Gardening In Earnest-When Did It Happen To You?

When did it happen to you? When did you go from casual, once in a while, plopping plants here and there when the mood struck to gardening in earnest?

I remember to the day when it began for me. It was the day my youngest offspring, Brokenbeat, seen working in his own garden above, trundled off to school in first grade, gone for the day. Having four children in seven years meant that my stay at home mom time was devoted to caring for them during all waking hours. Suddenly, as the school bus pulled away from end of our driveway, I had not minutes, but hours to myself. What to do?

September 3, 2009 Mouse Creek 006 (2)
I read a magazine, a gardening magazine, cover to cover, for the first time since giving birth. It had been many years since I had that much leisure time and it was inhaled with gusto. Then I looked out the window, to the yard. It was a yard then, not a garden although there were some patchy flower beds amidst an expanse of lawn. Too much lawn. It began with digging up the lawn and turning it into garden beds.

Going back in time a bit, before the epiphany that freedom from little ones underfoot meant that there could be great expanses of time spent on bended knee becoming one with the Earth, gardening has always been part of my being. Digging in the dirt, making mudpies with dandelion icing, studying acorns and moss, planting gifted flowers from the elderly neighbor ladies for my April birthday are all memories that still live strong in my mind.

Watching things grow from seeds buried under the soil was and still remains a miracle to me. I never tire of it, never get bored reading or thinking about it. It never gets old. Do you also feel that way? Tell me how it began for you. I am more than interested.


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28 Responses to Gardening In Earnest-When Did It Happen To You?

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think the seed was planted in my DNA. My Mother was a gardener. She grew mostly vegetables but amongst those veggies were companion plantings of flowers. Now I grow just the opposite. I grow mostly flowers with a few edibles sprinkled about the landscape. My first “garden” was a pot of impatients on the patio when I was 18. The wonder of watching it grow. How it would wilt and then watering it I would see it rebound. It was all amazing to watch that plant. I could go on and on about how my gardening sense grew from there. Have a great weekend.

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa. Lucky you to watch your mother garden and that she passed the love and wonder on to you.

  2. When we bought an old 1898 Victorian and I put in my very first lily garden….That was it…hooked, bigtime! People used to stop and look when driving down the street, seriously! I researched period colors and had the house and carriage house painted with 5 different shades of blues/maroons/black and the lilies were all shades of pink. Amazing place.
    Then when I moved here where gardening is 4 as opposed to one season, I was in my glory! I spend hours out back fiddling with seeds and plants…Also took the master gardener certification last winter, so I guess I’m a gardener now for life!

    Hi Karen, thanks for adding to the converation here, what a great beginning! Your home and the pink lilies sound exquisitely beautiful. Hooked. For life. I can’t think of a better addiction.

  3. gail says:

    Sweet memories dear friend~Yours and the ones conjured up as I read your post. I dabbled until we moved to this garden and once Matt started school I began to garden in earnest. I hit my stride when we built the porch and the garden in the front tripled in size. Enjoy the weekend. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks for sharing your sweet memories. Children going to school after being underfoot for years lets our thoughts turn to gardening. Your garden and porch are so beautiful…

  4. Layanee says:

    Ah, yes, a walk down memory lane. My earliest memories are of time spent playing in my grandfather’s flower garden. Not your ordinary flower garden but one with bowers and borders, fishponds and streams. I am sure it began before I was truly aware of it.

    Bowers and borders, that sounds so delightful, Layanee! Those earliest experiences shape us and guide us.

  5. What a lovely topic…I got to enjoy some brain tingles as my mind drifted back. Growing up, I seemed oblivious and barely appreciative to my mother’s yard beautification efforts. However, marriage and personal home ownership started my journey to becoming a gardener. However, it wasn’t until my only child went off to college that all those nurturing instincts were unleashed to care (very passionately) about plants. Yes, reading, thinking, dreaming, doing…I became a happy and willing slave to whatever property situation we have inhabited in the years since.

    A wonderful journey for you, Michaele. Personal home ownership, that is the key that opens a door for many, including my own children who are now adults. They were rather uninterested when living at home as I gardened, although they were called into help on occasion. They are now willing slaves, squeezing gardening into their very busy lives.

  6. Carol says:

    I think it was when my Dad dug up a flower border and divided it into five sections, one each for me and my siblings and gave us some simple annuals to plant. I was so excited to plant “my own garden”. I must have been about four years old? I haven’t really stopped gardening since then.

    What a wonderful example your dad provided, Carol. Your love of gardening is truly life long!

