30 August 2017

Gardens – Always Changing and Yet the Same!


Gardens – Always Changing and Yet the Same!

True confession time – I do not have much of a green thumb.

My earliest recollection of a garden was my mom trying to grow a little patch in our backyard in Connecticut – it did not last long.  What I really remember is that for years afterward, I always forgot about that patch of garden until I mowed the “grass” which took over and it always smelled of mint.  Yep, mint!  The one thing my mom planted which ran wild for as long as we had that house.

Next up, were growing beans in science class.  I suspect I was initially fascinated and then lost interest since I don’t remember anything more than that!

When I first moved into my second house, we built a terraced area for plants.  Little did we know (or pay attention to) the fact that it got little sunlight, the roots from the tree next to it, loved it, and with time, all the surrounding trees got so large that it now gets no sunlight!  There are many more stories I could tell about my lack of gardening prowess.

A couple of years ago, with my now-grown daughter in tow, we’ve revisited gardening … we now pay attention to sunlight (or lack thereof), watering (hopefully not needed and can be provided), space requirements and few other things.  We also now focus more on flowers and herbs that are pretty low maintenance and that “should” work for where we live (fingers crossed).  We also realized that our best place for planting vegetables and herbs is right in front of the house.  So, if you ever visit and wonder why under the bay window there are no flowers or shrubs, it’s because that patch is reserved for vegetables.  We’ve successfully grown onions and sweet potatoes and even artichokes!  We are now trying asparagus and rhubarb though you’ll have to wait until next year for a status on those.  I will say that the flowers produced by artichokes stunned me with their vibrant colors.  We’ve decided to just let them flower next year .

Many people have gardens or access to allotments – sometimes to provide food, or to provide beauty, or to assist pollinators, or to attract wildlife, and more.  When you visit historic properties, there is often a garden.  Gardens have historically and to this day been an important part of many people’s lives.

I’ve recently visited two arboretums (in Raleigh, NC and the National Arboretum, DC) and found that I loved it.  I previously just never associated acres and acres of plants as something interesting to visit before.  I have visited historic properties and their associated gardens though always in the narrow context of that property and that garden as something interesting though not necessarily memorable.  Now I look at gardens and delight in those which I will never aspire to and take notes on plants that just might work in my own.

This discussion about gardens was prompted by the new Smithsonian Exhibit, Cultivating America’s Gardens which also has a wonderful online presence so that you can explore the exhibit in your jammies without leaving home.

Want to learn more about gardens?  The Smithsonian Gardens has an Archives of American Gardens.

Want to share about a Community Garden?  Check out the Community of Gardens initiative.

Next time you look at a garden or work in yours, appreciate the memories it might stir or think about how your ancestors may have also done the same.




What is your earliest recollection of a garden or gardening?

What heirloom plants, seeds, garden designs or more been passed down in your family?

What is your favorite garden-related story?

Who do you most strongly associate with gardening in your family?




Editor’s Note: If this post interested you, you might want to read It’s Fall – Time to Garden – What Seeds Might Our Ancestors Have Planted? (October 2016)






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