This thread came from the "Gardening With Kids" forum. Enjoy!
Childhood Memories, Please!
Posted by KarenfromHingham 6a MA (My Page) on Sun, Sep 23, 01 at 22:11
Why are you a gardener? Did it start in your youth? Was there anyone in particular who interested you in gardening or inspired you to pursue it? Do you remember any event/s in particular? At school? At home?
Please share your childhood gardening stories. I'd like to explore what leads to a lifetime interest in gardening.
* Posted by: Karen_Schaffer 9-San Jose (My Page) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 1:34
I have a vivid memory of my grandfather giving me fresh peas, right out of the shell. I couldn't believe it was the same vegetable as the nasty, mushy, olive-green peas we were served from a can. It was a long time before I grew my own, but I held on to that memory.
One summer when I was 6, and far too late in the summer really, I planted a watermelon seed from watermelon we were eating outside. Astonishingly, it germinated, grew, and even set a little baby watermelon. I was thrilled. Then I came home from school one day to find that my 5-year-old sister and the neighbor boy had broken open the watermelon, thinking they could eat it. Heartbreaking, I tell you, heartbreaking! Of course, the poor thing hadn't a prayer of ripening anyhow, since it must have been September already if I was in school. But I didn't know all that at that time.
Probably my biggest influence was reading "The Secret Garden." Trite, but true. I remembering getting my parents to let me buy and plant mignonette seeds one year, specifically because of reading about them in that book -- and then I didn't like them after all! (My first experience of rave descriptions not matching my own opinion.) I recently re-read it and was startled to realize how many of my deeply held feelings about gardening came from that book.
* Posted by: Bill_G PNW OR (My Page) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 1:36
I became a gardener in 64 when I was only 10 years old. We had just moved to Grand Forks North Dakota from Okinawa. My father was an officer in the Air Force and we changed bases from time to time. Having just spent 6 years overseas I had never really seen the US. My brothers and I were not familiar with TV or radio since The Armed Forces Broadcasting Network was not known for it's kid oriented programming and we did not understand Japanese or Okinawan well enough to enjoy their programs. So we spent much of our time playing outside.
Our first house on Okinawa was off base in a quanset, one of those half cylinder buildings made from galvanized corrugated sheet metal with cement block walls enclosing the ends. Romantic to say the least and not easy homes to hang pictures in. But it came with a dog named Me-too, a gardener named Papa-san, and his daughter, our maid, named Yoshiko. Eisenhour was President. Korea still loomed over the horizon. Dad was away on TDY with missions over the peninsula. Mom, with no household chores, a husband who was gone all the time, someone to look after the two boys, and all this spare time became very active in the officer's Wives Club. So, it was these two people, Papa-san and Yoshiko, who introduced me to real life. Understand that Papa-san didn't speak a word of english and Yoshiko could just get by. My younger brother Steve was only 2 and I was 4. We learned Okinawan Japanese.
They came every day to tend to us. I'm sure now they had time off. It's only logical. But my memories recall they came every day. I recall once being very disappointed when they did not. It meant Mom had to stay home! We are not here to psychoanalyze my childhood. Another time perhaps. For now I'll say they came every day and would often take us with them to go to the market, fishing, or to work Papa-sans farm plot. Over there people live in villages and the farm land surrounds it. Farmers do not live on or even near their farms. Okinawa was a mountainous place. Crops would grow in any space that was flat enough to hold dirt. Terraceing was the rule. Small foot paths led everywhere. Water would trickle in tiny ditches from field to field. Radishes and cabbages were what I remember Papa-san growing.
We would muck through the fields when they had been freshly plowed by bison. I'm sure now that there was plenty of manure being mixed in. But at the time I had no concept of Western sanitation. Papa-san would give us each a tray of seedlings to poke into the muck along with him. One step at a time we would cross the fields taking all day to get the job done. But it was fun. Other farmers would bring their children. Their boys would be out there with their fathers planting just like we were with our pseudo-dad. Yoshiko would show up with lunch and we would get to play for a bit with the other kids while everyone took a break. As time past and the year wore along we would revisit the plot weeding, pulling out failing plants, watching it all grow, and finally getting to help with harvesting. We even got a road trip up to Naha once to a big market there where he sold it all. We lived that way for almost 3 and a half years before we had to move on base. I did not take the change too well, but I've already said we will not discuss my personal issues.
The new place was just around the bend from the base Commander quarters. That meant that airmen maintained our yard to perfection. Whenever I tried to plant anything, dig anything, or grow anything, it was changed to meet the desires of the base. Everything was where it was supposed to be and little boys futzing in the dirt were not appreciated. And as the dependant child of an officer I was expected to observe the base regulations. I could go over here but not over there. I wasn't allowed to ride my bicycle off base much less around the base very far. There was a perfect little world all set up for me and I was expected to enjoy it. I did learn how to climb the steep basalt walls of some of the mountainous outcroppings that surrounded us and find what my friends and I imagined were machine gun nests during WWII. I slowly adjusted to the more Americanized way of life and we played Army endlessly before we moved back to the States.
We moved from an idyllic place of eternal summer, lush forests, and little brown people who were amazed I could speak to them to the Land of the Eternal Flat and Ever Blowing Wind. On the plus side it was a fairly new base and we were quartered in a brand new house, so new we were the first to live in it. We had never done that before. All these homes sticking out of the dirt, row after row, street after street, straight as a stick, and going on forever it seemed without a single tree in sight. This is where I became a gardener. I had a blank canvas and the earth was my palette.
VietNam was heating up. This was a SAC base and Minute Man missles were being put in as fast as they could. The evil communist Russia nuclear doom hung over us and we were part of the Defense of the Homeland. We were heros. All of us including the families. First to die in a strike because we were so close to the missles, an obvious target. Because of this the base Commander was beneficent. We could garden as we pleased. And in North Dakota with it's wonderful soil it was hard not to look good no matter what you planted. At 10 years old I planted several rectangular beds along the house with squash that I had read about in Indian stories and cabbages from my days with Papa-san.
