Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gardens I have Loved Before - Part 1

In the dead cold of winter, during these short days, there is not much rushing about.  It's a good time to read books, drink tea and wrap yourself in a warm blanket.  In that spirit I would like to share a story.  So pull up a chair, make yourself a cup of cocoa, sit by the fire and join me.

Some of my readers have been around for many months now and you've probably learned a little bit about me along the way.  But you might still be wondering about some of the details.  A part of my story has been missing until now.  I talk a lot about gardening.  What I'm digging up most recently and what I'd like to dig up in the future.  But how is it that I came to be a gardener?  Where did I learn what I know?  In fact, what do I really know at all?  So this is the start of a series of stories that will hopefully answer some of those questions.

I grew up in a small town called Dawson Creek in rural northern British Columbia.  It is a cold place, a gardening zone of only 2.  But during the summers thrives a farming community.  You can see a glowing example of one of these farms at Melanie's blog, Northern Gardeners Almanac.  At school my friends talked about riding horses, driving tractors, and 4H meetings.  But I was a town kid.  I lived in an apartment over top of an industrial building.  How does a small child living in an apartment find out about flowers?  Well, like so many other gardeners, my green thumb is hereditary.  My mother is a farm girl raised in Saskatchewan.  In that prairie province farms spread as far as the eye can see and my mother grew up raising animals and growing vegetables.  She carried these skills with her to British Columbia to our small apartment.  We didn't have room to grow our own food  but every summer we went to u-pick farms and roadside stands and carried our purchases home to be pickled, canned and frozen.  I learned to pick strawberries and shuck corn at an early age.  Although these activities appeased my mother's need to feed her family she still had the urge to grow her own plants.  And so she transformed our living room, crowding it with spider plants, lipstick plants, aloe, jade, ferns and pointsettias, it became as green and humid as any tropical jungle.  As a small child the most coveted plant of all to me were the african violets.  These fuzzy little plants bloomed almost constantly in shades of pink and purple.  Soft to the touch and beautifully coloured they captured my heart.    Sometimes, after dinner, when the last of the tea from the pot had cooled, I would be allowed to water the violets with it.  Making sure none of the liquid touched their leaves.  My lessons in plant care had begun.

17 comments:

  1. I enjoyed you trip down memory lane. I would have been the friend in 4-H with the horses, working in the gardens. Now I am the one in the city, just lucky enough to have a good friend and business partner with a huge farm. My mom too was a farm girl and my dad grew up on a huge gentleman's farm estate. I too learned early from my mom. My mom did not can or pickle though. You had a good teacher.

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  2. Gardening is a treasure that can be passed down generations down the line.. nice little story. ~bangchik

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  3. I really like learning the backstory to each person's public image. The history and details and what makes each unique, and how she or he got to this point. Loved this... thanks for giving us a peek into your personal history.

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  4. Lovely childhood memories. I agree with you that horticulture runs in the blood, and you can't escape it no matter where life takes you. How wonderful that your Mom found a way to bring it into an apartment! Some of my own most vivid childhood memories involved picking fruit, shucking corn, snapping string beans, and rubbing a leaf to feel its texture.

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  5. loved reading this and looking forward to the next insalment ;o)
    it's interesting as if the green thumb is in us mine must go back a long way as neither of my parents were were, Frances

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  6. How sweet, I learned from my grandma how to water the African violets. Those violets stole my heart. The soft colors the fuzzy leaves. Great post.

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  7. What a warm memory! My mom was a grower of stuff in coffee cans and other assorted vessels, a champion of zucchini the size of baseball bats, and bok choy so sour no one could eat it. I never paid much attention but grew up counting the scent of potting soil as one of my favorite smells. Great post!

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  8. My dad was an amazing gardener but it was my gramma who had houseplants. Again, lots of African violets but mostly pots and post of a plant she called mother-in-law's tongue which she kept dividing and dividing until my mother's house and sisters' houses were filled to overflowing. Though my gramma died in l986 I'm sure there are still a number of "tongues" still "having babies" in relative's homes:)

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  9. Hi Marguerite,
    Great minds think alike. It must be as you suggest the time of year when there is time to sit and reminisce. I have been working on a similar back story for my blog. ( I put off posting it as my last post was long winded and I don't want to annoy people with 2 wordy posts in a row. I do have a way of going on and on...)
    I enjoyed hearing about your beginnings as a gardener and look forward to part 2.
    P.S. I tried to say hi to Jodi at the Interior Design show but he was away from his booth, when I happened by. The desk he was showing was very nicely crafted. Hopefully the show went well for him.

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  10. Donna - Unfortunately I have lost almost all my knowledge about canning but I'm hoping I can 'revive' some of those memories in the next couple of years as I would love to start making jam. Luckily mom's still around to ask for advice.

    Ms.S - I'm glad you're enjoying this, hopefully it won't drag out too long for everyone. It turned into a much longer story than I anticipated.

    Bangchik - it's funny how we pick up things in childhood only to be reminded as adults how important they really were. I never would have guessed I would become an avid gardener.

    Laurrie - Thanks for being interested! I wasn't sure if people would want to know more about me but it felt like the right story to tell.

    Floridagirl - I was surprised when I took up gardening as an adult how much was automatic for me but then I realized that the groundwork had been set when I was little. By making plants a part of my life as a kid I seem to have inherited the knack for them.

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  11. Island Threads - sometimes loving what you're doing is all that's required!

    Cheri - it seems everyone has a fond memory of those fuzzy violets. Crocheted doilies and violets go hand in hand in my mind.

    Casa Mariposa - obviously something rubbed off on you as here you are gardening today. potting soil does have a lovely smell doesn't it.

    Jane - I've read other blogs where people have houseplants that have been passed on for generations, just like your gramma's plant. That's amazing, I never realized the potential longevity of houseplants since mine tend to have short lives!

    Jennifer - I was just over at your blog and saw you had been to the show. Sorry you missed Jody, it's been a very hectic week for him but also incredibly rewarding. He's had lots of positive feedback and really enjoyed getting to meet other people in the design world. I'm anxiously waiting for him to come home so I can give him a big hug.

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  12. Marguerite thanks for your comment on my spam blogs post it has prompted me to undate the post about finding links that lead to spam blogs, you already allow people to comment on your blog using name/url which is why I have been commenting on your blog, thanks, Frances

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  13. I loved your story, particularly about being allowed to water the African Violets. Your Mum really did find herself living outside her comfort zone, finding herself in an apartment with no outside space. Looking forward to part 2...

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  14. Love of gardening does seem to be passed from generation to generation. In my case it seems to have skipped one or two generations as neither of my parents were interested in gardening. But I never knew those grandparents who might have had this love. It's wonderful that your mother was able to share her gardening love with you despite the limitations of city life.

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  15. I can only imagine a Zone2 gardening experience! That's a short and intense summer~I suspect it is quite beautiful with everything blooming all at once. Thank you for sharing~What an adventure it must have also been to live over the industrial building. gail

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  16. Frances, you provided great information for those of us who still have a lot to learn about blogging.

    Plantaliscious - at the time it never occurred to me what my mom had given up but looking at it now I'm amazed how she survived in that apartment.

    Ginny - as you'll see in the following posts my mom eventually got her garden and I had a full education in hands on gardening!

    Gail - Although I lived there until I was 15 I find my memory of that town is a bit fuzzy. I visited there recently and was shocked at how long the sun stays up in summer. When I considered it I knew they had longer days but it was still surprising to see the sun up at 10 at night. same goes for summer, they must have been short but I have little real recollection of it.

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