The seeds of memory
My grandparents’ flair for gardening has inspired me to develop my own green thumb
By Patricia Baer
I have grand plans for my backyard. They have been percolating in my brain for years, and now that my first spring in the house is approaching, I may have whatever the gardening equivalent of eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach is.
Fortunately, I have realized this before starting any elaborate landscaping, and I have decided to start small this year. Like every other plan for my house, I am beginning to accept that everything cannot be done at once and that it is OK to implement home improvements gradually.
My memories of my grandparents are closely tied with gardening, both the vegetable and flower varieties. One of my earliest memories is helping my grandmother plant annuals in a flowerbed alongside her house. Over the years she accumulated an assortment of rose bushes, including one—or maybe it was two—from a relative’s farm.
I wish I could remember the story now. She always seemed a little wistful when she mentioned the plant’s origins, and the farm or the farmer was long-gone by the time I heard the story.
Her fondness of surrounding her house with blooming plants influenced my image of what home should look like, and for years my living space did not feel complete unless I had freshly cut flowers on my kitchen table. I have not had much luck keeping indoor plants alive, but that did not stop me from attempting to grow potted morning glories on my apartment balcony one summer.
To my surprise, the flowers thrived and climbed along the railing, winding along the outcrop from the building to create a mini botanical sanctuary. I spent hours that summer sitting on my tiny back porch delightfully admiring their blossoms.
My grandparents also had an enormous vegetable garden, the size of which seemed to be leftover from the days when they had seven children to feed. The idea that every backyard requires a vegetable garden is just as strong in me, although I am less enthusiastic about it than the roses.
From what I recall, it involved a lot of work. I have vague recollections of green beans, peas, and a few disappointing tomato plants coming out of that plot, but it is the endless harvest and freezing of rhubarb that I most associate with their garden. I found the stuff nasty, but they seemed to look forward to freshly baked pies and having a generous supply on hand for the winter. Now my vision of a garden is not complete without it.
I plan to start small this year. I have mentally drafted the beginnings of a serenity garden that will involve sunflowers, morning glories, and maybe a rose bush or two. I am holding off on the vegetables for now, but when the time comes I know my garden will need to be catered to my own tastes with cilantro and peppers replacing the rhubarb despite how much my memory will nag me about what is missing.