Dad insisted on a lawn out front and there may well have been a regulation that required it. Certainly the common area behind all our homes was all lawn. This is where I discovered flowers. On Okinawa no one planted flowers. Many things bloomed and many things had fragrance. But I had never seen black eyed susans or zinnias before. This was wonderful. It was cheap too. I could get packs of seed from the BX for a dime. I had so many flowers growing our first year there. I remember being very proud of my garden and especially of the hubbard squash so big I needed help picking it up. Years have gone by. But to this day my Dad and I still talk about the little boy who could not lift the squash.
Our first winter was a shock. Jezus it was cold. Snow four feet deep. Wind that whipped through any amount of coats you put on. Fingers that went numb. Chapped lips. That meant lots of time indoors for great things like comic books. Comic books with ads for sales opportunities to budding young entrepreneurs. Sales of seeds. Seeds that grew flowers and vegetables. Sales of seeds to a closed community that relied on the BX and the Sears catalogue for everything.
I did well. I made enough to buy other things for my garden including hand tools and soil amendments. While other kids played ball, my brother was pretending to be a palentologist and I was a botanist. I would sell my seed packs and use the money to buy some of the seed at a much better price than the BX. I could get so many different things and I swear I planted them all. Not many pennies saved from that adventure. I used to sit and dream about the new fertilizer I had used wondering how big the plants would get. Or I'd wonder what would cross pollinate and what type of plant would come from this magical occurance. They were glorious dreams.
It was a good experience, one I enjoyed a great deal, and one aspect of my life I would do over again just as it was. An old man who couldn't speak to me showed me what the dirt was all about. And the rich soils created by ancient glaciers gave me my first taste of what it was like to care for something other than yourself.
* Posted by: Alfie_MD6 (My Page) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 10:20
(I feel like a dork posting this after Bill's long and eloquent message...)
My two major childhood gardening memories are:
1. Watching my father scratch his cornea on a cherry tomato stake and listening to him say words I had never heard from him before and have never heard from him since.
2. Thinking that compost was disgusting. (Well, it was. My mother used a plastic yogurt container for the kitchen scraps, PU.)
* Posted by: Bill_G Slave to the desk (My Page) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 12:34
You are anything but a dork Alfie. You write beautifully and I have always enjoyed the msgs you have sent people. Truely a nice woman.
* Posted by: Alfie_MD6 (My Page) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 13:17
* Posted by: Al ) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 17:23
My grandmother filled a glass jar with soil and planted big lima beans next to the glass and I could watch both the root and the shoot formation. This got me hooked as a preschooler.
An old chickenhouse had collapsed and I removed the wood for kindling and firewood and planted vegetables where the chickenhouse had been and grew the biggest vegetables anyone the family had ever seen. This kept me hooked for half century.
While planting vegetables in the debris of the old chickenhouse I found an old cast iron toy Model-T Ford toy. My little brother was jealous and crushed my newfound toy with a large hammer. No appropriate comment.
* Posted by: Al ) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 17:31
My grandmother who taught me about roots and shoots, well she chewed tobacco. She would tote around a coffee can and spit in it. When her garden was bothered with insects she would dilute up her tobacco waste and sprinkle it on vegetables as an insecticide.
* Posted by: claudia 8b/Seattle ) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 17:48
My mom made our family spend at least two fall weekends going around to people's houses who had apple trees and were obviously not using the apples, and asking if we could pick them, and then taking carloads of apples to this guy's house to use his cider press to make dozens of gallons of cider to freeze and drink all winter. I spent this time freezing, sticky, and mortified about picking other people's apples.
Now, I am getting married next year, and I absolutely HAVE to have my wedding in fall so I can serve fresh-pressed apple cider, because it makes me think of those wonderful fall days and how beautiful my state is, and I am dying to get an apple tree of my own, and I have already asked one person if I can have their apples since they don't use them.
There are a lot of things my mom made me do that I can't figure out if I loved or hated.
But I do know for certain that I hate raking leaves. In the northwest it rains so much that leaves are instantly soggy. My brother and I would always try to jump in them anyway, since that was supposed to be so much fun, only to land in a slimy, wet, hard pile of mostly sticks and bugs. I just figured out last fall what was wrong.
* Posted by: annp Maine-5 (My Page) on Mon, Sep 24, 01 at 21:16
My earliest plant memory was of being very little and going for a walk in the woods with my father whom I idolized. He picked some red berries and gave them for me to eat (right this second, I can't think of their true name---for years I called them wintergreen, my father called them checkerberries). I was impressed to be allowed to eat something out of the woods when everyone else I knew discouraged my putting unusual things in my mouth. After that, I was fascinated by things that grew in the woods and ate almost every new thing that I encountered. I've eaten tree sap, violets, acorns, skunk cabbage, lady slippers, lily of the valley, maple leaves, etc. etc. When my father got sick when I was young, I used to climb up and kneel in the bathroom sink so I could get in the medicine cabinet and eat his two-colored capsules and any other pretty pills I could get my hands on. I'm amazed that I'm still alive. Anyway, I started looking closely at every plant that I saw in the woods as a very young child and I know that most of my playmates didn't have that same intense interest.
Obviously a very oral child, my true fascination with gardening involved a book I had when I was about 4. Bugs Bunny found and raided Elmer Fudd's garden and stole his carrots. The carrots were growing in a puddle of dark soil that looked (to me) like chocolate pudding. I was quite taken with that dark soil that rippled in a mound around each carrot. I actually still have that Golden Book which I think that I stole from my younger cousin. It is very appealing to me to this very day.
Bill, how nice to know this about you. Charming story. I'm a fellow Air Force brat, a year older than you. Know you a lot better now.
And Al, I have an appropriate comment for your brother. Have him write me. Have we seen you on the Soil, Compost and Mulch forum? I found a toy iron woodstove ( a demonstrator model) in the floorboards of an attic when I was a child. My father built a dollhouse identical to our own house scaled to the stove. He handcarved all the dollhouse furniture. It had electricity and a fireplace with a pink bulb glowing behind tiny birch logs. My friends thought that I had the world's greatest dad. I did.
