Who Brought you to Gardening?

As a wonderful treat yesterday, I awoke to a lovely post on my friend Alison Kerr’s blog, Loving Nature’s Garden. Alison is a very talented observer of the natural world. From her, I’ve learned all about birds, flowers, and critters; ideas for getting myself and others outdoors; and Alison’s special relationship with her own Kansas habitat, which she shares with a great deal of wisdom and humor. And did I mention how thorough she is?

Her new post is about all the people who have influenced her to be a gardener, a wonderful trail back to her grandfather who bought baby leeks, her grandmothers who made rhubarb pie and grew wildflowers, and her mother who grew improbably warm-weather crops in Scotland. All these threads of course led to Alison’s own love of gardening and the way it connects her to family members who came before. It is a beautiful piece, with great pictures of everyone, and of course it led to a flood of hearfelt comments from readers sharing their own memories of the people who influenced them to love getting their hands dirty and growing things.

She got me thinking about my own gardening heritage, which I shared:

My family has always grown something, on patios and decks, in windowboxes and raised beds. At 9 we moved from an apartment to an old house that miraculously had a greenhouse, great beds and soil, and wonderful sun. My mom grew beautiful roses and spent lots of time lovingly cutting and arranging them. She had long, pretty fingers and I can still picture them tending to her roses.

My dad and I took to the greenhouse, to propagate and experiment. Into the beds went cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, zinnias, and other cheery and fairly easy flowers. My dad worked hard at his job and gardening was a way to spend relaxing, fascinating time together.

I still always grow something, now with my own daughter. I love sowing the seeds, watching new shoots come in. Our shadier spot is home to peas, lettuce, pansies, cosmos, and tulips that are just coming up now.

I really appreciate Alison’s continuing inspiration and her getting me to think about who brought me to gardening, which I probably would not have done without the prompt. (Such can be the beauty of the internet.) I recommend you take a look at Loving Nature’s Garden, and visit often. There’s always a link to it on my front page.

My mom was also an avid photographer. The rose pictures are ones she took of her garden.

Here is my dad with a prized cucumber from a fruitful growing season.

And here we are celebrating together.

Photos by Bunnie Sachs

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13 responses to “Who Brought you to Gardening?

  1. Dear Suz,

    Thank you for sharing your photo of your dad and your wonderful memories. Reading your wonderful Slow Family Online brings back to me such good memories of spending happy, joyful times with you and your family when we were kids. During my continuing exhausting and harried times, remembering memories like the ones you write about along with your other writings are calming influences for me. Thank you for your friendship through thick and thin.


    • Hi Andrea! Gosh, your words are so moving. I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time. Of all people, you deserve better and I’m sure it will come. I, too, treasure our times. (Andrea and I go back to Junior High, everyone.) In fact, when I found the picture of my dad with the cucumber, there was a picture of you and me on the same page, in our outfits for Hawaiian Day in high school. (Remember, we went as tourists?) Long-time friends are the best, for sure. I’m so happy to have you as a friend and am so honored that you visited and wrote and that our interwoven family memories mean so much to you. Lots of love to you ..

  2. Suz,

    Your kind thoughts left me without words to express. Wisdom and humor? Could this really be me you’re writing about? Sometimes a writer wonders if anyone is listening. Thanks for making my day!

    “Here is my dad with a prized cucumber…” I was expecting something just a bit larger. You’ve returned the gift of humor. Of course, I’m sure size isn’t everything. Home-grown tastes best!

    Regards, Alison Kerr

    • Ha! As for the cucumber, I believe it was a pickling type. Does that change things? I truly remember the fun of growing more than the crop. We spent a lot of time on the garden beds and I had specific rows of flowers that were mine — from choosing and planting, to tending and harvesting, and that’s something I did with my daughter, too. (She chose marigolds on her own, just as I had. Maybe kids just like the bright orange heads.)

      I also remember a lot of experimenting in the greenhouse. Dad was a good propagator and he also had a spell creating terrariums. (This was in the mid 70s, when they were all the rage.) I think a lot of friends got terrariums as gifts. (I made macrame plant holders, come to think of it.) When science projects rolled around, I could be depended on to do something in the greenhouse, and was always subjecting plants to varying amount of music or light to see how they did.

      Of course, your blog is a continuing inspiration. I always learn something from it and come away enlightened, with a better sense of the world around me. It’s written with love and, as a result, is well-loved by readers. Thank you for Loving Nature’s Garden.

  3. My Mother brought me to gardening. When I’d get in trouble, as a little kid, she’d sentence me to weeding. Didn’t take long to see that as a very rewarding form of ‘punishment.’ Gardening was her active form of meditation and it’s mine, as well. You can bury a lot of problems in the dirt.

  4. My brother, of all people! My grandparents had a bountiful backyard garden, along with fruit trees and flowers, when we were growing up. But my brother, who was stricken with osteomyelitis early in high school, found contemplation and renewed strength first at a job with a nursery and then in a 1/4 acre garden in our backyard. It was amazing; a giant undertaking – nobody was doing that in the 70s! He tilled, weeded, and nurtured the most amazing harvests of melons, squash, peppers, green beans, peas, corn, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers. It was almost like he wanted to show himself and us that he could do big things despite his weakened state. He went on to become an All-American soccer player in his senior year, on to Columbia University. Big guy.

  5. I love thinking about gardening and other outdoor activities in terms of who introduced me to them, especially when I think about having that same impact on the children in my life. It is such a special gift to spark someone’s love of nature.

    I remember my mother letting all the neighborhood kids plant seeds in her garden. She was the only mother who had the patience to let the little kids work with her, and it meant so much to them, especially when their seeds sprouted and they saw that they’d had a hand in something magical.

    I also remember Organic Gardening magazines piled around the house long before organic gardening was anything anyone talked much about (late 1960s/early 70s).

