“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.” Alfred Austin
Ever since I was a child, I have found plants to be beautiful and wonderous. When I was a little girl, I picked wildflowers – buttercups, dandelions and Queen Anne’s lace– and made gifts of these weeds to my mother, who acted appreciative. We put them on the kitchen table in a mug filled with water, where the blooms would promptly wilt, but that didn’t deter me from bringing in more wildflowers on subsequent days. On walks through the woods with my parents, I picked delicious wild raspberries and blackberries. I tasted the sweet drop of honeysuckle nectar, flower after flower, and enjoyed the lovely aroma of the blossoms. I was always happy to explore.
In kindergarten, I pulled pussy willow branches out of a trash can at church, stripped them of the soft, furry buds (called catkins), and filled my coat pockets with the catkins, so that I could feel them anytime. The texture was comforting to me.
In elementary school, I delighted in indoor experiments with plants. I suspended lima beans on the inner sides of a glass jar that was stuffed with wet paper towels, so that I could watch the roots grow, twisting along the glass. I took an avocado pit, suspended it with toothpicks at the top of a water-filled jar, and watched the roots grow straight down, followed by the emergence of an upright stem and leaves. I planted the crown of a pineapple in sand until it took root and then I transferred it into a pot of soil, and again, I tended the plant until it grew. I planted offshoots of spider plants and rooted philodendrons in water. I loved all of it.
As a teenager, I gardened outdoors, planting flowers and vegetables. On occasion, I foraged for wild plants – sassafras roots to make tea, cattail pollen to add to flour, and spring dandelion leaves to add to salad. I read books on the uses of plants for their healing properties. I wanted to be a botanist when I grew up, but life took different twists and turns, and I ended up being an English teacher instead.
Now I am a middle-aged woman with a big, unruly flower garden and a small fenced-in vegetable garden. I still love being outdoors and still delight in plant life, especially now, in spring, when plants thrive and become greener and prettier every day.
Gardening nurtures my spirit. I have never been an accomplished gardener, but I have been a happy one.