When does a garden start? And where? When we moved to this house in 1977, I remember the five large old oak trees and a shagbark hickory. I recall some potentilla bushes being somewhere (they were always loaded with bees) and a mugo pine by the light pole out front. There were ditch lilies, which we still have, although they aren't in their original location, and I can't remember now where that was. There was a patio, and a lot of bare dirt sprinkled around the yard.
But a garden? Huh-uh. And it didn't matter much. We were newly married just two years before, and both working full-time. Not much energy to think about planting flowers or vegetables, even if I'd had the desire to do so, which I didn't. You not only had to plant the flowers, but there was weeding and watering and fertilizing and deadheading and... I didn't want any part of that.
My mother has always been a gardener, and while I mostly remember her beautiful roses, we always had extensive gardens, but I had no desire to follow in her footsteps. I had a few houseplants, and after a time, I had even less of those. I did not have a green thumb by any means. I would still buy a houseplant now and then, but the watering duties were eventually turned over to my husband, because he killed them less frequently than I did.
One houseplant managed to survive both of us and now, nearly 32 years later, it still lives with us. When we married, our florist for the wedding gave us a beautiful philodendron in a basket that sat on the floor and it wound its way up a tall piece of bark. Somehow, we kept that thing alive, though like our marriage, it had its ups and downs. Over the years, my brown thumb turned green and the philodendron then enjoyed happier days. This past year, our 26-year-old daughter Kara received a start from this plant that is older than she is. It was a gift from me for her wedding shower.
I can't really remember when we first had a vegetable garden, but I remember Kara eating strawberries from it when she was just one. We always grew sweet corn, and sometimes green beans and tomatoes. Now and then, we'd try broccoli or carrots, or peas. But always sweet corn. Every August I gain about five pounds because I love nothing better than to make a meal of hot sweet corn with lots of butter and salt.
Once in awhile, I would get ambitious and plant some annuals. Petunias, impatiens, and geraniums were about as adventuresome as I'd get. And they had better thrive on neglect, because they were going to get plenty of that.
Then I quit work. Something happens to you when your life doesn't revolve around a regular job. Things slow down and you realize you have time to do things you didn't want to take the time to do before. That makes some things look more appealing than they used to. Yes, I actually took time to smell the flowers and I realized I didn't have nearly enough of them.
As any true gardener knows, you can't leave a nursery without buying something and usually it's a lot of somethings. I was addicted the first time I set foot in a nursery and saw possibilities for nearly everything I saw there. I was like a little kid in a candy store! But not having gardened much before, I didn't have room for all that I saw, so I chose a few things to start with. I asked advice from my mom. The first thing she said to me was, "You don't put a ten-dollar plant in a five-dollar hole." She explained 'amending the soil' to me. Oh yes, it wasn't dirt anymore, but soil.
So, I went home and announced to my husband that we needed more garden space and we needed to bring in good soil for it. Now, our real garden started to take on a life of its own. And much of ours would be spent with it.