Gardening has made me more of a risk-taker. Don’t laugh; I’m serious. When I moved into my first home after college, I immediately set off for the local hardware store and bought a flat of impatiens. I planted them in a neat row outside my little house trailer (again, serious). Having grown up in the woods, I knew these particular flowers would grow in the shade provided by the maple tree that sheltered my home. I spaced them exactly as the tag instructed and smiled all summer every time I came home and saw the happy pattern of pink- purple – orange – pink – purple – orange. For the next few years I planted more impatiens and when I moved to a sunnier locale, I planted petunias. I walked past the complicated perennials in their big pots with their big price tags. I didn’t have the budget for that – and what if I killed them as I had every house plant I’d ever offered shelter to? As a gardener, I played it safe.
When my husband and I bought our first house it came with a long gardening history. A huge established perennial bed loaded with coreopsis, iris, dame’s rocket, lily of the valley, coneflowers, and peonies filled the foundation of the old carriage house just outside my kitchen door. A 60 foot long asparagus bed and tidily contained raspberry patch grew along the edges of the property, along with gooseberries (?) and justaberries (???), strawberries, black raspberries, rhubarb, blackberries, and seven fruit trees! My gardening education took a steep curve upward. Sadly, I must report in the first year alone we killed the peach tree, tilled under the weed-infested strawberries, and could only stare in confusion at the gooseberries and justaberries – what do you do with those?
Our Carriage House Foundation Garden (circa 1996)
My greatest gardening goal was simply not to kill anything else. And we did get better. I learned to freeze and can almost everything we grew. I even planted more perennials and started an overly ambitious vegetable garden which mostly fed the deer and rabbits. And then I got pregnant and handed my garden over to the weeds and my husband.