The gardening gene skipped me


By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Janice Lindsay
Janice Lindsay

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a gardener. I love flowers. I grew up among gardens both flower and vegetable. But if it’s possible to inherit a gardener gene, I have significant gaps in my DNA.

In fact, if you could speak Plant, you would hear green things warning each other, “Don’t let her breathe on you. Kiss of Death.”

My non-gardening career began in grade school. Remember those experiments where you sprout a bean? Stuff paper towels into a clear drinking glass. Poke a raw bean between the towel and the glass. Keep the towel moist. Watch the bean as it sprouts and grows.

Some of my classmates could have climbed their beanstalks to Giants’ Heaven. My bean birthed a sickly shoot which took a look at me, moaned, and gave up the ghost.

Once, I planted Shasta daisy seeds, carefully following instructions on the envelope. My only yield was a sickly tomato plant. It sprouted from seeds of a tomato that dropped from a vine my husband had grown the summer before.

My mother once brought me a pot full of lush green parsley. “Anybody can grown parsley,” she said. The plants were comatose before she left the house.

I enjoyed better luck with a mixture of wildflower seeds. All I had to do was scatter the seeds. Dozens of various flowers grew thick, strong, and colorful. Since I had not had to plan, prepare soil, fertilize, weed, or do anything else that real gardeners do, I assumed they were being sarcastic.

Someone gave me a pot of pansies in full bloom. I carefully transplanted them from the container to the soil, assuming that these might thrive, having reached maturity in somebody else’s care. That night, deer ate all the blossoms. Probably, knowing my history, the deer were being kind; it was a mercy killing.

My husband, who was the family gardener but refused to grow anything he couldn’t eat, said that I could grow anything if I really tried. It’s true that I’ve always noticed books that need reading, birds that need watching, and wildflowers that need to be identified, before I’ve noticed gardens that need weeding.

One spring morning, after we had lived in our new house for a couple of years, I answered the call of the wild; that is, Dick, when he said, “I’m going to clean leaves out of the bushes. Do you want to help?”

It was sunny, sweet, and still. Birds twittered. The temperature had reached 65. The world said, “Come out.”

We coaxed oak leaves from under the juniper bushes and arbor vitaes. 

I studied the raised flower garden, about 36 square feet, that had been planted by our house’s previous owners but mostly untended by us. We cleaned the oak leaves out of that, too.

I do like the appearance of a neat garden. I like to see green shoots in the spring earth. I like the smell of moist soil as it’s turned over with that three-pronged fork-like tool that gardeners know the name of.

In our little garden, two raggedy rose bushes had never looked healthy. Lamb’s ear reproduced faster than ewes ever did. A vigorous green climbing/clinging vine seemed intent on conquering New England.

The urge struck me to rip everything out of that little garden and start over. I would make it my garden. I would choose what went in there. It would be a healthy colorful garden I could enjoy and be proud of. So I did the right thing. I hired a gardener.