Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gardening through the Generations

My grandfather
My grandparents were farmers. Their lives revolved around growing seasons and the rhythms of nature. They were up at sunrise--no need for daylight savings time--and retired from their day’s work when the skies grew dark in the evening.

Members of their families had tilled the red clay hills of central Mississippi as long as anyone could remember. While my grandfather planted cotton and corn to support his family, my grandmother tended to her enormous garden filled with black-eyed peas, squash, carrots, lettuce and more. We at like kings in the summer and the vegetables she canned were a reminder of summer through the winter months.

My mom tends to her roses
My parents moved to the big city not too many years after they were wed. They traded plowed ground and pine trees for a quarter of an acre in suburbia and set an alarm clock to begin their workdays rather than relying on the rising and setting of the sun.

But there still was dirt under their fingernails. Long before the days of yard services and rows of weed killers on the shelves, they used sheets of plastic to battle weeds and managed to create a yard that looked like a golf course. They inspired their daughter to continue a lifelong kinship with the earth that began on her grandfather’s lap.

While my parents worked hard creating the perfect lawn, their pride and joy was their rose garden with enormous blooms and plants with names that they discussed like good friends over dinner—Peace, Tiffany, Mr. Lincoln. After my mother died and my father moved to an assisted living facility, our family home was occupied by renters. The only thing my father ever wanted to know about the people who occupied his home of more than 40 years was if they were taking care of his miniature Japanese maple tree he planted in the front yard.

As a child, my proudest creation was a postage stamp-size vegetable garden that yielded about enough food for a single meal for our family of three.

With adulthood, I gave up the idea of farming for food and found joy in the azaleas and dogwoods and other native plants of our region. I moved three times before finding the right place for my garden. The floor plan of the house was secondary to the possibilities of the yard.

My older son's garden
And as our family grew, so did our roster of gardeners. My older son gardened alongside me as a child. Along with the names of his favorite football players, he could recite his favorite plants—mahonias, hostas, butterfly bushes and so on. He's now grown and works tirelessly in his own garden, with the help of his children, of course.

A rosebush nestled in the corner of my 
son's house--a tribute to past generations
And when spring gardening begins, my granddaughter will take the place of her father in helping me prepare the soil and plant annuals. And that Japanese maple? It’s being relocated to the newly purchased home of my younger son so it can continue receiving the very best of care.

Through good times and bad, gardening has been a constant in my life. The rhythm of nature is dependable and timeless and nowhere is my soul more calmed than when I’m sitting on the ground digging in dirt and feeling the heartbeat of life.

Next post: Tips for growing that next generations of gardeners

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