Karen, thanks for the trip down memory lane and a chance to learn more about each other.
* Posted by: AM Steinmetz 9 ) on Tue, Sep 25, 01 at 16:50
My Mother passed away end of August. I am thankful for the month inbetween surgery and dying with me @ home because we had time to talk/share and say "stuff"...
She shared with me that in Kindergarden, when the teachers would have us plant the 'beans in the cups', mine would be 8X as big as anyone elses in the class.
Early on, I "took over" a planting area at our house in Los Angeles and always grew vegetables...tomatoes mostly. In hindsite is was mostly a shady area, so the miracle continues!!! My mother and I would go and pick them and drive our noses deep into the, (Jee what is it called???) the part that just came off of the vine, and rapture in the wonderful aroma...
Thea, my "second Mommy" taught me about house plants and African Violets. I even got them pollinated with a small paint brush. At one point in High School I had >150 house plants...insanity!!!
I was always interested in Composting, yet as a child and young adult always heard it was rude for the neighbors. I now unsuccesfully, but still enthusiastically, compost!!!
Thanks for letting me ponder and share....AMS
* Posted by: KarenfromHingham 6a MA (My Page) on Tue, Sep 25, 01 at 21:59
I just want to step in for a moment and say how really wonderful these stories are. Thank you for taking the time to share them. Interesting how important an "important someone" seems to be in generating that first spark, isn't it?
I look forward to more stories...
* Posted by: annp Maine-5 (My Page) on Wed, Sep 26, 01 at 9:15
I'm sorry to hear of your mother's recent death. I know what you mean about the time you had together knowing that death was imminent. My stepfather was ill for a month or two before he died and we got a lot said. That was a huge source of comfort for us when he did die, and it still is, now many years later. My thoughts have been with you these last two days.
* Posted by: Amanda MD 7 ) on Wed, Sep 26, 01 at 12:14
My parents planted a garden right out next to our screen porch. They planted a bunch of yukky stuff that I knew I wasn't going to like anyway, like tomatos (gag) and onions (double gag). My mom let me plant some things I would like, so I chose radishes and carrots. I planted the seeds. The next day I went out and poked at them to see if they were growing yet. The next day I poked at them again. This went on for several weeks. I though gardening was no fun because nothing every grew. Those poor seeds never got a chance to germinate with little fingers digging them up every day. That was my gardening experience...I didn't try to grow anything for years. Then in my mid-20s I was teaching Sunday school to 1st and 2nd graders and we planted sunflowers in paper cups. I planted three. They grew like mad and I eventually transplanted them to the microscopic patch of dirt outside of my apartment and they grew huge. That was it, I wanted to GROW things. For years I container
gardended, and the first thing I did when we bought our house was to start planning how to make the garden my own.
This year when I did my vegetables I planted lots of carrots and radishes...and while I went out and LOOKED HARD to see what was going on, I didn't poke the seeds. Our radishes were delicious!!!
* Posted by: Karen_Schaffer 9-San Jose (My Page) on Thu, Sep 27, 01 at 13:21
One more memory -- a next-door neighbor showed me once how snapdragon flowers 'snap'. I was utterly entranced and wanted to go over and snap them every day (which my mother didn't let me do, of course). But that would be a great flower for kids to grow and play with themselves. I didn't grow any until I was an adult -- say, I think I'll go outside snap a flower right now!
* Posted by: Treehouse z7 MD USA (My Page) on Sat, Sep 29, 01 at 13:35
Mine is multisensory- Dappling shade, warm and cool on my skin at the same time; a kaleidoscope of light and dark colors; the smell of concord grapes ripening; the crunch of thick pumpernickle crust drowned in butter; all under the arbor while my grandmother held me and sang Polish lulabies.
I get chills.
* Posted by: Maymo 6a (My Page) on Sun, Sep 30, 01 at 1:35
I have NO childhood memories or anyone gardening; except one inappropriate uncle who made me sell his gladiolas at the corner store for him. My parents had 5 children, worked full time yet my mom managed to put in flats of petunias in only red, white and blue. To this day, I strangely hate petunias and I OK like glads except that to me they are merely "funeral flowers". My peace is that my 6year old enjoys watering our flowers and planting seeds, and my 5 year old neighbor loves her "flower lady" neighbor. I hope that I have created positive memories of gardening for these small children, and only then have I truly left my mark.
* Posted by: DanieleB z9 SoCal (s23) (My Page) on Mon, Oct 1, 01 at 0:32
Just dropped in here for the first time today and saw this thread, which is funny, because it's my memories that made me drop in here ... :)
I remember my grandmothers (Great-Grandma and her daughter, my "Grandma-Grandma" lol) grew a vegetable patch, as well as bits and pieces throughout their 3-acre plot. There were little alpine strawberries for the best strawberry freezer jam ever made. Great-Grandma would take me on a walk around the place to pick our dinner; we cut a few asparagus stalks, picked some beans to snap or maybe some peas, dug up a potato or two, an ear of corn, and strawberries and rhubarb for our pie at dessert. Those were the best meals I've ever had.
Great-Grandma also loved flowers. She grew snapdragons, gladiolas, pansies, petunias ... so many old-fashioned varieties that she'd probably had for years and were just reseeding their little hearts out. She, too, taught me how to make the snapdragons "snap" (the new hybrid varieties don't do that :( ). She had little roses and a jade plant, and always a Christmas cactus -- her bridal boquet flowers. So many more I don't remember, her little house was almost inundated with flowers.
When she passed on last November (has it been almost a year?!) I decided to plant some flowers in the spring. It was almost a joke because I've managed to kill everything I ever grew, and all I have is this terraced, overhung, shaded south-facing patio. But they're growing, and with the successful propogation of 2 oregano plants, cuttings from a gorgeous coleus, harvesting my torenia seeds, and picking herbs for dinner out of my strawberry pots, I'm completely hooked.
