I come from a long line of women with green thumbs. My mother and both of my grandmothers loved to garden and were really good at it. My paternal great-grandmother was famous for her gardens on Jackson Street in Elkhart, Indiana, and even sold flowers from them during the Great Depression.
My maternal grandfather was also a gardener. One of my favorite pictures of him was taken when he was around 80 years old. It’s a photo of him behind his roto-tiller, turning the soil to prepare it for the planting of his annual vegetable garden.
I have a theory about those who love to garden like I do. I think gardeners are creative people at heart. There are a lot of creative people in my family…writers, songwriters, artists…and most of them are gardeners too.
If you’ve seen my book, “Which Came First?” which is a story set on my maternal grandmother’s farm, you will notice a lot of flowers in the pictures. The book was dedicated to her and the flowers are a nod to her love of gardening.
The gardening process is very much like the creative process…one starts with nothing but a blank piece of ground or a blank computer screen or a blank sheet of paper…and creates something (hopefully beautiful) out of nothing. Then of course, you sit back and critique your work and make mental lists of all the things you could do to make it better!
One of the hardest parts of my recent move was leaving my perennial gardens at the old house. It had taken me seven years of careful tending to get them up to speed and I moved just as they were really thriving and coming into their own. (I’m hoping the new owners are enjoying them!)
I had moved from the Midwest where I was very familiar with the flowers and plants that grew best in that climate. When I moved to Texas seven years ago, I planted a Midwest perennial garden that spring and it promptly burnt up in the hot Texas sun that first summer. The next year, I tried again but I still didn’t get it right.
After losing two complete perennial gardens to the Texas heat and sun, I finally wised up and did my research on Texas plants and gardening before my third try. My third spring in Texas, I finally knew what to plant, what not to plant, and which plants I could plant here in the shade.
My third try was a charm as they say! And this year, my gardens were looking mighty fine just about the time we moved. So, here I am in a new home with no gardens. I’ve scouted out my yard and decided on a spot for my new garden but it’s a little late in the season in this region to plant this year. I do have a blank slate for next spring and I’m excited to plan it on paper before the actual planting begins.
For now, I will have to make do with my planter gardens:
*The two pots that I planted with succulents…those of you who garden know these fleshy-leafed plants that store water in their stems and leaves are very popular right now!
*My Energizer Poinsettia from last Christmas that just keeps on blooming…remember what I said about having the green thumbs in my family line!
*A pot and a hanging basket of multi-colored Begonias that I bought to support a co-worker’s daughter’s school fundraiser.
*A sometime flowering Kalanchoe plant I bought at the farmer’s market in Denton last summer…that looks like it is about ready to flower again.
*One “Early Girl” tomato plant that promises both flavor and an early appearance of fruit…we shall see about that as it only has yellow blossoms right now.
*And finally, a brand new Aloe Vera plant (which is also a succulent) to replace the one I accidently left outside on a night when we got a rare freeze in Texas.
I’m partial to Aloe Vera plants because my mom always kept one in the kitchen when I was growing up. She believed the sticky gel-like substance in the leaves was good for burns and cuts. It’s a pretty little plant that does double duty as a self-regenerating first-aid kit.
I will tend my little hodge podge garden in pots this year but next spring I will be chomping at the bit to start anew with my perennial planting.
Author’s note: If you are looking for a fun houseplant, Aloe Vera plants are very easy to grow and have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes for at least 6000 years. The ancient Egyptians called it the “plant of immortality” and it is said that Cleopatra used the gel as part of her beauty regimen. Native Americans also used the gel from the plant and called Aloe Vera the “wand of heaven.”