And further back than early childhood, if the genes have anything to do with it! My maternal grandfather was a grand gardener; as many clergy often are. He did not have much ground around his small parsonage, but it was fully utilized within it’s boundaries in a richly compost laden vegetable garden
with beautiful old fashioned roses rimming the tiny house. Yes, I well remember hot summer evenings with the job of picking off the horrid little Japanese beetles and putting them in a jar of kerosene. The deep imprint of the smell and look of the vegetable garden soil
, which I helped enrich by digging in the coffee grounds and vegetable peelings, is clear and vivid in my mind as any of Proust’s memories.
My paternal grandmother raised beautiful florist flowers of iris and peonies, but it was my mothers garden that gave me most of my experiences. To this day she far outshines me in the production of quality vegetables and the abundance of self started roses. She has a cottage gardens medley of blossoms throughout her city garden which she alone cares for. Certain plants in the garden of my early years are outstanding in memory: crocus lining the walkway, Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer‘ with their tiny fur fluff of purple flowers, the “strawberry shrub” with its clove-shaped, scented flowers, fruit laden raspberry canes on the fence, and a magnificent stand of purple Siberian irises. Of course, there were so many other things, and many still influence my garden choices today. I suppose I am a somewhat nostalgic person.
My Own Garden, in the city
I did not begin my own garden until much later when my husband and I purchased our own house, although I had a small garden plot in each of our rented houses before that. They consisted of a small square of ground for tomatoes, lettuce, and parsley, and some room for Zinnias and marigolds. Wherever I have lived, I left crocus, daffodil, and tulip bulbs behind me.
It was my previous, “the city garden” that saw my development as a gardener. I had great success with it and cultivated every inch. It had started with a huge sweet cherry tree in the back and the remnants of someones effort (maybe in the fifties) to create a white garden. In a 4×2 foot space an Annabelle hydrangea, white climbing rose, white peony were planted. White spireas were along the shady side of the house, and scruffy grass covered the remains. That was what I started gardening with: a clay soil over shale which is common in Central Ohio. At that home, the front entrance consisted of a mixed dooryard garden of evergreen and deciduous plants at the foundation of the house, an enclosure of a picket fence with bushes at the corners, a honey locust planted towards the street and a small rock garden of imported Lake Erie limestone rocks, the kind with all the interesting fissures and holes, surrounded with all sorts of miniature plantings and backed with a small holly. The backyard held a winding walk with a vegetable garden and play yard to the left and a grassy area surrounded by the perennial beds. The back deck fronted with a raised bed and shaded with a Bradford pear faced a garage disguised with lush Boston ivy. That garden is fairly gone now, since one does not chose the habits of the next owners of your former home.
The size of a city garden was ideal for a beginner, I was able to organically improve the soil with gypsum, peat moss, packaged cow manure, and a meager compost bin. My country garden would laugh at such minuscule amounts! I did work out a system I still use of adding shovelfuls of compost to each planting hole when putting in new plants. Compost for me is a simple affair. An above ground holding area for plant and grass clippings, vegetable refuse from the kitchen, some of autumns leaves, and the carcasses of less noxious weeds. I describe my present garden in the garden pages of my journal. Stayed tuned for the developments!