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Oh, my aching muscles...

An essay by Lucy Hardiman

Each of us comes to gardening down a different primrose path.  Sometimes the journey is straightforward but more often than not circuitous and filled with the unexpected.  Serendipity in the form of the Goddess Flora has a way of appearing in our lives, quietly orchestrating and fomenting change.  One longtime gardening friend had no interest in things horticultural until buying a house 15 years ago.  Seduced by the colorful pictures and pretty prose on a packet of salad green seeds she succumbed to temptation.  Surprised by how easily the tiny seeds germinated and grew she was even more excited and satisfied with the harvest.   Now at mid life she is a garden diva hosting open gardens and sharing her passion with neophytes and experts alike.  It is impossible to predict when a chance encounter of the horticultural kind will occur.

I was, you might say, to the garden born.  Pioneer ancestors on one side of my family joined the great migration west crossing the plains on a wagon train in 1845.  Among the most important items they brought with them were cuttings of fruit trees, shrubs and roses.  Cuttings were stuck in potatoes, which provided a constant source of moisture and carefully packed in wooden crates for the long and dangerous journey.  Annual, perennial, vegetable and herb seeds were harvested and preserved in the year before their departure.  These hardy forbearers arrived in the Willamette Valley with the essentials to begin life anew on the frontier.  Those carefully packed cuttings and seeds ensured the survival of the pioneers.

When my father married into the fourth generation of this gardening dynasty he hadn’t had much experience with growing plants but was a science nerd.  Quickly assimilating into a family of possessed gardeners he demonstrated both an interest and aptitude for growing vegetables, planting and pruning cane berries and fruit trees and for propagating shrubs.  He and my grandfather were sorcerers mixing up batches of elixir which they sprinkled over flats of what appeared to be dead twigs but were in reality species rhododendron and softwood shrub cuttings.  As a small child I spent countless hours watching and waiting, peppering my father with endless questions about the hows and whys of horticulture.  Although he was not a particularly patient man, he persevered explaining the basic precepts of plant science in a way I could understand.

 Our relationship, like most, although complicated, was based on an abiding love between father and daughter.  Even when situations were stressful we could always fall back on our shared passion and enthusiasm for gardening which became our touchstone bridging many awkward moments steering us away from dangerous and hurtful territory.  After a short but devastating bout with cancer Daddy died in August.  As I wait on the cusp of spring for signs of new life in the garden and the renewal of my spirit it is difficult to acknowledge in my heart of hearts that he is gone.  Lately on my daily walks in the garden I have come to the realization that his spirit will always be here with me.  He lurks underneath Rhododendron ‘Sir Charles Lemon’ and waits for me in the hidden seating area where he beckons me to sit and visit.  I will feel his presence, love and support everyday as I wander through my own Eden remembering how much he encouraged me to live my passion.

Sometimes, the desire to garden is programmed into our DNA!

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