It is an incredible time right now for a profession that sometimes can be overlooked and undervalued by many, yet few can argue the positive impact from the expertise, products, services, and results produced by it. I have been biased about this profession for well over 50 years, even long before I ever knew it existed.
I am forever indebted to my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles for the ritual that happened every spring as the rototillers, hoes, string lines for making rows, seed packages, seed potatoes, tomato plants of all varieties, onion sets and sweet corn were all assembled and positioned to be planted in the garden. At five years old, I lived on a gravel road in Northern, Ohio, where there were seven houses in a row all occupied by my parents, my mom's brothers and sisters, and their families.
Right in the middle of that mix was my grandmother's house with the remaining younger siblings still living at home. Just guessing, there were maybe a total of 25 relatives living in that 1/8 of a mile stretch with a host of cousins, a few other close neighbors, and one great big, magnificent garden. That was my introduction to the horticulture and landscape profession and the smell of turned-over soil, the vision of seeds breaking through the ground, and the comfort of my aunts laughing together as they pulled weeds, planted flowers, and strung beans during the day. The evenings came with the security of my dad and uncles coming home from their construction and union jobs to hoe in the garden, inspect the crops, and cut the straightest lines with their old push mowers on a mixture of grass and weeds we called a lawn. They finished the days tired and happy, and we sometimes gathered around the biggest old oak tree in the world in Grandma's yard, eating something that came from the garden. It was a magical childhood that produced a passion that has continued throughout my life with my chosen profession and continued love for plants and soil and life.
This memory vividly came to mind when Kate Green, Site Sales Coordinator of LURVEY GARDEN CENTER in Des Plaines, Illinois, was telling me how many customers she had heard this spring say the phrase, "I need more life around me." Customers were waiting in line in their cars for the curbside pick up of vegetables and annuals, garden soils, fertilizers, and the expertise of the LURVEY team as they spoke through their masks, giving advice and encouraging their customers' efforts. As they were able to open up the garden center and store with precautions, inspired customers would come to walk through the acres of plants, native stone, fountains, and furniture, appreciating the soothing effect of being surrounded by . . . life and were looking for ways to take it home with them. It didn't matter if it was a small houseplant, a potted tomato plant that would go on an apartment balcony, or if a customer was making the commitment to add a raised vegetable garden to their backyard; there was ENERGY that inspired the LURVEY TEAM with each customer seeking the rewards of soil, plants, and nature!
A movement is happening across the country this spring and continues to build as people are seeking and finding a retreat from the ambiguous news cycles, unrest, and political uncertainty taking place around them and finding the ability to replace a click on their smartphone landing on disturbing rhetoric to instead click a picture of the first green tomato turning red, or black-eyed Susan beginning to bloom. In Bowie, Maryland, Mark Jenkins, the general manager of Patuxent Nursery, enthusiastically talks about the crowds of people that will be at the Garden Center in the middle of the week, looking for advice, and purchasing something for a place in their yard that they may have noticed for the first time because they have been self-quarantining through the spring. There are shortages of plants, bags of soils, and mulch because of the overwhelming desire of so many of us to add beauty and life to our surroundings. With that in mind, stop and consider for just a moment what adds and what detracts from this beauty and life around you.
Plant Some Seeds of a Different Variety and See What Grows
- Who could use a handwritten note from you today?
- Possibly a relative, friend, neighbor, or customer could use the encouragement or connection with you.
- Can you find a farm stand that is starting to put out strawberries, put your mask on, purchase a quart, and tell the owner thanks for growing them?
- Is there a television show to shut off and replace it by opening up a book you've been wanting to read? I have been listening to Henry David Thoreau's book WALDEN. I've been reminded that in 1845 there were many differences of opinions and the distractions of human nature, yet, just like today, water, nature, a bird's song, or a bean field can bring things into perspective.
- How long has it been since you put on your walking shoes and how enjoyable would a walk to begin or end the day feel?
- When was the last time you just laid on the ground and watched the clouds to try and find an elephant or a familiar face in them?
Pulling Some Weeds to Let the Good Seeds Grow
- What we read, what we allow to consume us, and what we ultimately choose to engage in is our choice. So noticing what choices you are making would be a great place to start.
- So many people have made a conscious choice to pull the wrong foods out of their lives. The energy and glow they have is a tremendous testimony to make us think about the changes in diet you and I could possibly make.
- The media manipulation that bombards us every day is accentuated by the fact that every day I hear someone exclaim, "I have got to quit watching the news." When is the last time you have heard someone say, I need to get more news?
What Will They Remember?
As I try and find an appropriate way to end this newsletter, the thought of jumping in a time machine came to mind. Considering how fast the years blurred by from the scene described at the opening, I would like to also think about going forward 50 years and think about the children all of us have in our lives today. It is hard to imagine what a five-year-old may be thinking as they try and sort out why they can't play with their friends from school or next door. What is the 10-year-old thinking as he sees his parents trying to work from home or worry about keeping their jobs? How about the 17-year-old not getting to play sports or finish out their senior year?
There are so many unfortunate scenarios being thrust on children today that it is encouraging to think that all of those tomato plants, corn seeds, new flowering trees, or potted plants are something they can look back on as a great memory from these times. Watering a little container garden or getting excited about eating lettuce that they watched grow can be a delight and a lifelong memory. Or the time spent with a parent or grandparent watering or weeding or just watching plants grow . . . I would like to think the positive impact of getting more life around our children and family is what they will be thinking about in the future, and the memory of 2020 will be how the virus allowed us to spend more time together . . . in the garden.
"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." - Gertrude Jekyll
"One marked feature of the people, both high and low, is a love for flowers." - Robert Fortune
"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece." - Claude Monet
"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." - Alfred Austin
"Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you." - Richard Brinsley Sheridan
"If you've never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden." - Robert Brault
"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden." - Minnie Aumonier
"Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors." - Mary Cantwell