Thanks for giving me a place to share. :)
* Posted by: Flowerfairy 8b ) on Mon, Oct 1, 01 at 8:39
I don't remember how old I was(5ish), but Frito Lay gave away Marigold seeds on there packages. After a lot of begging my dad dug some very small rings around our trees and planted the marigolds and they grew. I have been hooked ever since. My next gardening project lasted quite a while, my grandfather gave me some yellow and double orange daylillies. These were planted in a bed beside the house and everyday for 12 years I would go look at these plants to see what had happened. Also I liked to play with slugs. Oh well.
I still go look at my garden as soon as it is light and after I get home at night. I find the activity that happens is a garden fasinating. Even the bugs are interesting.
I know garden with my children and they love it.
* Posted by: Karen_sl 5 (My Page) on Mon, Oct 1, 01 at 11:15
I love your stories...
My grandmother had a huge flower garden when I was little...like 6 or so. Beautiful rows of marigolds, glads and snapdragons, also zinnias. She also had a fence full of huge blackberries and sunflowers.
It took me years as an adult to find the fun of the garden, it was always just lots of work...now I know. The best part is just watching your garden grow.
My 2 boys have had to help in the garden (vegetable) for years. My 15 yr old son planted his own this year and has had a great time, he too planted some things new to try. We DO NOT like eggplant but they are sure pretty growing. He has had great fun with white pumpkins, cucumbers and of coarse sweet corn.
I think he will still be a gardener in yrs to come and hope that he will remember eating the first ripe tomatoes...
* Posted by: Rosa z4ish CO (My Page) on Sun, Oct 14, 01 at 10:36
Gardening has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My first memories are of my gran'pa taking me out to the garden to plant tomatoes. As I grew he showed me how and what to weed, and how to fertilize and harvest. I remember riding out to the country to harvest fresh blackberries and raspberries and blueberries with them.
My gran'ma grew the biggest and most beautiful dahlias, and it was a chore to stake them-they always seemed to be bigger than I was!! I always helped her dig the tubers for winter storage. My help was rewarded with being able to pick the supper meal-stuffed pork chops, kraut and fried potatoes or pancakes served with fresh jams and powdered sugar that my grand'pa would make in the shape of animals. Later I remember my gran'pa giving me seeds of Burpee's white marigolds for my own garden.
It's funny, helping my mother in her garden was always such a chore but helping my grandparents or the neighbor was so-o-o pleasant. She'd get really steamed when she would find out that I had taken off to help my grandparents in their garden and skipped my own chores in the garden!!
We had a lot of cherry trees in the neighborhood yards and every year all the kids would gather together and pick cherries which we delivered to the neighbor. Very near thanksgiving everyone who contributed would get bottles of cherry wine he made from the harvest.
When I moved from NJ to CO at the ripe old age of 18, the first thing I did was to establish my own garden. There have only been a three times in the 26 years I have lived here in CO that I was not able to have a garden due to apartment type living. One time, having no yard for a garden, I approached the widow neighbor lady and made an arrangement to use her yard in exchange for all the produce she could eat. She never did take any of the veggies I offered her, but I'd see her in the early morning walking around the garden, picking off an occasional bug, training the green beans up the poles and shooing away the birds. I think she just liked the yard put back into use.
All three of my children worked in the garden with me when they were younger and even though I don't get much help from them anymore they all still manage to sneak into the garden to eat most of the snow peas, beans and tomatoes whenever they can.
Two years ago my college attending son called me to request garden help. He decided he needed to plant a garden to supplement his fast food eating habits. My present for Mothers Day was a trip to Denver (about 90 minutes away) to help him plant his garden. It was probably the very best day I ever spent with my son and the best Mothers Day present (even if I did spring for the transplants and seed).
Not only did he have better success than I did that year but he graciously shared his bumper crop of Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, bell peppers and green beans with us on his visits home.
* Posted by: Sunrays CA 10 ) on Thu, Oct 18, 01 at 16:12
Karen - what a wonderful thread...
My dad's yard was pretty large. It was one of the main reasons he bought the house in the 70's. His father was a farmer in our native island and dad wanted to have a place to grow also. We had at least 6 fruit trees at any time and lots of veggies. In between the fruit trees was a make-shift arbor. My brothers and I would climb up on the arbor and pick cherries and plums and have cherry pit spitting contests. I remember relatives and friends always coming over to pick some fruits or veggies.
Now that I'm older, I bring my kids over to see their grandpa and the first thing he does is bring them to the yard and let them pick their own cherries, or apples, or plums, or whatever else is ripe at the time. It's so great since our yard is so small and we can't have any trees like dad does.
Thank you for letting me write this.
My parents will be selling that old house pretty soon. I'll really miss that yard and those trees.
* Posted by: cindylou 7/30223 (My Page) on Fri, Oct 26, 01 at 13:39
You know, it's funny. I started reading this post to see everyone's else?s stories, thinking that I had no memories to share myself! They are coming back to me now! The earliest thing I remember, I was maybe 7 or 8 is the corn my dad would grow. He had a big corn field right in front of railroad tracks! Now, I would be terrified that my kids would get hurt! After the corn was harvested, he would let us play hide and seek in the corn stalks before he would cut them down. At that same house, we had a neighbor that had muscadine (I know that's not how you spell it!) vines. We used to eat them and squash them, he was not too happy about the squashing thing! The next house we moved to, I remember my Dad complaining about the lady's yard. We were renting so he could not re-do like he wanted to. He finally got permission to make it more like a garden, than a rambling mess. I do not recall the mess, just him talking about it. He also had many raspberry bushes there. I remember picking them in the summer. When we moved to GA from Ohio, he planted more raspberry bushes. My Dad had this little space in front of the window facing the front road that he would plant annuals. He would always spell out our last name...L E E. I can't do that now as my last name is now Whitehurst! I found out later that my Dad used to be big into seeds and selling annuals. That must be where my love for gardening came from. I don't know what hit me but about 1 1/2 years ago I went totally crazy into plants. Nothing in my garden has been there over 2 years except the boxwoods we planted along the sides of the house. I have done so much landscaping and garden making especially this year! I will not tell you how much I have spent on plants(this year), just that it is over $1,000. It's just weird that I was never into it before this. I have definitely been tapping into my Dad's experience though! He laughes at me! I call him at 11:00 at night and ask him if a certain plant will be alright outside tonight, should I bring my seedlings in, are they getting enough light, they are getting straggly, what do I do? He thinks I am officially crazy! I do thank you for this post! I have not thought about these memories in years! Leaves me with a warm fuzzy feeling! Hopefully I will leave a positive memory for my kids and not just the same hypothesis my father came up with.....she's crazy! Thanks again!
