Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Growing a gardener

When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow, 
but the gardeners themselves. 
- Ken Druse

How did you grow to become a gardener? What path did you take to the gardening world?  Have you known since you were a child that you wanted to have your own garden one day?  Did your parents or grandparents or another mentor instill in you a love for nature and gardening?  Is your interest primarily in the results or in the process?  Is it for the flowers, the food, or your soul? Or is it all of those?  

My path to gardening was a long, slow, and meandering one.  My parents didn’t garden.  The grandmother I knew spent most of her time indoors.  I wasn’t interested in studying science or botany.  But there was an aspect of my childhood that I believe influenced my later love for the garden - I spent most of my free time outdoors.

There were a lot of children in my neighborhood, and the streets and backyards were our playground.   We climbed trees, played games, rode our bicycles, and staged outdoor dramas under the apple trees. We hunted for pretty rocks in the creek bed and created a make believe world under the trees near the cow pasture.  We were given a great deal of freedom to roam, something it wouldn’t be safe to do today.

When I was a teenager my parents built a house on Lake Norman.  My first “gardening” experience may have been helping my father break up the red clay to plant grass. Living on the lake, we spent as much time as possible floating on the water or sitting on the porch.  But we also walked through the woods and picked blackberries by the side of the road.
As young marrieds my husband and I rented a little duplex, with it’s own small yard.  The yard was waist high in plantain weeds.  We worked hard at clearing those weeds and providing an outdoor space for our one-year-old daughter to play.  But the duplex, in Fairfax County, Va.,  had no air-conditioning.  It felt like a sauna that summer and we were happy to move to an apartment.   We added houseplants to the apartment and a planter to our little balcony but there was no plot of dirt to call our own.

A few years later we bought our first home. - an old home in need of remodeling with lots of land for gardening.   My husband knew about vegetable gardening - his parents planted a huge garden every summer.  My father-in-law brought us a load of chicken manure to enrich the sandy soil and we let that chicken manure sit through the first Winter.  The next Spring we put in our vegetable seeds and seedlings and then spent most of our gardening time hoeing out the Bermuda grass.  Our vegetable crop wasn’t very impressive and I wasn’t convinced that vegetable gardening was for me.  

Our next home was a second floor condominium - no gardening space in sight. 
But then one more move and we settled in - to a house we lived in and loved for 23 years. 
It had a tiny yard and was surrounded by giant willow oaks.  We dug and transplanted daffodils and planted azaleas. There were two dogwoods in the backyard and forsythia bloomed in the corner.   One summer we tried growing tomatoes - we had lots of foliage and not one single tomato.  It was in that back yard, under the dogwood, that we hung our first bird feeder, and there that we put the bluebird box on the fence.  
We survived Hurricanes Fran and Floyd with those willow oaks falling all around us.  
Hurricane Fran 1996
Hurricane Floyd 1999
Though the gardening possibilities were limited, we made great improvements with enthusiasm.
I wish I had a before shot of this view!
In 2003 we made one more move - to a house we love with a huge deck and lots of outdoor space. A house we hope to stay in for the rest of our lives.  I house with lots of room for gardening. But I'll save the story of this garden - the one you see in this blog - for another post.

For another gardening story, visit Marguerite at Canoe Corner. What's your story? If you post yours please leave a link in a comment - I would love to read it!


Amy said...

Enjoyed your post, Ginny. It is interesting to see how our childhood or experiences or even people influence us down certain paths in life. Sounds like you had a fun childhood playing outdoors! I was outside all the time, too.
We used to live in Arlington and Alexandria, VA and I taught in Fairfax County. I can't believe you didn't have AC in VA....:/ It is soooo hot.
The azaleas are beautiful! I will have to think about my garden story. :)

Jen said...

i loved reading your story of how you became a gardener! I will have to do the same on my blog one day... its pretty early in the story right now though ;)

FlowerLady said...

Great post and I look forward to reading about your new gardening experiences.

Happy Living and Gardening,


Karin / Southern Meadows said...

What a delightful post Ginny! It is fascinating to learn how each of us comes down a different path to becoming a gardener. Being exposed to the outdoors and nature is certainly a key element and one that unfortunately is lost on many children today. My childhood days of running around in the garden and woods are so precious. Thanks for sharing your story. So sad to see your willow oaks damaged from the Hurricanes. Looks like you were lucky and it didn't land on your former house.

Southern Lady said...

Ginny, my story is much like yours. I spent most of my childhood playing outside and at the creek. However, my parents always had a big vegetable garden (with long rows). I spent many warm days planting or picking beans and many nights shelling peas and such. Needless to say, I was burned out on gardening for years. Over the last several years I have started taking an interest in it again. I have planted veggie beds (on my own terms) with short managable rows. Now, I love it! I understand the excitement that my dad always had for growing his own food. Although my parents didn't grow many flowers, I have found that this is truly the gardening that makes me happiest! Speaking of flowers...thanks for my seeds. I can't wait to see them sprout. Carla

Rebecca said...

Great post! My love of gardening had to come from my grandmother. She was a master gardener even though she didn't hold an official title... I often think about how my mother always went along with any gardening project I came up with as a child-I try to do the same with my children. Your post has inspired me-I'm going to do something like this someday!

Rosey said...

That was interesting to read about your gardening story.
I was influenced by my father. He always let me plant my own seeds and encouraged me to always try new methods of gardening. The best place I ever gardened was in Nebraska. The corn grew so fast, it squeaked. :)
And here I attempt to get lettuce growing at 8500 feet.

Marguerite said...

Ginny, I think sometimes when we live in small spaces our need for an outdoor space is that much greater. Gardening seems to have called out to you when you needed some nature in your life.

Donna said...

Ginny what a wonderful blog goes through my story but it starts with the post

Alistair said...

Lovely post, I was very much influenced by my grandparents, so casually they wouldn't have realised.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ginny, Very much in common with you, my first serious attempts at creating a garden took place when I acquired a house of my own. I then realised that if something was not done to the garden it would, quite quickly, consume the house. Everything else has been learned by trial and error, close inspection of other gardens and advice from other gardeners. And, of course, one continues to learn.....

scottweberpdx said...

Lovely post, it's so interesting to learn the back-story behind a fellow gardener. I'm fascinated at how completely different backgrounds can still yield people in love with gardening!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I really enjoyed your story Ginny. I haven't posted mine, but perhaps some day I shall. The short version is my grandparents and parents both gardened, and I was dotty about nature as a child, constantly flipping over rocks and logs, and peering down rabbit holes. Now I chase the rabbits, but I still find myself peeking under rocks and logs in the garden, and sometimes I'm surprised by who I find.

Carolyn ♥ said...

Love this post, Ginny, and I love your new look. Every time I come here it's just so cheery and peaceful. Of course anything blue captures my heart.

I may post my own story someday. Thank you for sharing yours!

Laurrie said...

I'm enjoying these stories about how gardeners come to gardening. I love hearing a little bit about histories and childhoods and first houses and initial gardens... it's fascinating! Thanks for stopping by my blog to visit.

PlantPostings said...

Hi Ginny: This is a fun post! Most of my influences were from dear relatives, and also a natural inclination to literally want to "dig in the dirt." I had a Martha Stewart-type grandmother who had very little space to garden, but always did everything with grace. I also had a great aunt, whom I can picture to this day...coming around the side of her house, hunched over and with a trowel in her arthritic hands. Gardening is something she did to the very end. My mother also had lovely gardens and we kids spent most summer days outside from dawn to dusk. So many great memories. Thanks for sharing and encouraging our stories!

Rosey said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my Green Elevations blog about your experiences. It was so kind of you.