Okay, I’ve done a lot of digging in the dirt, at other people’s houses. For money. I’ve taken classes in ornamental horticulture, worked at NYBG, and been a TV garden editor for Martha Stewart. But I’ve never envisioned my own garden and created one. What would it look like?
Photograph: © Country Life Picture Library, from Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden by Judith B. Tankard, Rizzoli New York, 2011
No, not like that.
I guess I tell myself that my excuse for never making a garden of my own is that I got caught up in television production, a career that has served me well over the years but also required an unhealthy amount of ignoring my own life. But if I’m being totally honest (and I think I should because this is my blog,) gardening and I parted ways after a traumatic event that occurred at Martha’s house in Maine. Yes, I’m going to blame it all on Martha.
garden mothra: i drew this mustache on using GIMP
We had Dan Hinkley as a guest, you know the fantastic plantsman of Heronswood fame, and I was the producer and garden prep person for a segment we were to do on shade treasures. Since Dan travels the world collecting rare specimens and cultivating them for trade, you can imagine the amazing plants he had brought for the Skylands property! (And he’s also the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet.) This would be a chance to educate folks on some of the possibilities for shady areas, so we had a good variety of stuff out there. As I’m prepping Martha for the segment, she looks at all the “shade treasures” and says, “what’s all this? I can’t plant all this here! I only want one kind of plant here, Solomon’s seal.” I tried to argue with her (bad idea) about the fact that we had already discussed every inch of the material and she had already agreed to all of the plants going into the ground, but she was steadfast. It was her garden, of course, so we turned it into a Plant of the Week segment on the very beautiful Solomon’s seal that Dan had brought. Yes, we flew him across the country to talk about ONE PLANT. I think I was more upset about that than anything else.
But…in this process of arguing with her, and trying to convince her that the plant variety was important for education, she hooked onto the idea that I was more of a television producer than a gardener. She looked at me with those see-everything brown eyes and said, “You’re not a real gardener.” This was pretty much the only time Martha ever made me cry in the entire decade I worked for her. I almost quit right there. And I think I really took that statement to heart, and followed the TV production path instead of the gardening one. It was quite stupid of me, to listen to someone who has minions that make her gardens. And stupid of me to let this one sentence sink into my bones. It doesn’t mean I can’t grow a few fucking flowers. (Addendum: please don’t get the wrong idea about Martha. I have so many good things to say about her, and her beautiful gardens, and all the opportunities she gave me, and the Emmys we won, and everything I learned…but I just had to tell that one little Fleur de Mal.)
ANYWAY…now that I’m ‘in-between’ TV gigs, or maybe done with TV altogether, this gardening/floristry/plant path is once again beckoning to me. I’ve begun dreaming about my garden…made possible by my amazing parents, who said they’d let me have a little patch of earth on their property to play with. Oh golly! Really? I hope they’re serious! Because I already ordered some seeds from Seedsavers Exchange! That’s the first place I thought of, because they offer heirloom varieties of seeds that gardeners from around the world save and swap each year.
I’m thinking cutting garden with some herbs and veggies thrown in. In other words, it will be totally utilitarian with a bunch of stuff I love. Keep it simple, try to be successful at something small. Neat and organized. I haven’t measured or really taken this to the next level by cordoning off an area yet, because I don’t want to scare my parents off of the idea. I must admit I went a little crazy on the Seedsavers site today, and I know I will have to scale back (bearing in mind I also want to order plants too.) I need to do this in the proper order, starting with doing a LOT of research and reading about what plants perform well in zone 7a (yes, that’s right, we are 7a now with the new USDA plant hardiness map!) and are also deer resistant. I hope to create a spreadsheet with all the salient facts to help keep me organized. Last night, I fell asleep with a cut flower book in my lap and tonight I plan on doing the same. This is my Seedsavers order:
The cukes are for my husband, who has been talking about pickling for the last 1700 years. This is the year to do that, too, I hope. Enjoy the new moon energy!