Oh...by the way, my husband of 7 years (and definitely NOT into plants) knows I'm crazy!
* Posted by: oldherb z8 Oregon (My Page) on Fri, Jan 4, 02 at 23:33
One of my most vivid gardening memories are of my father teaching me how to sow corn for the first time at age 6. We didn't have much of a garden until then. Then there was the taste of a fresh plucked carrot or sun warmed strawberries from our garden.
My mother loved purple sweet alyssum and planted it every spring along the borders of our lawn where I would gather small bouquets and drink in there lovely sweet fragrance. Dad loved his roses and bearded iris which were displayed proudly in vases every summer.
Then there was the weeding and cow manure. Dad knew how to keep a lawn green and a garden happy, and the secret was cow manure. Being young we always thought it was gross. Being green was not enough for Dad, if the lawn was going to really look nice it had to look like a golf course. No weeds allowed. So, every so often my younger brother and I would be sent to the yard with our dandelion forks in hand to rid the lawn of the intruding weeds. I new why Dad wanted us to pull the dandelions and clover but I always thought they should stay. They were much prettier than a plain old green lawn. I still think they should stay.
I remember eating cattails in Girl Scouts; the beginning of my interest in edible plants. Then when I was 12 we moved to Portland, Oregon where even the state flower produces edible fruit! Somewhere in puberty I forgot about gardening.
After my father's death I quit my desk job and now I work with and teach about plants for a living. Two years ago I found out my ancestors are buried in what is now national wildflower preserve. Go figure....
* Posted by: armadillo Berlin, Germany (My Page) on Thu, Jan 10, 02 at 10:34
Many of you folks have mentioned an adult who was a very positive influence on you. I had just the opposite. When I was 6 I got a package of daisy seeds out of a potato chip package and planted them. They reseeded and came back . My dad died when I was 8 and my mom remarried. My step father and I despised each other from the word go. When the daisies came up he thought they were pretty until he found out they were mine then he mowed them down and the bed became the location of our firewood stack. A few years later we grew a veggie garden and he made me do most of the hard work. I hated it but had to accept it. Then in fall when I heard him bragging about "his" vegetables doing so well (he never set foot in the garden except to tell me what to do) I got about as close to murderous rage as is possible for a preteen. I vowed to never grow anything.
I am very glad that my exwife slowly taught me that plants can be good friends. I started growing veggies on the balcony last summer and I love it now. I let my daughter do as much as she wants in the garden but I NEVER make her work in it and I alway tell folks that it is our garden together (even if she is not around). Usually I put the emphasis on her. I let her help choose what we will plant next summer and she is already anxious to show off her wild colored self grown vegetables to her friends in school.
When I started writing this I thought I had already bought all the seeds I need for next year but now I realize that I left out something important. I'm gonna grow me a great big pot of daisies.
Thanks for letting me share this,
* Posted by: gandle 4NE (My Page) on Thu, Jan 10, 02 at 16:23
My mother died in 1926, yes the date is correct and my grandparents raised me. I don't remember ever seeing a can of anything in the house except for an occasional can of salmon, rare because of the terrible high price 15 cents or sometimes sardines which were a little more affordable, a nickle or less. We had a huge garden but then we had horses to pull a plow and a harrow. Everything we ate was either in the root cellar, dried or canned. My earliest task in the garden was carrying a pint jar with about an inch of kerosene to drop the potato bugs in. Arsenate of lead was too expensive to buy. I envied the children whose folks sprayed their potatoes with either Paris green or arsenate of lead. They didn't have the bug duty. Now I'm very thankful that we couldn't afford those persistent chemicals. We planted huge amounts of kohlrabi, made sauerkraut from them, does anyone else have a memory of kraut from kohlrabi? I even remember the kinds of sweet corn we planted, Country Gentleman and Stowell's Evergreen. Most of that crop was dried, clean sheets were spread over quilting frames or saw horses and the corn was dried in the "parlor", had to be stirred every so often. Was delicious in the wintertime, grandma soaked the dried corn in milk and then cooked in on the old wood burning stove. Green beans were dried by running a thread through them and hanging huge strings of them around the house. They were called "leather breeches" because of their shape after drying. The flavor was quite good but the texture left something to be desired. Enough of an old mans ranting.
* Posted by: Heather_Q 7 - NC (My Page) on Tue, Jan 22, 02 at 13:46
I got all of my gardening interests from my grandmother. My grandfather died in 1972 (before I was born) and I think the garden was truly a refuge for my grandmother.
When I was little we lived in NC and she in NJ so we didn't get to see her very often. When we did go to her house she would walk me around and tell me about every plant. I remember...mammoth sunflowers twice as tall as me, how the snapdragons snapped, how the roses smelled, walking barefoot through her garden in the morning and watching the rainbows in the water from her hose.
Eventually, my grandmother moved to NC to be in a warmer climate. When my husband and I moved into our house almost 7 years ago my grandmother was my gardening mentor every step of the way. I probably drove her crazy calling sometimes 2 or 3 times a day to ask silly gardening questions.
My grandmother who had been gardening for almost 50 years went from able to frail in just a few short years. I picked out her plants at the greenhouse and planted them every year because she could not. She would say it broke her heart that she couldn't walk into her yard to see what was growing and to put her hands in the dirt. She was so afraid of falling that she wouldn't attempt it any longer.
