch of lily-of-the-valley that hypnotized me with its beauty.

Even in marriage I’ve connected with gardeners. Mark’s mother’s home is surrounded by a riot of color and beauty from May to September. A physical wall of daylilies brings joy to the entire neighborhood each year.

I have inherited this love. The gardening gene thrives in my cells, prompting me to begin plotting out my spring projects while snow still blows outside my window and bringing me delight at the first signs of plants coming to life after a long winter sleep.

When we bought our house in March 2001, I knew almost nothing about gardening and the beds around the home were a neglected, weedy mess. I had no idea what I was doing, but I forged bravely forward, planting with no clear plan or direction. Things shot up all over the place in willy-nilly fashion. Tall plants were in the front of the border while shorter ones were hidden the back. All the July bloomers ended up in one place resulting in a short-lived burst of color with nothing else blooming for the rest of the season. A bunch of plants withered away from lack of sun as others fried in the heat of August.

But I’m a fast learner and by the next summer, I had a plan in place. I moved some plants, divided others and began the traditional May draining of my wallet at the local nursery.

I learned about full sun and part sun and shade. I learned about spring, summer and fall bloomers. I learned to space things by color and size. I stopped pulling the relentless weeds and laid down thick black weed tarp instead.

And last year I hit paydirt:


American Goldfinch sitting on a Rudbeckia flower

Summer garden with butterflies


There is still a lot of work to do. Whole beds off the driveway in the back remain neglected and overgrown. But it’s good to see such hard work pay off.

The best part of all is realizing that both of my daughters seem to have inherited the gardening gene as well. At the annual nursery wallet draining last week, they happily followed along, helping me pick out flowers, asking questions with great enthusiasm (“Oh Mommy, what’s this plant?”) and pulling the wagon as we piled it high with flowers, herbs and vegetables (a new experiment for me this year).

When it came time to put them in the ground, they were right there with me, digging with their tiny shovels, wearing the teeny gardening gloves I picked up for them in the dollar section of Target.

I used to relish gardening time as my alone time. For me, digging in the dirt in solitude was one the finest forms of stress release.

But on Sunday morning while the three of us filled a huge container with tiny herb plants, Mark stepped outside to marvel at us.

“This is so great,” he said. “You’re giving them a lifelong love of gardening.”

There is no better tribute I can offer to the fine women of my family than to ensure their passions and pursuits live on for another generation. So far, it appears the odds are very good.


Labels: ,


Blogger Minnesota Matron said...

Beautiful! You're planting all kinds of seeds. I must give a love of books as my legacy -- the only thing I really enjoy about gardening is pulling creeping charlie :-).

8:31 PM  
Blogger ryssee said...

Wow, beautiful! And I had to laugh...this weekend I planted my annuals in the garden and tonight I did some flower boxes on the deck!
I'm a newbie and I live in a city, but it sure looks better than a naked deck!

8:36 PM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

That's wonderful. I inherited some rosebushes with my house and I'm just so proud to have kept (most of) them alive for 4 years now.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Elaine A. said...

Oh what a lovely post! I am lucky to have my Mom here to help me every Spring. She is a wonderful gardener. I can hold my own but am always glad for her help.

Your flowers are lovely. What are the bright yellow daisy-looking ones?

I inherited an herb garden with thus house that has gotten a little out of control but I still love it.

I could go on, but you have to get back to your garden! ; )

2:52 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

Elaine - the yellow flowers are rudbeckia, sometimes also called black-eyed or brown-eyed susans. They're one of my favorites too!

11:07 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home