A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Why do I garden?

I was filling out an application for the Master Gardener certification program the other day and got stuck on the question asking why I wanted to do it. I garden like I breathe, automatically without thinking about it. I had never tried to analyze why it is that I must garden.

A home without a garden is not a home to me. We moved around a lot when I was growing up. My mother planted gardens at every single house we lived in. My first garden when I was in elementary school was a tiny corner of one of her flower beds. It probably measured less than 3' by 3'. I don't remember many details about that garden, just that all the flowers were planted in rows according to height. It has taken me many years to stop planting in rows. It was also the best weeded garden I ever had because it was so small. The next garden I remember was when I was in junior high school. That one was memorable because of the green zinnias. I was fascinated by flowers that were green. I still grow green zinnias and I remain fascinated by green flowers. Two years ago I started a flower bed composed completely of green flowers.

A couple of years ago while going through an old photo album, I found pictures of a garden I planted when I was in high school. Up until that day, I had only vague memories of it. All I remembered was that it was round and dug around a bird feeder. The picture took my breath away. There were the same sunflowers, hollyhocks, cosmos, bachelor buttons and pansies I grow today. I never realized my attachment to those flowers was lifelong.

As a single adult, I lived in various apartments with no yards to garden in. I forced bulbs indoors. I grew flowers in containers on fire escapes. At no time did it ever occur to me to not garden.

I moved into my first home in September of 1985. I didn't even finish unpacking before I was outside planting bulbs for the following spring. My then husband was horrified. He felt it was not an appropriate activity for a woman who was 8 months pregnant. After the divorce, I moved into my second home in August of 1995. I was so ill with Lyme disease, friends had to unpack for me. There was no bulb planting. I could only muster enough energy to buy a few mums from a local nursery. One of those plants still survives. I was thrilled the following spring to discover daffodils that had naturalized in the front of the house.

Raising a troubled child has consumed my life, virtually destroying it but through all the difficult years, my gardens have been my refuge. I have experimented with different plants and planting techniques. I have settled on growing heirlooms. I have started a small collection of heirloom rosebushes. Last year I started my collection of heirloom bulbs. I have experimented with color gardens, theme gardens, herb gardens, vegetable gardens and compost. I have planted to attract beneficial insects, butterflies and birds. I was thrilled to find a garter snake in my shed last year. I haven't seen a snake since I moved to New Jersey over 20 years ago. I hold out hope for a toad, something else I haven't seen in this overpopulated and polluted state.

So why do I want obtain a Master Gardener certification and then lend that expertise to the community as a volunteer? Because gardening is what I do. It's who I am.


At 2:12 AM, Anonymous Dotty said...

Some of us garden because we must. We must create beauty as well as we can, learning as we go. Gardens are a work in progress, a work of art that comes from the heart and hands and mind.


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