Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Simply must Plant a Garden

I’d been married a week or two when my mother-in-law showed up one day in mid-June, with trowel, spade, hoe, markers, and a basket full of seeds. She’d ordered my father-in-law to plow up a small space in the yard earlier, anticipating that I’d give-in to her statement, “You simply must plant a garden now that you live on a farm.”

She set about explaining seeds, the information on the packet, and how to hoe a row. I’ll be honest; I was not all that interested. I thought I was way too young to care about gardens, vegetables, and canning, but whether I liked it or not, a vegetable garden was going to be part of my life. That first garden was a complete disaster. I avoided it as much as possible, making no excuses for the weeds choking the plants. The only thing that really grew well in my first garden was a yellow crookneck squash that I had no idea what to do with, so I peeled it, fried it, and ruined it.

The next year, my parents and my mother-in-law saw to it that I planted my garden earlier. Peas in the ground on Good Friday, followed by lettuce, green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes galore, beets, carrots, and that pesky yellow crookneck squash went into the ground. This year my parents made certain I weeded and hoed it every once in awhile. I’m sure they visited so often that summer, with hoes in hand, to keep the garden respectable…well as much as possible.

Gardening was growing on me…a little.

My mother-in-law saw to it from day one that a few flowers were included in the garden. Old-fashioned annuals, like zinnias, calendulas, cosmos, bachelor’s buttons, and marigolds, grew courageously amidst dock, milkweed, and all the weeds that found a hospitable home in my garden in those early years.

One day my mother-in-law stopped by and said, “You simply must join garden club.” I politely turned her down deciding that growing a garden was enough. Anyone who ever knew my mother-in-law would all agree that she was a stubborn woman. Every once in a while she’d say…”You simply must join garden club.” She finally talked me into going to a holiday flower show and suggesting that I make up a couple arrangements, just for fun, of course. I won my first blue ribbon for an evergreen design on an old rug beater. I was stunned and hooked. I’d found a passion, beyond playing the piano.

I joined garden club, grew bigger and better gardens, and journeyed into perennials and gardens explicitly for flowers. At one point I had a large vegetable garden, herb garden, perennial garden, cutting garden, and beds of flowers and herbs.

All the gardening and growing transformed into a business selling herbs, flowers, and all manner of gardening books, supplies, and designs. Windy Corner herbs & flowers became my escape. Life twists and turns like a hanging flower basket in a strong wind and for a while the garden gate slammed shut. A few pots of flowers on a deck or porch were my garden for several years.

I have my mother-in-law, a strong woman with character and substance and my gardening parents to thank for this growing passion. So this year, I simply must plant a garden and so I will.

What’s your garden story? Did someone influence you to plant vegetables, herbs, and flowers? Did you discover your green thumb as a child or later? Did you plan on gardening or stumble upon it? I’d love to hear your story.

All photos were taken by me last year and none are my garden, but I will be posting photos the brand-spankin' new garden. 


  1. I think I have turned into your mother in law (but probably not so wonderful)
    I think I harass my daughter in law and go to their house and garden like mad
    since I currently live in the city and am reduced to watering the concrete dog run where I take Buster.
    What a gift your mother in law gave you!

    This was a beautiful essay.

  2. You're so right, it was a gift, even though it took me awhile to believe it. I'm excited...I'm going to have a tiny garden in the yard for the first time in several years. Mostly vegies, but hopefully a few flowers will find they're way in.

    I so enjoy following you around NYC. I sigh and wish I lived there, but if I did, I'd probably be pining for small town/country life. Am I ever content? : )

  3. Fantastic story!. I am trying to sneak up on my DIL with the same issues,lol. I gave them plants last yr from my garden, my son planted them, and this yr, they loved them. Their bed looks fantastic.

  4. And all these years I thought I was the only daughter-in-law ambushed with plants and gardening! It's amazing how dirty roots and tiny seeds yank at our hearts and drive us mad with desire. Thank you for stopping by Tammy.

  5. lovely words + photos. enjoy your day :)

    xo Alison

  6. Thanks for stopping by Alison. I'm glad you enjoyed the Cottage on the Corner.

    I'm heading over for a visit.

  7. My gardening started when I was very young. Mom gave me a garden under the maples along the house where nothing would grow. I brought back violets and jack-in-the-pulpit and they grew. Dad gave me a small patch in the garden where I put in a rock garden filled with moss rose and chickens and hens. Gardening is still my passion.

  8. Dear Bev...I remember that rock garden. I guess I was always too busy being an ornery kid to care about gardening, except for the dead zinnias and that's a story for another day.

    Love you!

  9. I want a garden, with the price's at the grocery store. I went to buy a bunch of broccli rabe, it was $6 I said I won't pay that
    $3.99 was bad enough. You are smart to have a garden, who knows where these veggie's come from or what chemicals have been put in them..Goog post , Thanks for the comment yvonne

  10. I want a garden, with the price's at the grocery store. I went to buy a bunch of broccli rabe, it was $6 I said I won't pay that
    $3.99 was bad enough. You are smart to have a garden, who knows where these veggie's come from or what chemicals have been put in them..Goog post , Thanks for the comment yvonne

  11. Thank goodness for your MIL! I never really know where I got it from. I remember Grandma's garden full of tomatoes, and eating them warm from the sun. And mom always had clematis, but the real passion must have started somewhere inside myself! It all started with houseplants when I was in high school. Aren't you loving this nice weather?

  12. this was a great read and your mil is quite something....not sure i would have liked that but seems, in the end, to have been a good thing...i cannot sit here long enough to write my gardening history, maybe a blog post one day as it's too long....i have always been a nut for flowers, not veggies and boxes this year and pots galore are having to do....if i had a gardener to do the hard stuff, i'd have a glorious garden ;) of course, wouldn't we all? xox

  13. Le Petite...there's so much more ot gardening than fresh vegies, but it's a great place to start.'s hot! The ground is still soppy wet, but the sun is shining and soon it will be dry enough to work up, etc. YIKES! I'm going to have a garden again!

    Linda... I didn't like it one bit which probably had something to do with why I let the weeds rule. It was my way of rebellion. What I came to love were the flowers and floral design.

    Thanks to all for stopping by! *hugs*


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