About 2 weeks before she died (21 Dec 2001) she asked me who would I ask my questions to when she was gone? I am still asking myself that today. Who could I call? I don't think there is anyone...at least no one who will replace the person that gave me a gardeners heart.
* Posted by: happyponder 75090 (My Page) on Tue, Feb 19, 02 at 1:02
These stories are wonderful~ I'm 33 and my memories go back as far as I can remember. I can't recall ever seeing any store bought cans of food at my great grandparents. They were true farmers and did it all~ I stayed there on the weekends and everyday during the summer the whole family got involved. I remember milking cows, skimming the milk, making butter, canning, various berry picking~ blackberries were my favorite! digging regular potatoes was awful as I hated those stink bugs..yuk! sweet potato digging, I loved snapping beans(that is a great memory) Oh, it was awful seeing them kill the animals for the meat~ still haunts me to this day! and picking corn and running it thru that thing that takes the kernels off (i don?t know what its called) That was the one thing that I wanted after my GGfather passed on but my grandpa ran over it and busted the wooden box...this part has nothing to do w/ gardening but I loved getting up to the rooster crow and getting ready to load the trailer up behind the tractor w/ that pellet food for the cows and have them follow in a line behind us as we went to unload it w/ my ggpa whistling all the way. My ggma always had flowers all around the property I especially remember those
(geez, I can't recall the name) they are either purple or pink and huge clusters of flowers....and daffodils...
I don't know how they did this everyday~ hard times..
My uncle now owns the land and the house is still there so I go walk thru it everytime i'm out his way, just for the memories. After they had both passed I went and dug up a bunch of daffodils and planted them at my house so I would have something from their place. Boy, those were the good old days. I would give anything to go back in time for a day just to appreciate it all.
* Posted by: oldmom z3WI (My Page) on Sat, Mar 9, 02 at 12:26
I remember my dad, working in his backyard vegetable/flower garden. I was so glad he didn't just plant vegetables!
My dad grew zinnias, bachelor buttons and small gourds, besides the vegetables.
One day, he called me outside. He sounded excited! I saw a huge watermelon in the garden by the gourds!! Of course he was fooling me, he didn't grow that in Northern Wisconsin, but it was a funny memory for a little girl.
He also dug a small circle garden & helped me plant the seeds from an "Old-Fashioned Garden."
* Posted by: saucydog z5MA (My Page) on Tue, Mar 12, 02 at 15:28
I think it was that little spider plant that I potted up during vacation bible school.
I brought it to my grandmother who still has it in her house - or at least a descendant - and it's beautiful. Now it is 30 years later.
My grandmother was my inspiration. She would take me out and point out all of her things in the garden. I didn't appreciate it then, but I enjoy everything she sends me now! She is 90 and finds the time to put seeds in every letter she sends and tells me all about what it will be if I can get it to grow.
* Posted by: Craftybrat z7 (My Page) on Sun, Mar 17, 02 at 12:21
I have a very old memory of walking though one of my step-grandfathers gardens. He grew roses and it was hot and dusty as only the central valley in Calif. in August can be, he lived with my Grandma and if there was a choice inside with her (grumpy) or out in the garden I would be outside anytime. We where not supposed to mess in his garden my dad would have a fit if he caught us there "Not a place for clumsy ruff kids" as Dad always said to us, but I would sneak in anyway, he had an old Fruit tree I still don't know what kind it was but when the fruit was ripe OH IT WAS SO GOOD. He had every kind of flower growing that he could find and a 'few veggies' he really grew flowers. They lived in a tiny house beside some huge orchards but we kids knew not go in there the farmer we where told would fill us with lead if we did. But it was so beautiful sometimes we did ..Just on the edge. It was always dark and quiet there. I will always remember when Grandpa 'caught' me in his rose garden he showed me his flowers told me to watch for the thorns and let me smell this one flower. I thought I was in heaven. He gave us, mom and dad, a huge bunch of flowers to take home it was on the table in a vase for a week.....
My moms father came to live with us about that time too. He was an old farmer and had a small (by his standards) veggy garden in the backyard of our city house he would work there all summer long. If I close my eyes and think of him its still in the backyard working his garden, We kids where not to bother him out there and not to play around in his garden but one of my fondest memories of him is laying on my tummy watching him let the little ditches between rows of corn fill with water. It sometimes seemed to take forever for that water to get to me from the other end.
Oh that corn was good. I know now that one of the reasons my mom would not let us in his garden and he stayed in his garden so much was he had had a stroke and he went from being my loveable grandpa to someone who didn't like kids and he had a bad habit of whaken' us kids with his cane if we got to close to him. Mom told me this just this year I don't remember that just not being allowed to go in to the garden to play and watching the water from my place under the tree shade away from that end of the garden......
I now have my own garden and grow my own veggies kids are greatly encouraged to come in and sample everything growing. They are to touch, poke, pull, and pick to their hearts content. I teach preschool and it is so good to see kids who wouldn't eat beans corn or any veggy go out to the school garden to find the yummy treats there and eat as many as they can. There is also a flower garden and it is always encouraged for children to pick flowers and they love to have flower crowns made for them and finding a bug is a joy and as much fun as finding a winning lotto ticket is to an adult. I get as much from watching these kids as anything else for encouragement to keep growing.
* Posted by: Dances_in_Garden 7a-CDN 6-US (My Page) on Mon, Apr 8, 02 at 13:05
My great aunt was ahead of her time. She knew what "weeds" were edible, and she never planted in rows! Tomatoes and roses, lily of the valley and dill, mint and cucumbers all grew together. Her garden wasn't so much a plot as a room with intertwining paths. She would walk through, and touch a leaf from each plant as she strolled, sometimes plucking a leaf to smell it, or nibble on it before spitting it out, or eat it outright.
She had trees no taller than her head, so heavy with apples or pears or plums or peaches that you wondered how they didn't break. Rhubarb, I grow rhubarb from her garden (from her to grandparents to parents to me) in memory of her, though I don't eat it. This year I will make a pie or maybe some jam.