    Kate, I remember thinking of weeding as punishment, although I don’t think my mom intended it that way. All of the bugs and larvae my sister and I would dig up scared us…but they were also fascinating. It was almost a gleeful game of, “Who can find the grossest bug while weeding?” As icky as it seemed, it was an intriguing other world.

    Suz, I remember experimenting with plants and music, too. It seems like there was a study that came out at that time about how plants grew better with music.

    Great reminiscing!

  6. I can’t remember when I didn’t dig in the dirt. My friends and I even played “flower shop” when we were 6. As far as I can see back into my family, there are gardeners and farmers. Both my parents as well as both my grandmothers were big influences. My dad taught me how to grow veggies and mom was the flower lady. You have inspired me to write my own post about family history. I just wrote a tongue-in-cheek one about being a redneck – guess I’ll get serious now. thanks for this wonderful post.

  7. Hi Kate, Heidi, Sue and Kathy — I’m so glad you all came and shared such special reminiscences. I love that Alison’s blog post triggered my memories, and then that you all came and posted such lovely and, well, earthy thoughts and memories of your own.

    It seems the garden can be a true place of solace, beauty, companionship as we work alongside someone else, and healing/strengthening — most starkly, in the case of Heidi’s brother, I think.

    As I read all these, I pictured all your lovely gardens (some of which I’ve seen in person and some in pictures.) Kathy, our backgrounds are similar as far as the mom/dad division of duties. And, Sue, you brought back more 70s memories of organic gardening being very new and kind of out there. We had a book, “Plants are like People” and that may have furthered the theory that plants grew best with music. Your mother sounds quite special indeed.

    All your families do and I thank you for the vivid pictures you paint of them and of your love of gardening. I truly am grateful that you all came and shared.

  8. As you can imagine, this post induced a flood of wonderful comments and memories on our Facebook page, too. Some highlights:

    My mom used to have a big garden that covered most of the front yard. Then some years latter she decided to move it to the top of one of the hills on the farm. I don’t grow many vegetables like her but I do like growing eggplants and lots and lots of flowers!

    Hi Jeanette! Your mom’s garden sounds wonderful. And she was ahead of her time — front-yard gardening is now all the rage! Sounds like she had quite a vegetable garden going. I love eggplants (you must have pretty good sun) and, of course, just about any flower is delightful to grow. It’s fun when your gardening has some tradition involved, too. Thank you for sharing that!

    I walk in the footsteps of my mother who was an avid gardener, coming from a farming background in South Africa where growing your own fruit and veg was a necessity this way of life naturally continued when we moved into town. In memory of my mom I have planted a Brunfelsia pauciflora (Brazil Raintree, Yesterday-today-and tomorrow), a shrub she particularly loved, it battles somewhat in the colder climate of New Zealand’s lower South Island none-the-less it’s worth the effort as I always think of mom when I see it.

  9. Laura:
    My dad, who is passionate about his crops, has a vast knowledge and a very unique palate. His mom too was responsible, I spent hours by her side helping in her garden.

    I love all these special and meaningful memories! It just shows how the small things we do with our children can be life-changing. Eunice, it’s especially great that you were able to plant your mother’s favorite shrub and that it can be a constant, beautiful, living reminder of her. I recently had a dear family friend pass away. She was 99 (!) and … See Morea passionate gardener and wonderful person. On one of our last visits, she gave me some succulents she had grown, which I replanted in my garden and which will continue to remind me of her. Laura, I love hearing about your memories, too, and thinking about how your experiences shaped your gardening and cooking passions.

    I can’t remember when I got bitten by the gardening bug but it certainly is in the blood. It has become a family tradition to do a garden tour when visiting family members while holding a morning cup of tea. Long discussions about the growth/ suitability or beauty of plants is delightful way to start a holiday. Thirty years ago I planted an acorn in my parents garden & now I enjoy the shade of this magnificent tree! My children have carried on the tradition & planted acorns in pots.

    Hi Elise! What a beautiful post. It’s so rich with many gardening traditions. I love the garden walks with tea and the acorn that is now a shade-providing tree. Just lovely.

  10. A couple more:

    My brother, Michael:
    Pop with his prized cucumber….CLASSIC! Love it….

    My mom and Mrs. Terwilliger of Mill Valley introduced me to our bigger garden. My mom always labored to eradicate the invasive Scotch Broom….I now carry the torch.. Mrs. T “She was a naturalist and pioneer environmental educator known to three generations of Bay Area families as “Mrs. T,” died Monday. She was 97.” Marin IJ. 11/29/06

    Bro, yes, Classic! I also posted pics Mom took of her roses. Of course I didn’t fully appreciate her rose garden growing up. I’d be in there all the time now! And, Mia, those are great memories! We’ll all carry the torch of eradicating Scotch Broom — forever! It never dies! And of course I knew about Mrs. T. You are very lucky to have studied with her and been influenced by her. What a special person. I’m glad her work seems to be honored and going on. Also, gardening = long life? We’ll find out.

    No one…except perhaps our beloved Japanese Gardner. We grew up with him doing all sorts of great things, then my bro grew something not so much for landscaping…it got stolen!

    Got into gardening much more so on the East Coast with limited warm seasons and perennials, plus hating the fruits, herbs, and veggies that permeated most markets!

    Anne, I’m laughing at your varied gardening history. It’s also interesting that you got in to gardening on the East coast. It seems that you have quite the garden now! I always say that some of my best tomatoes grew on my balcony in Manhattan. They had a lot of care, as lots of balcony crops do, and probably some good under-rated NY sun.

  11. Beautiful, my father and mother insisted that gardening is essential skill for a truly educated individual, the connection to the earth is fundamental to understanding any thing else
    peace and light

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