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.
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
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.