I know that you all have had this question asked before as I have and I have tried to think of a different answer to it but for some reason I always end up back at the same time in my childhood with the answer. What and when is your first memory of gardening?
I have lived in this area of the Eastern Shore almost my entire life. A few exceptions, going away to boarding school and college, and two years in Elizabeth City, North Carolina when I was first married. Then I returned back to the Shore after those two years. So I have seen many changes and have many memories of my life in the garden. And I do say life sincerely.
I was very fortunate to have had a mother who loved gardening and was a rabid propagator. She could start anything from seed, bulbs or by cuttings. Even collecting camellia seeds to cool in the refrigerator for a year or two and then germinating them, raising them with constant care until they were large enough to go into her shade garden that she had created out of an empty corn field. Now in someone else’s care, they are 20 to 30 feet, producing a spring display that could rival any North Carolina garden. Unfortunately, she is not here to see them.
I was close to maybe seven or eight years old when I would go with her in the early spring to a couple of home-built cold frames under a huge twisted, eerie old pear tree. She would slide the heavy glass paneled tops over the back side of the frames to reveal hundreds of bright, cheerful, happy faced pansies.
Now these were the real pansies, each with a distinctive face and personality. Not like the meager, sullen ones on today’s market benches. We would situate ourselves so that I was to her left and she was in front of the frames. With her precious trowel worn down to a sharp blade, she would carefully dig each blooming pansy out cradled in a square block of dirt. Then she would hand it carefully to me to wrap in newspaper, in a special way so that the ends could be tucked into secure each plant. I would be so diligent and conscientious about my job. I wanted it to be exactly right because Mother would check them all over to be sure I did it right, and I had an arterial motive…..
In Easton many years ago, there was a small grocery store on Harrison Street across from the Tidewater Inn. It was Johnny’s Grocery Store. At least that is the name I recall. It was a real old fashion store that you left your list with clerk, and they would fill the order for pick up later. Well, Johnny would pay me 10 cents for every pansy plant I brought in.
Now I did not get rich with this project but since my mother had done all the work of preparing the cold frames, seeding the pansies, weeding, watering keeping them cozy and all I had to do was sit and wrap them in newspaper, I thought this was a fair price.
My piggy bank never really overflowed but I enjoyed that special one on one time that my mother as we sat under that old pear tree wrapping pansies and just talking about anything and everything a young mind might come up with. To this day every time I smell that delightfully fresh pansy perfume I remember the pear tree and my mother’s worn trowel handing me a precious pansy.