...I am in no way formally trained or certified in garden design or landscape architecture: I am not even a Master Gardener. I studied business in college and got an MBA going to night school.
During the day, I worked with college students at a private university, and ultimately worked as a small college consultant. The president of the company I worked for was convinced that there was a survey or questionnaire based on childhood memory and experiences that could help students reveal what their interests, talents, and passions REALLY were to help guide them in their course of study. It never occurred to me that this looking back might apply to me and my OWN interests. It never occurred to me that my 7-year-old amazement at seeing a jack-o-lantern seed from Halloween turn into a pumpkin the next year, or marigold flowers drying into marigold seeds could be clues to a lasting passion and a career.
I now tell others that I have no horticultural degree, but am simply a graduate of the ‘Oklahoma Gardening School of Heartache and Hard knocks,’ not an insignificant accomplishment as anyone who tries to garden under difficult circumstances can attest.
My gateway drug to full blown gardening was the standard 70’’s houseplant, a keen interest of young adults today. In high school I would babysit at homes filled with spider plants, schefflera, and Swedish Ivy. I found it wondrous that I could start my own indoor garden with a single leaf from an African violet or jade plant and will confess to stealing one or two of those dangling green spiders from my babysitting clients to add to my growing window sill garden. My large family moved from Oklahoma to Indiana the summer before my senior year in high school, and without friends or familiar faces, I turned to small trees and lush fern growing in the woods behind our new house for company. I would dig up the small shade loving things and bring them in to add to my little green and growing family, amazed at such lushness for the taking in my own backyard, especially since I had just recently moved from the relatively un-lush cross timbers and prairie land of Oklahoma.
My term papers and book reviews in the Honors English class of my new school took on a botanical theme and its vocabulary became familiar to me. In Dr. Martin’’s science class, I saw and wondered at the miracle of my very first amaryllis bulb, excited at the appearance of a bud, and was then dumbfounded at its dramatic bloom … all in the matter of a fall semester. Long before amaryllis bulbs were ubiquitous and could be found even at your local Walmart, there was good old Mr. Martin with his amazing flower bulb right next to frog dissection trays and lab equipment. Poor Mr. Martin did not have a neck, but he did have a growing miracle in his classroom that makes me remember him to this day with great affection and fondness.
My plant collection (along with the requisite acrylic ladder plant stand) ultimately moved to college with me, my being no doubt the only entering freshman to request a south-facing exposure on her dorm room application.
But all that new-found Indiana rain and lushness couldn’t keep me from moving myself back to Oklahoma, to familiar faces and places, and a state university whose tuition I could afford.
My plants followed me from dorm to apartment, to rental house, and finally to a red brick, mini Monticello look alike that I bought and where I finally started an outdoor garden. I planted my first tulips, red and yellow. I learned to mow and edge, and planted dwarf Alberta Spruce in large pots to symmetrically frame my front door and adorn with twinkle lights at Christmas. My fledgling garden saw me through relationship breakups, job changes, five years of night school, and the death of a brother. It was a lovely counterbalance to a work-centric single life and transformed my house into a home.
...to be continued...