What makes a gardener?

If someone had told me 40 years ago when I was a teenager sweating behind a push mower that one day I would love working in the yard, I would’ve thought they were crazy.

Mom was a gardener and a good one.  Something was blooming all the time in her yard.  I still have canna lilies and clematis and euonymous and Carolina allspice that she passed along.  And I’m sorry to say, many of the things she gave me didn’t survive, because I didn’t know what to do with them except plop them in the ground and hope for the best.  Moisture, sunlight/shade, fertilizing, pruning … I was ignorant.

How does a chore turn into a hobby and a thirst for knowledge and then a passion?  What provokes that transition?  Is it inborn, hidden under the surface, a seed that slowly germinates, grows and blooms when it’s given enough loving care?  Or is it something like explodes into life, like a weed long-dormant until it’s awakened by rain and the sun’s warmth?

Mom loved her gardens.  They were pretty, I thought at the time, but they didn’t inspire me to become a gardener.

Mystery iris, April 2011 - do not remember planting these

When Bianca showed me her gardens as we were contemplating buying this house, it was April and the azaleas and dogwoods and Spanish bluebells and Wild Sweet William turned the entire back yard into a sea of white and lavender and pink.  Owning that didn’t make me want to be a gardener.

Spending years pulling up vinca minor with its vines as thin as dental floss; yanking at knee-deep English ivy; digging up giant clumps of liriope that had strayed into the gardens, gasping in the cold or sweating in the humidity … certainly didn’t make me want to be gardener.

I can’t pinpoint the “aha” moment, but I now have an unrelenting desire to work in the gardens.  If I can’t sleep at night, I fantasize about creating a water feature or a dry stack stone wall or combining certain colors in the patio garden.  Sometimes it’s the other way around — I can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking of the gardens.

Sandy the Yellow Lab, with April azaleas and ajuga

My husband says this is my medium, like a painter uses watercolors or oils.  I’ve never thought I was creative, leaning more toward the conformist rather than the experimental.  But when I take photos of the garden, and suddenly I notice that the flower and foliage combinations have the soft dreaminess of a Monet painting, I realize that this has become my means of creative expression.

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One response to “What makes a gardener?

  1. Your gardening is magical, artistic, and jubilant, CC. I want to spend more time in your gardens when I visit. Let’s make it happen. Thank you for sharing your wondrous world here in photos and stories! I am touched! ❤ … Jeanna

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