She never used any spray or chemical fertilizer, also ahead of her time when having a square of green lawn and narrow flower beds along the house with maybe petunias or geraniums was the norm. Every night after dinner, one had to "bring the bucket" out to the garden and bury the dinner waste. Just dig a hole, dump the bucket, cover it over, and you are done.
Her sister in law (my grandmother) taught me how to trap a bumblebee or hornet in a "cup flower" - I think a four o'clock. You could feel the thing buzzing around in there, and when you were done you just opened the flower and let it on it's merry way. Of course, I would be too afraid to do that now! She taught me the virtue of a good asparagus bed, that sometimes you just have to plow under the strawberry patch and start from new plants, and sometimes the plants that "volunteer" are the best.
My parents had a garden because we liked to eat and it was a good supplement. Tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, green onions, asparagus, rhubarb, hungarian wax peppers, those were the standards. Plus three apple trees, raspberry canes, and a concord grape vine (we used to chase each other, squeeze the skins, and make the insides pop out at each other. Don't tell mom and dad that's how the stains got on the patio!).
My lawn, flower beds, and gardens are not immaculate. I have a tendency to mix flowers and veggies together. Sometimes I let weeds grow because they look interesting. I don't have the heart to pull up the thyme, sweet peas, snapdragons, marigolds, and portulaca growing up between the patio stones.
I am most likely to garden at night or in the rain, and most cool evenings after the sun has gone down, you may find me strolling through my yard peering at the plants, and occasionally pinching off a leaf and sniffing it, nibbling, or eating it outright.
* Posted by: leeandliz z8?TN (My Page) on Sun, Apr 28, 02 at 21:03
Hello, your thread opened up so many memories for me. My grandma's house was truly enchanted when I was a child. My sister and I each had a "house", a tree for each of us. Mine was a fig tree, and Cathy's was a dogwood. We ate so many figs, I can't even eat a fig newton today!But my grandma was an avid gardener, and had eggplant, okra, and asparagus, plants I did not appreciate as a child. Now I love them. She also had a grape arbor and an old apple tree. Add an old collie-mix dog, a garden- glider swing, and a lot of love and patience on her part-we were in heaven with her. She passed away in 1996.God bless.-Liz
* Posted by: Wild_Rose z7b TN (My Page) on Sun, May 5, 02 at 11:45
What an amazing thread. I am so glad I found it, and thank you, Karen, for starting it more than 7 months ago!
For years my dad was a free spirit and we moved from one rental property to another so often I can't count, so I think of my grandmothers' homes as my home. Some of my earliest memories are of their gardens.
My mother's mother only had a rock garden at the far end of her yard, but on the fences were old-fashioned honeysuckle that she taught me to suck the nectar from. Her lawn was carpeted with clover and I learned from her how to make clover chains and catch honeybees in a pickle jar. She'd poke holes in the lid with an ice pick, then we'd go bee hunting. She?d invert the jar over a bee, and when it flew to the top, she'd screw the lid on before turning the jar back over. The game was to see how many we could catch without any escaping then let them all go back to their business. I was never once stung! My mom told me that when my grandmother was a girl living in north Texas, she did the same with tarantulas! Bees were nothing to her. What an amazing woman!
My father's mother taught me to pick off the little bulbuls at the base of tiger lily leaves to propagate the lilies, and how balsam seed pods popped when they were touched - "touch-me-nots", and of course how to snap snapdragons. I can remember roses, red and purple verbena, and many other beautiful flowers in her garden.
When I was eight, my parents moved yet another time. It was spring and the neighbor's red tulips were in full bloom. My grandmothers had always let me pick their flowers, so I didn't know others wouldn't mind, so I picked all of those tulips - every one! They were beautiful! When she saw me and yelled, I ran, dropping them as I went.
When I was 10, my father settled down, we bought a house, and the gardening bug hit daddy. Our last name was "Rose" and he started planting roses. Before long there were rose beds encircling our back yard and more island beds in the center with little lawn. He was president of the local rose society and a consulting rosarian for the American Rose Society. I'll never forget the time he fertilized with fresh goat manure. All the neighbors hated him until the smell went away! Daddy didn't believe in interplanting anything with his roses -- they were a monoculture, but he did give me on little strip at the side of the house to experiment with. What a joy watching those seeds germinate! The rest of my memory of gardening with my dad is not so pleasant. He fertilized, sprayed, disbudded, and deadheaded, and with over two hundred show roses, it was a constant job, and to me, a dreaded chore. After I married and had my own garden, it was years before I planted a single rose.
Even though I still don?t want the kind of roses that require the kind of maintenance that my dad?s roses did, I still love them and love plants in general ? enough to get a master?s degree in botany. Taxonomy and dendrology courses taught me to identify wildflowers and trees, physiology courses taught me how they grow, and that course in tissue culture is going to be the start of another hobby!
When my parents divorced in 1971, my mother gave away all the roses, planted trees in their place, and turned the upstairs of her big, old, house into an apartment. When I moved into that apartment in 1995, the backyard was very neglected, but the one plant Mom prized was the Japanese maple she had bought as a seedling. In addition to caring for her, I started making the backyard a garden again, pruned the overgrown shrubs and planted azaleas, foam flower, columbines, hostas, and transplanted ajuga from the front beds. When I married three years later, mom sold her house and moved into an apartment, and I moved three redbud seedlings from under her tree, ajuga, and some of the plants I had bought into my own garden.
My garden has lots of trees and only a few spots sunny enough for roses. The roses I grow are mostly antique ones that require little care, have a heavenly fragrance, and are interplanted with lots of other things including wildflowers. What I have is a cottage garden. I have tiger lilies, touch-me-nots, snapdragons, clover, and old-fashioned honeysuckle on the fence.
Mom died this spring, but when I look at those plants I moved from her garden to mine, I am reminded of her. I asked the owners of her house if I could have cuttings from her Japanese maple, but they had dug it up and put in a pool, so I bought two and planted them in her memory.
