I’ve been thinking back over my “garden career” and waxing nostalgic.
Thought of recording some of the evolution of past experiences in gardening.
For me, the gardens and the entire viewpoint of it have slowly changed over time. At its peak, my obsession with gardening ruled my year… what I did, what I bought, my daily schedule, my dreams, everything.
But it all began rather benignly in the yard of the house we rented, in those first years of early marriage.
The First Garden Of My Own
I didn’t own it, and it had nothing to do with landscaping. Rented yards rarely do.
My first garden was a small vegetable patch square, carved out of the backyard, next to the straightlined, narrow, concrete walk that was ubiquitous in the houses of my city neighborhoods.
I simply dug up that square from scruffy sod and planted. Tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, green peppers. Things my mother had planted, and things I liked to eat.
Fresh tomatoes were always a favorite and have remained part of my vegetable gardens in good times and bad, through finely groomed and weedy permutations of the garden.
Parsley was important for chicken soup and stews, lettuce perennially a favorite for salads. And that was the extent of the garden in my earliest years. I learned to enjoy puttering outside, and the fact that the garden was temporary never bothered me at all.
I would trim it with marigolds, as easy as a seed packet sown in the freshly turned ground.
The Love Of Bulbs
I had developed a love of spring blooming bulbs very early life. It did not matter to me that I would not stay in the rented house, I still wanted the crocus along the walk and the tulips in front of the porch.
I knew little of what types there were or how to plant them, they were simply purchased and planted during the crisp days of Autumn. These are the most rewarding and easiest of a renter’s efforts: planting a bag or two of Dutch bulbs.
Being a city yard, however, I do remember the great disappointment that ensued when the passing school children quickly made away with the tempting big tulip blooms. There was no fence between them and their prized acquisitions.
It Was Scruffy
*I found a Google map picture of the old house to put at the top of the post; now with better landscaping, but in need of paint.
That first house/yard/garden was down at the heels in the transitioning neighborhoods where newlyweds often rent.
I was not trying to build a showcase, I just wanted some fresh summer produce and the sight of something cheerful through the window in spring.
Things I Remember
One of the scruffy mulberry trees along the alley fence became our Advent log.
I still remember the old climbing rose that remained from former owners. It survived along the fence dividing the neighbor’s house, and grew up into the Hedge Maple trees at the end of the small city yard. Only blooming once in early summer, it must have been an old fashioned heirloom type.
In a later rented home, I had only the front yard, but grew a cottage mix of annuals along the space between the front porch and the sidewalk.
Renting Is Not For Roots
After that we bought our first house. At the mercy of the landlord’s whim, after sinking work equity and money into someone else’s property, we were ready for our own.
While our first house had been someone else’s rental previous to our purchase, it still had a few heirloom remnants of a garden in the backyard: a white peony, a Dr. W. Van Fleet climbing rose, a large sweet cherry tree, and surprise lilies in a hidden spot along the side.
After my initial tentative diggings during the rental years, I was now ready to garden in earnest.
Sidenote: You never know whether something you plant may remain and give joy to someone in the future. The leftovers from an obviously knowledgeable gardener started out the backbone of my first permanent garden in my own first home.
These things are also what I liked about renting an old house rather than a new apartment. The opportunity to cultivate a bit of earth is possible.
In An Apartment
More renters today are likely to be in apartments (we were once in one of those, too). For those who love the feel of dirt underneath their fingernails… temporary raised beds or containers are the answer. Just about any place can have a bit of garden.
When I rented I did not worry about the overall “design” or time and money spent- it was all very frugal and repurposed. The fun was in the planting and the harvest. There is so much soul satisfying benefit from such things that “ownership” does not really matter.
I think sometimes we are much too caught up in such ideas today. We skip over so many of things that make life worthwhile when thinking in terms of investment or payout when it does not apply.
Sometimes, to waste an afternoon, a few dollars on seed, and the sweat of a little labor is not wasted at all, it is a rich experience of something real and grounded.
Those memories I have of that little garden patch are unmixed with regret. If there were losses I don’t remember them, I do remember the way the joy of gardening grew and became such a deeply held part of life that I don’t remember myself not being a “Gardener”, although there was that time.
In a sense, all gardens are temporary. whether we rent the land or own it for a time, our gardens rarely survive intact. If you stay in one place long enough the temporal existence of the garden is even more evident.
Nature alone owns the land. but we may enjoy it for a time.