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Stories of the Garden Variety

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

This month, in honor of spring, I’m steering my blog toward the floral persuasion. As someone who spent many hours in the garden and who then learned from horticulturists at several plant nurseries, only to later spend years behind floral counters in creative bliss, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell and experiences to offer.

My two earliest memories of puttering around in the garden were from ages 5-7. The first involves my grandmother, who used to have me collect strawberries from her patch in the front yard. She showed me how to pick the ripest berries while leaving the rest for the next harvest.

It was with great pride that I tripped down the steps the first day on my own to collect the bright red berries, just as my grandmother had taught me. I remember carefully stepping over the small, wiry fencing that separated her garden from the sidewalk. The sun was bright above my head and the earth warm beneath my hands as I crouched low to begin my search. It was a treasure hunt; I was a fearless explorer, sifting through a half-dozen insects that had decided to make my grandmother’s patch their favorite hangout. I did not fear them; I understood them, for it was mine, too.

No arguing adults, confusing changes, or boogeymen were allowed in our little world. Only the heady feeling of freedom from confining walls, the aromatic symphony of disturbed soil and crushed leaves and berries, and the zipping sounds of bees and dragonflies were our companions. I felt as if I had found my apotropaic spot in the world.

My second memory was of a kind woman that was our neighbor for a time. She often spoke to me while I was outside playing and she was tending to her sidewalk garden. We lived in thin-walled townhomes, each with a large dining room window, so there were very few secrets between our houses. When my neighbor brought out a flat of bright yellow and burnt orange marigolds, I hurried outside to stare at them in awe. Seeing my excitement, she asked me if I’d like to help her plant them, cementing my hero worship. Later, she would thank me for my help with a beautiful M.I. Hummel figurine.

Neither she nor my grandmother is among the living today but I am very happy to say that the gifts—both tangible and not—are still with me.

I feel that my role, now, is to pass the torch to the younger generations. My son has been the recipient of this mode of thinking since he was old enough to walk. He has assisted me with everything from plant shopping and watering to identifying plants by genus and species. I can’t wait to share this with my daughter, as well. With so many of us spending time at home in recent months, I believe we will see a great resurgence in gardening activities and shared experiences. I can vouch for the staying power that these early lessons can have on young minds.

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