On May 26, 2016

Looking Back: Lawns and gardens

When May rolls around I am very anxious to spend time in my flower gardens and have fun playing in the dirt.

As we mature, we acquire a sense of pride in our property. We want our yards to look nice. This involves more than just cutting the grass. An attractive landscape around our home adds to its “curb appeal.”

As I look back, I realize that my father was the one who loved to spend time in the garden. When I was about eight years old, back in the early 50s, my parents bought the lot next to our home. It offered protection from having a house built closer than my parents would have liked.

My father saw that as an opportunity to grow a large garden in the back 75 feet of a 50-by-150-foot lot. My parents tilled the soil themselves and the planting began. He grew a little of everything, but the rows of corn stand out in my memory. The stalks were taller than I was! All the neighborhood kids thought the rows were a great place to play hide and seek.

While my father was busy with his veggies, my mother was diligently planting flowers. She liked the end result but not digging in the dirt. Of course, all children want to do what their parents are doing, so I wanted to help with the planting. I got a lesson, but my attention span was short, as is the case with young people. I am sure my mother would have happily let me plant every flower she had.

As I got older, I acquired the job of mowing the lawn. To this day I can hear my father saying, “Mow it in a square!” I ran around with that lawnmower as fast as I could go. I didn’t want to miss out on neighborhood activities with my friends. I was told to “slow down,” but do kids ever listen?

Mowing must not have been that bad an experience because I love to mow the lawn today. I am a big fan of instant gratification and in less than an hour our freshly cut lawn looks wonderful. I am even more obsessed than my father was about how to cut the grass. I mow in a different direction every time. Experts say that is best for the grass. Wonder what my father would think about that tip?

Spending time in flower gardens with my mother must have “planted a seed” for the future, because I spend hours in my flower gardens every week. I always have some annuals, but most of my gardens have perennial flowers. I blame my neighbor, Eleanor, who introduced me to perennials over 30 years ago. She gave me some plants that she had divided. Eleanor explained that in a few years I could divide these same plants and have even more flowers for my gardens. That advice led to the creation of over a dozen gardens before I finally decided I had enough. Now I know that I have to discard any divided plants I can’t give away.

When I retired about 12 years ago, I decided that it would be fun to do gardening and landscaping for people who had been asking me. I quickly realized that it was too much of a good thing! My 60-year-old body began to protest from all the repetitive work. Factor in the heat and rainy days, and I found that working in my own yard was no longer fun. It was time to give up my “second career” and tend to my own property.

Having a handy husband has allowed me to acquire some special things to make our yard complete. Over the years Peter has built a pergola, numerous bird houses, a large compost bin, a brick pathway to get to the bin, and a lovely Adirondack chair in which I can sit back and relax in my own piece of paradise.

Many of my garden and landscape projects have been trial and error. Surprisingly, very few have failed and I have learned by doing. It took me a while to realize that one of the best times to find bargains at the garden centers is in the fall. Generally people don’t get excited about planting trees at that time of year, but the trees love it!

If you are new to gardening, check the zone of the plant you want to purchase, follow the planting directions and many years later you can also look back and realize that you too have established your own piece of paradise . . . a little at a time

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