  7. Lola says:

    I’m glad you have such wonderful memories. I guess my gardening has always been there but it just had to take time to materialize. Time & age have slowed that desire down a bit. I do try to garden but in a different way. I too like to watch things grow from seed to a beautiful plant whether producing food or blooms for pleasure. It’s in my blood.

    Hi Lola, thanks for sharing. We have to adjust our gardening as age and situation dictates, but as you say, it runs in our bloodstreams as well as our consciousness.

  8. Jane Gladden says:

    I began gardening in earnest about six years ago. We moved to the country and my husband built the cutest little log gardening shed for me. I dug up the former cow pasture, moved rocks, built little rock walls and decided never to plant anything again except perennials. As a child my dad always had a beautiful vegetable garden with zinnias at the end of each row. I wish that I had spent more time with him learning his secrets but now I have great gardening friends, like you, who are always ready to share knowledge and plants with me.

    Hi Jane, thanks so much for adding in here. Digging, moving rocks and using them, planting, such an individual journey for each of us. I am picture your dad’s garden with the zinnias, a sweet memory, for certain.

  9. balisha says:

    I loved your life story in the garden. Mine was the year we bought our first house. I had a friend in the local garden club..and went to my first meeting with her. Everyone was so excited and interested in talking about their gardens. It just rubbed off on me. When they heard that I knew very little about gardening…they brought plants to share.I set to work, planting them, and the addiction started. It was like I was in a frenzy to get my very plain yard planted with most everything. Many failures along the way…like not waiting until the Spring had warmed up before planting annuals. In later meetings, I had something in common with them…I loved gardening.

  10. For me, it was a combination of things. My dad was a city boy who grew up without a yard and moved to the suburbs, and he loved puttering with flowers and so on, though his taste ran mostly to bedding annuals and roses. Both my brother and I took this interest and ran with it in a different direction. I maintained the vegetable garden as a teenager, and my brother and I did landscaping during summers. As a homeowner I found gardening an extremely therapeutic antidote to a stressful profession. Finally, as with you, the kids got older and more independent, finally moving out on their own. The less they needed me, the more I put time into the garden.

  11. Dee says:

    Faire, this is my favorite post on Fairegarden this year! I love your sprouting picture above. Is it moss? I see it’s next to moss, but that doesn’t make sense does it? I haven’t had any tea yet. 🙂 Anyway, for me in earnest, I was about nineteen. I always did a little gardening here and there as a child, and my Grandma Nita certainly influenced me, but I really started when I got my first house. I planted three roses: ‘Tiffany,’ ‘Double Delight’ and one other, and some bedding annuals. That summer started my journey. Thanks for asking.

    There is a photo of moss flowering and a photo of Swiss chard sprouting at the end, dear Dee. I understand the lack of tea and/or coffee when typing.

  12. Frances,
    Every year I feel as if it is this year that I am newly gardening “in earnest”. Yes, I thought I was gardening in earnest from the first time we had our own half acre to play with, but successes and failures have made me understand that every year is a new awakening, and an opportunity to apply what we have learned in prior years, and it seems that prior years were, in a way, just plopping in plants and seeing what happens to some degree. I now keep a notebook and take photos of the successes and failures. I guess I am officially “earnest” now?

  13. I too started gardening after my kids got a little older. As they started to drive and have a life away from our house, I gardened on a grander scale. When they would leave in the morning for school, work, golf, or running around, I would park myself in the garden. I wanted to be there when they came home and this was the best way I knew how. When they came home, I went in to see them and hear about their day. The garden was also a stress reliever when teenage boys got out of hand 🙂 It was a win/win situation at my house.

  14. Pearl says:

    Mine was when I moved from a small lot in town to 10 acres in the country. But my gardening is still on a small scale compared to you but I have dreams to do more when and if I can ever cut back on my hours at work. It’s hard to find enough time to garden:(

  15. Barbara H. says:

    In earnest is a dubious standard for me. Being a Moon Child (Cancer) I’ve always had the need to make the places I live my own, but the consistancy factor kicked in when I bought out my siblings to become sole owner of my grandmother’s house. What really cemented it was the decision to dig out all the grass in the postage stamp front yard and most of the little that was in the back. I left that very small urban paradise after 10 years for 3 acres in NE Alabama – where summer is an indoor season unless you are out with the rise of the sun. This place would have been just fine with nothing more done, but gosh – what gardener can do that? I find myself creating more beds in sensible places, which means – less grass! I’ll always have it, I guess, but I love the creative process of gardening.

  16. Diane says:

    Hello Frances,
    When I was a teenager, I used some of my allowance and purchased 2 dozen King Alfred daffodils. On returning home my parents were in the middle of one of their usual bitter quarrels and I really wanted to get away. So, despite the pouring rain I went out and planted all the bulbs around the driveway. I realized then that the garden was a safe place and somewhere to always renew my spirit. I have since learned that the soil does have healing properties when you work in it.

