Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gardens I Have Loved Before - Part 2

If you missed Part 1 you may want to start reading here.

When I was 9 years old we moved out of that apartment.  We didn't go far but in gardening terms it was a whole new world.  My parents bought a house with a huge yard a short distance away and my brother and I had visions of a dog running through that yard.  My mother had other ideas.  She promptly hired a guy with a tractor to tear up.  Two thirds of the lawn was gone in an instant.  What for?  A garden of course. 

Potatoes, asparagus, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and rhubarb were planted, among other things.  I actually remember playing hide and go seek in the potato patch as the plants were big enough to hide me (or perhaps I was just that small?).

At that time in our lives my mother worked full time as a nurse and she wasn't able to do all the gardening herself.  Instead she doled out the many gardening chores to us kids.  Hilling potatoes, shelling peas, sowing carrots, weeding.  I confess I didn't like it.  No kids like chores but I was particularly discouraged with these tasks.  I hated getting dirty.  I was terrified of bugs.  Being sent to the garden was misery and it was hard work.  Worse, I was working to put vegetables on the table.  Yuck.  As far as I could see there was absolutely no benefit to this at all. 

And then flowers were introduced and I began to see things a little differently.  I was given a small patch of ground and allowed to plant some seeds - alyssum and marigolds.  The colours of these flowers enthralled me but it wasn't enough.  Eventually my mother added lilacs and bleeding hearts.  The bright colours, scents and shapes of these plants captured my heart.  Then there were the gladiolas.  Those bright outrageous glads that my mother cursed each spring and fall, digging them out and then digging them back in.  I remember her stating she was going to throw them out one year and I begged her to reconsider.  They were my favourite of all the plants, unreal in their beauty. 

Years later  I planted bleeding hearts in my own garden, a reminder of my childhood

And so for several years I was highly involved in gardening, learning to sow seeds, how to hill and not damage roots, digging bulbs, watering, picking vegetables and cleaning them. 

And then puberty hit.


  1. Yes and then..and then....I am loving this history of your life, the garden and your on to puberty. That's when you learned Latin and the sex life of plants right...right...

  2. I'm enjoying these posts...because it's fascinating to see when people get bitten by the gardening bug. Sometimes a seed planted might be dormant for a bit, (like during puberty) but as we germinates again later...

  3. Marguerite, These posts are resonating for me. I too spent my early years in an apartment in an industrial neighborhood, where there was no room for a garden, but my father bought in bulk from local farms and my mother filled a floor to ceiling glass-front cabinet in the basement with canned vegetables and jellies. Like you, I was 9 when we moved to a single-family house; although it was my father, not my mother, who planted the vegetable garden. Native blueberries grew in the woods, where I would pick and eat them on hot summer days. (I was supposed to bring home a quart for pie, but I'm not sure I ever did.) I still love to forage for wild berries, and a shelf full of canning jars full of preserved food gives me wonderful sense of security. -Jean

  4. Marguerite I find it interesting how things we thought we hated as a child we love as adults, I think also being 'made' to do something is a real put off,

    reading your story is making me think more of how my gardening interest developed,

    loved reading, thanks for sharing, keep warm Frances

  5. Your mother was a smart woman. Even though she needed you to do the dirty work you disliked, she provided an enticement of flowers and your own plot. Just the right combination of responsibility and creativity. And it worked.

  6. I am enjoying your childhood gardening tales. I did love getting dirty when I was a kid, but I have to say, I was probably luckier than you, as my mother never had a garden when we were living at home. My grandfather was a master gardener, in the true sense of the word, and it was a treat to roam through his vegetable rows and help out with chores.

  7. Gardeningbren - Unfortunately no, I had no interest in plant reproduction, rather I was more interested in human reproduction!

    jodi - exactly. it's hard to imagine at age 14 where you'll be at age 34. I never would have guessed where life would take me.

    Jean - I got a case of the warm and fuzzies reading your comment. Sometimes you get a taste of how small the world is, amazing. I remember being sent to pick saskatoon berries with my brother. Like you, I can't remember if any came home with us or not.

    Frances - in past years I've considered changing my gardening hobby into a career and each time I have rejected the idea because I don't want something I love to turn into a chore. Whenever I'm forced to do something it inevitably takes away the joy from that activity.

    Carolyn - I'm not sure even my mother knew what she was doing at that time. Could she have imagined what she was passing down?

    Floridagirl - Despite my lack of love for dirt at that time I'm glad now that I had to learn about gardening. The amount of knowledge I absorbed without even realizing it amazes even me sometimes.

  8. Marguerite - I have added a link to your post at the end of mine. Thank you for the inspiration! I love reading your story.

  9. Marguerite,
    What a beautiful story of how you got the gardening bug. It's funny what a child's eye see's and thinks and then the next thing you know you are looking at gardening from a adults perspective.
    Your Mother has given you a special gift just as my Grandfather gave me.
    I can't wait to start my indoor starter plants.

  10. Well don't stop THERE!! Tell us more! Isn't it fascinating which plants/flowers connect us with our past? I loved the bounty of my dad's vegetable garden and berry patch and bushes but didn't enjoy the picking part although I remember being enthralled watching my dad with his pitchfork digging up the potatoes.
    Over the years I've gone back to my childhood home and dug up certain things and replanted them here and I now have quite a spread of snowdrops, crazies (that's what my mother called them - don't know their real name), and lilies of the valley. The originals of these flowers could be well over a hundred years old as the house we lived in is about 160 years old now.

  11. Ginny thank you. I enjoyed reading your story as well. It's wonderful to see how we all got the 'bug'.

    The Witch - Looking back I think, wow, my mother must have been dying for some dirt to dig in! But at the time I thought, ugh, you want me to do what? get my hands dirty and possibly touch bugs! I had no sense of what it meant to her. and no idea what it would mean to me in the future

    Jane - I couldn't have cared less about food when I was a kid so the vegetable garden didn't mean anything to me. Now as an adult I love nothing better than fresh food and I'm obsessed with my vegetables! I love that you took your mom's plants with you. You'll always have something to remember her and your childhood home by.

  12. I love following these stories. How did someone who hated getting dirty become a gardener, never mind the bugs thing! Gardening when I was a child consisted of weeding, which I hated, berating my Dad for "killing the roses", i.e. pruning them hard back each Spring, and apparently lying on my front with my arms around the daffodils trying to stop the wind from flattening them! Perhaps the last is why I now always plant miniature narcissi.

    Can't wait for part 3.

  13. Plantaliscious - would you believe I still don't like getting my hands dirty? or touching bugs? The key, I've discovered, is wearing a good pair of gardening gloves.

  14. :-) That's one of the things I love about gardening, it takes all sorts! Me, I'm never happier than with dirt under my fingernails. I don't like touching slugs with my bare hands though...

  15. That's where I fell in love. The flowers! Glads were one of the first, but Dhalia's really dazzled me! Your mom was smart to give you that space to fall in love with gardening. No one wants a grumbling garden helper :)

  16. Plantaliscious - ugh, slugs. I have a hard time even with the gloves...

    Laura - as a kid I just loved frilly pastel coloured things so glads, bleeding hearts, peonies, etc. were right up my alley!