Sometimes I wonder how the garden bug begins.
Is it something innate, the craving to grow things that we’re born with? But that doesn’t seem quite possible, not everyone enjoys growing or gardening…or maybe they just don’t know or haven’t been taught to appreciate gardening. And of course there are the folks who’ve toiled and done their part and are ready to sit back, relax, and watch others grow gardens.
I spent hours wandering around my grandmother’s yard when we would visit her for a weekend sleepover or during one of our Sunday dinners growing up. Even visiting my grandfather’s yard was always an adventure as he had over an acre of land that stretched back to the railroad track running through his east Fort Worth neighborhood. It ran through my grandmother’s neighborhood too, the sound of the engine approaching exciting and thrilling during the day but incredibly dark, foreboding, and frightening at night.
Both of them grew food, rows of beans, tomatoes, onions and a miscellany of other items in rows out back. My brother and I would play games, running around the yard as my grandmother watered her plants, fertilized with Miracle Gro or likely dusted the plants with Sevin. Yeah, those were the pre-organic days. Sometimes we’d clip off a rose to put in water for the night, the cutting I’d wrap up tight in paper towel and a baggie or plastic wrap the next morning to take home and enjoy for a few days.
At my own house growing up I was not exactly one to garden, though my mom did grow flowers in a few of her beds. I think there was an attempt at vegetable gardening early in my youth but that didn’t last. Other than picking marigold seed heads off to throw around the flower beds, my main job was to move the sprinkler for my dad during the summer months when I was out of school so that the grass would stay green through the Texas heat. I was a teenager, I had boys, friends and shopping on my mind—practically in that order.
I think it was in college that I bought a couple of plants for my apartment porch. I believe my dad gave me a banana tree from his yard and I planted it there in a container and then I went to Walmart and bought some Mexican heather which promptly died on me a few weeks later. I tried Mexican heather again in Florida and have never had success with it. It is now on my do-not-even-try-to-plant list.
Somehow our apartment porch in Melbourne, Florida became covered in plants shortly after I moved there at 22 when we got married. So, even though I didn’t know much about gardening, knew hardly anything about plants other than what I’d seen growing up, Chris and I were buying plants. Mostly at big box stores at that point, but that’s how it starts, right? It seemed strange to see other apartment balconies and porches without a single plant on them. Come on folks, can’t you at least get a pothos or airplane plant? (Which by the way, this is what happens to pothos when you put it in the ground in a tropical climate.) I still see yards and lawns and begin placing plants and flower beds in their place in my head.
And then somehow you become a gardener. It’s like you wake up one day and you must buy this plant, buy those seeds, start that flat of something-or-another, transplant-this-or-that, push zones up or down, and it becomes who you are. The opportunity to save seeds from a park entices you, taking a cutting of something just because you can in order to see it grow is nothing to bat an eyelash at, and sharing plants is just the norm. Sharing plants is the easiest way to attach a memory to something, of someone or a moment in time. It’s not like I don’t already do that with stuff, making it more impossible for me to part with something later on, but at least with plants they are there in the ground to enjoy—until of course they succumb to a garden FAIL.
As both my grandfather and grandmother got to the point where they were incapable of gardening or doing yard work I saw how it disappointed them. Several months ago I was visiting my grandmother in her nursing home, I was holding up a magazine and flipping through it to show her the photos. She oohed and ahhed at several and I could tell got a bit wistful, wishing life hadn’t taken her to where it had now. Of course now she’s further deteriorating, sometimes not even recognizing me or remembering things correctly.
So, dig in the ground while you can.
Soak up the knowledge, soak up the peace and calm that weeding, planting, watering, and sowing can bring—even when the sweat drips off your temple and the mosquitoes and horse flies bite you as the sun sets. Become a gardener—or at least a container gardener, and watch a plant grow, and live.
And then share it with someone so that they too can become a gardener or at the very least, appreciate the floral life around them.