Unlike baking, I have not always been interested in gardening. I grew up in the woods, surrounded by full shade and red clay soil. We had a garden, but it was a small clearing that consisted of rampant mint and the occasional accidental pumpkin or other squash that self-seeded from the compost pile. I guess there must have been intentional veggies at some point, but I really don’t remember those at all, which clearly illustrates how frequent they were.
In my teens, my mother became interested in gardening, and tried to transform her slightly-less-full-shade yard with red clay soil into a magnificent landscape. She slaved and toiled and dug and buried. She asked me to help her lay newspaper to prepare beds, and I told her I was morally opposed to killing grass. She planted and tended and watched and hoped, and then everything was eaten by deer. That’s what happens in the country in Virginia. She gave up, and what thrived was immune to the soil and the deer and the lack of attention.
When I moved out on my own, I began acquiring houseplants. That’s when it all started. I loved having living green things in my house. I loved taking care of them and watching them not lose their leaves and turn brown. I killed quite a few of them anyway, but a special few thrived and seemed to adore me as much as I adored them. My two ficus, which are rumored to be absurdly difficult and finicky, barely ever dropped their leaves, and didn’t seem to mind at all that they didn’t have enough light and there was a severe draft. I was hooked.
Then I had an apartment where I decided I could have outdoor container plants. At this point I had an entire room full of houseplants, green and happy and draped over everything, but houseplants only need so much attention, and I needed to branch out. I grew Rockapulco double impatiens and cherry tomatoes and green and yellow peppers. I planted Toad lilies and Asiatic lilies in pots on my patio. I nearly failed entirely when I went on vacation and failed to leave detailed watering instructions, but we all made it through. And my success, in those tiny little pots on my shady porch of my dingy apartment on a busy street, convinced me that maybe I should keep at this. Go farther. Maybe move plants up from priority 16 to priority 3 or 4.
And then we bought our house. Our adorable house with huge windows and so much light and a room where houseplants love it so much I even convinced an African Violet to rebloom. Our wonderful house with its .19 acres of garden and potential garden! I couldn’t have gone back if I’d tried – the house was love at first sight, and the garden came with it. I had no choice. Now I have to be a gardener.
It’s been everything I wanted it to be. Every newly emerging plant has been an epiphany. Discovering the cycles of each plant from beginning to end over the seasons (because as I write this we are coming to the end of my first growing season here) is more exciting than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned names and colors and styles and preferences. I’ve learned the language of some, the failings of others; my own wishes and the plants’ needs.
It’s hard, and I’m still not sure what I’m doing most of the time, and I get more dirt in my ears than I’m even sure is possible. But I love every minute of it. Some days I do the rounds just talking to them all, encouraging them to flourish and be happy. And now I dream about my garden at night; I plan new beds and new patterns and small changes as I fall asleep; I daydream about coming home to my foundlings while I work all day, and I count my weekends jealously.
This blog is in part a tribute to this new love. A way for me to document my efforts and my garden’s gifts in return. Each little leaf and flower bud puts a little more life into the world, and creates a little more love to share.