  17. My Kids Mom says:

    I had a gardening family, but didn’t join in until I had my own place. When I first moved to Atlanta, I lived in the attic apartment above a gardener. He was wheelchair bound and couldn’t use a mower, so he had perennials covering every inch. I put pots on each step up to my door and began to learn about the needs of different plants. When I got my own yard I started my education in earnest. This home I’m in now had a landscaper for a previous owner, so I got a great head start. I have kept his bones, but I love putting in my own changes too.

  18. sharon says:

    I have to say when I came on blogs…and i saw all that can be done…i was envious!!

  19. As a kid on my grandfather’s estate (gentleman’s farm) was when and where I started what later became an obsession. I enjoyed seeing things grow and helping them get from the ground to the table.

  20. “Great expanses of time spent on bended knee” … what a fabulous way to describe the pure pleasure of digging in the dirt. I can remember so many times when it has brought me great joy–some of it as a child, later as an adult with small children of my own, and now as a mum with grown children. I’m sure it will be even more fun if I ever have grandchildren to share it with. Beautiful post, Frances.

  21. Marguerite says:

    Frances, what a wonderful post. It made me smile thinking of you all alone with a gardening magazine and your dreams. Made me think fondly back to previous gardens in my life. My mother was a huge influence, there was always plants in her life no matter where we lived. It was second nature growing up watering flowers and digging in the dirt but I didn’t really ‘get serious’ until my husband and I rented a house with a proper yard. I wanted to get outside immediately and it started with a packet of bulbs and just didn’t stop.

  22. Les says:

    Gardening was something everyone in my family did, I even had my own bed as a child and filled it with bearded iris. I loved that all you had to do was dig up a clump, cut it into pieces and get more. Teenage and early adulthood found be distracted by the usual things, and I did not seriously gardening again until my wife and I bought our first house. I had a stressful job I did not like, where I was not respected and gardening became a type of therapy for me.

  23. Probably in 1994 while recovering from surgery when I was looking at my new garden area full of weeds, lots of 100 foot trees and sloping areas with little grass. I began a huge project over the next several years which honed some skills and got me ready for the next blank slate of our new home…now 7 years here and the project continues in earnest. It is my peaceful haven.

  24. I started gardening in earnest when I finally had soil I could plant in. The first 5 years out of college I lived in upper-floor apartments with dimly lit windows. A mobile home on rented land was a step up for me, and even though I was limited to a 4ft by 8ft area I was gardening in earnest.

  25. Gardening, I’m sure will be in our DNA. When da Lord pulls all the magic and blessing together and delivers a new blessing in the form of a child, God has them pre programmed, but nothing is hard wired yet. She will never garden if a granpa or mother or favorite aunt Joan does not teach her, the child. We can only hope that the lord will allow us to teach the children what the plants and rain and earth already know.

  26. Lovely, thoughtful post. I started gardening as soon as I could walk pottering alongside my Dad. I am now obsessed! I can’t remember a time when it all became serious though.

  27. Rose says:

    A very thought-provoking post, Frances; I enjoyed reading not only your story of finding yourself in the garden when the the children went off to school, but also all the comments. Somehow I had this idea that everyone else had been gardening since they were young, but I see I’m not the only one who found this fascination with seeing things grow later in life. For me, I don’t think it was a sudden epiphany, but a gradual love for gardening that developed over a few years. Certainly, it’s in my DNA–my mom always had a vegetable garden (which I helped with) and a few flowers and dad was a farmer, now the master vegetable gardener–but I resisted those genes until we moved to this house 8 years ago. It had been neglected, and other than the lovely trees and a few overgrown shrubs, there was nothing–it desperately needed some greenery and color to perk up its appearance. I started small, but each year added a little more. When I retired five years ago, I finally had enough time on my hands to give the garden the attention it deserved and found it was a wonderful way to fill up all those hours I suddenly had. It has given me so much joy and led me to appreciate nature more than I have since I was a child.

  28. sandy lawrence says:

    I think intrepid gardeners are born and then they “bloom” when the time is right. I can remember in 2nd grade putting aside toys at my birthday party to bask in the greeness of a small ivy plant in a tiny pink swan planter. It was my favorite gift, to the puzzlement of my mother. I, too, had to wait until I had the time with the last child in school before I could spend the time I wanted reading about gardening and doing gardening. Many is the time that I planted bedding plants by flashlight and porchlight. Couldn’t get enough. The energy has waned in old age, but the desire never lessens!

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