pansies, petunias, peonies…

So gardening. This wasn’t something I’d always loved. I doubt I even noticed those background plants in doctor’s or dentist’s offices. My dad’s company transferred us to New Jersey from North Carolina (culture shock! another blog…) when I was around 15. At that tender age my weekends were sacrosanct. Slogging through weeks on end of school, classes, peers, assignments and all that goes with it I desperately needed my weekends to recoup my social life, sleep, and other essentials, and homework.

Gardening, or tending a rock garden was not in the schedule.

We moved in the beginning of 1971, snow all over the place, more than I’d ever seen in my cumulative lifetime. Gradually as seasons do spring emerged from the frozen earth and uncovered a lovely, meticulously manicured rock garden across the front of our new home.

“Every Saturday morning you’re going to weed and tend this garden,” my father announced one morning at breakfast. A time at that age when I was barely conscious, clearly not capable of processing paternal directives.

Was he kidding?

No. So every Saturday I was rudely awakened at 8:00 a.m., sharp. Dressed, breakfasted and sitting on the walkway beside the little garden, trying hard to decipher what was weed and what was not, I carefully picked miniscule plants, one by one. As the garden came into flower– I would later learn the names of these flowers: creeping phlox, candy tuft, pinks, rock cress, blue star creeper –I was more careful to avoid those and soon learned what weeds looked like (though now so many years later I know one person’s weed is another’s treasure). As summer came into focus I found myself at the little garden not just Saturday mornings but whenever I detected an asymmetry or a wayward strand of vine. I soon loved this little garden and this love has since grown to consume the majority of my present waking hours in the forms of herbs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, various vines, specimen trees, depending of course on season.

During my adult life at places I volunteered now and then: the Fairchild Botanic Garden in Miami; Winghaven Gardens, Charlotte; San Juan Nature Center, Farmington, NM, I have heard occasionally the term “master gardener”. This lofty-sounding title always caused a sense of presence, something I wondered how people even began to aspire to.

After I moved here I understood this is a program in every county of every state with the local agricultural extension service, so I applied. Much to my amazed delight I was accepted into the program and, only being a couple of weeks into it, it is clear that though much information is imparted through lecture, handouts, homework, and  field trips I will never, ever, know “it all”. I may barely scratch the surface of even that which is presently known, but plants are continually being hybridized, fertilizers, methods of cultivation are constantly being improved, changed, and the climate of course is in a perpetual state of flux, whether you believe in global warming or not.

So no, I will never know all there is to know. But the fun is in the growing, and learning, both the plants and myself. That I hope will never end.

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