My grandchildren visited me yesterday, and I taught them how to get the nectar from the honeysuckles, gave them roses from my arbor, and made my granddaughter a clover necklace. I've told my neighbor children that they can pick any flower in my garden they want, but they have to ask me first. I think I'll plant a bed of tulips too.
* Posted by: Patrickb63 z6KY (My Page) on Wed, May 8, 02 at 22:47
Wow. For a hobby that always seemed so mundane to me the powerful emotions this string has stirred are a revelation.
My earliest memories start with my Aunt Tushie's (it's pronounced "two-she") garden. First the wonderful vegetables and fruit she always brought, then helping her and my mom (I was not a willing participant) work in her garden.
My Mom was raised on a farm. I never knew her parents. Her Mom died before I was born, and her Dad died when I was 5 months old. It's hard to think of them as Grandma and Grandpa when I never knew them. Anyhow, when I was about Ten my Aunt Rita and Uncle Norm built a house on their portion of the old farm. They started gardening, and let my Mom keep a garden there. With Nine kids at home, my Mom couldn't hope to keep a weed alive in her yard, much less a garden, and had not had one at home up to that time.
I remember eating a raw beet, and being surprised at how good they tasted. I remember the fried corn Mom made with the fresh corn. (Fried corn should never, ever be made with anything but fresh corn). I remember one of my older brothers throwing a huge, overripe cucumber at me, and it splattering across my new overalls. It smelled, and I was so humiliated I ran into the woods, to the creek, took off my overalls and washed them in the creek, and then sat there while they dried.
As I got older I hated all of the work of a garden. I knew I'd never have one, or force my kids to work in it. Well, I compromised. I garden in raised beds with about one fifth of the space my Mom had at her farm garden. I don't make my kids work in the beds, but I sure welcome their help when they offer, and love having my three year old come out to help. If there is anything better than a home grown tomato, sliced thick, partnered with crisp bacon, fresh home grown leaf lettuce, on toasted wheat bread with a touch of Miracle Whip, I don't know what it is.
I'll save other memories for later. Thanks for letting me share these.
* Posted by: Sunny_Sky Zone 5 IL (My Page) on Thu, May 16, 02 at 23:26
When I was young, I dead-headed mother's petunias. No one asked me to do it. It was something that I enjoyed doing each day. Towards the end of the season, I found that I hadn't dead-headed quick enough and found seeds. I saved the seeds and later planted them in little styrofoam cups. I kept the seedlings alive all winter in my sunny bedroom window. In the spring, mother was so surprised to see all my petunia plants and praised me loudly to all who would listen that because of me, she had the first petunias blooming that year in our neighborhood. I felt so happy and proud!
* Posted by: jeanneg99 z7NY (My Page) on Mon, May 20, 02 at 13:09
My father showed chrysanthemums in the Long Island Chrysanthemum society. He started when I was 7 years old. To get mums to bloom "on command", you use a shade cloth, and regulate the amount of sunlight they receive. I tried to copy my father and 'shaded' a bunch of maple tree seedlings I had collected, potted, and stored in the basement. Unfortunately, being a little kid, I forgot my 'shading' experiment and the plants had died. My mother came down to investigate the horrible smell and found...my dead experiment in shading annuals.
Another fond childhood memory (this one with a happy ending) is gardening with my next door neighbor, Mr. Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman didn't mind that I came over his house every day to 'help' him garden. I didn't have any living grand fathers, so he was like my surrogate grandpa. He taught me how to collect pansy seeds. He taught me the names of all his trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials...what I learned about gardening, I literally learned at his knee. He wasn't afraid to let a little kid dig in his garden and try to help him plant things, and he took the time to teach me well. I'll never forget his kindness and I am REALLY glad that my parents snapped a few photos of me 'working' in his garden!
* Posted by: MeMyselfAndI 5b OH (My Page) on Mon, May 20, 02 at 21:00
All of the women in my life were either flower or vegetable gardeners, or both. And my Uncle was a farmer. It was constantly explained to me and shown to me how we are utterly dependent upon plants to live. I don't think most people ever think about this. Anyway, it was from my fascination of being able to help pick a vegetable from a plant I 'helped' grow from seed that really fascinated me. I can also remember feeling so proud when I was allowed to shake the bag of dried zinnia heads so the seeds would fall to the bottom. There were always plants that were 'mine' here and there around the yard. I can remember appreciating sunflowers a lot because they sometime grow so fast that you can really tell the difference, even as a kid, after just a day. I had one friend who was similarly fascinated and we would get on our knees and inspect her mother's impatiens for the ripe seed pods that POP when you gently squeeze them. Those purple clover have a wonderful sweet taste if you pick them when ripe, pull out the 'flower petals' and touch the broken ends to your tongue. Same with honeysuckle (although I really really hate this stuff now - can't pull it out fast enough to stay on top of it...) I loved the pussywillows because my mom was never mad when I cut some off and they are so soft and strange. I can remember sitting in the grass during recess, talking with my friends, offhandedly marvelling at all the tiny flowers in the grass. (I miss grass like that - grass that has tiny flowers - and grass NOT so toxic that it's a bad idea to lay on it and chat!!) I can remember appreciating how the deep foliage in the forest made it cooler when we went hiking.
My daughter got 'hooked on plants' when we saw a monarch caterpillar in our butterfly garden last Summer.
* Posted by: jas52 (My Page) on Tue, May 21, 02 at 15:45
Kohlrabi - that is my earliest gardening memory! My dad used to plant it and we loved to eat it right from the garden. Most people that I mention it to have never even heard of it! Gandle mentioned Kohlrabi in her post - though I never had kraut made out of it!
I have only been interested in gardening for the last few years. We moved to a house that had beautiful already established perennial gardens! I loved having all those flowers to cut. We have since moved again and I am planning to start my own perennial garden this year!
I love this website! Your stories about gardening memories are great - I have spent a lot of time reading them today - I better go and make some memories for my kids! Thanks!
* Posted by: babsclare z5OH (My Page) on Wed, May 22, 02 at 11:10