Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Gardening Infection

A Gardenweb.com posting yesterday tickled my fancy bone and started me down a memory path thinking about forks taken and not taken.  A GardenWeb member from the UK named "campanula" wrote about her online search for small gardening tools for a granddaughter and, noting that she herself had come late to gardening, asked "how many of you have handed gardening skills on to your children?"  She then made the statement that jumped straight into my brain; "It seems the gardening infection can strike at any time or any age, but, no time wasting for this coming generation, who will have a trowel in her hands as soon as they can hold one."

"The Gardening Infection."  What a delightful way of phrasing the desire that all gardeners have for their children.  I have a son and daughter, both now nearly fully grown and currently non-gardeners, but both dabbled in the garden with me when they were younger, and I have hope that they will return to it when they need that piece (or peace?) in their lives.  Some of my favorite pictures, taken candidly by my stealthy wife, are of my daughter picking beans with me in the garden and wearing goggles to protect her almost 4 year old eyes from flying gnats.  The smile on her face alone evokes the moment for me.  Not the greatest quality, taken with an early digital camera, and the beans are showing the wear and tear of insect damage (and where did all the weedy grass come from?), but the grainy pictures are eternally precious to me nonetheless. 

Like Campanula, I came late to gardening, having only some amusement at a father who fussed over flowers and vegetables, and as a result of my teen self viewing the garden merely as a source of hot sweaty labor tasks imposed by that father.  As a child, I hoed, mowed, and occasionally wrestled with a monstrous tiller that had all the ergonomics of a cement block (for more on "The Tiller", see my book), and I would have bet good money during my late teens, and lost, against finding myself a gardener now. I must have been exposed long enough to become "infected by gardening," however.  Either that or the latent genes of my farming grandparents came through.

I've always felt with some guilt that I was slightly remiss in not making my children do more gardening with me.  I occasionally offered both children the chance for their own rows in the garden and they both mowed occasionally, but, in truth, I didn't want to see them do "menial" tasks or to hear me complain, after they worked in the hot sun, that they had wiped out half a row of corn with the hoe or pulled the peppers up instead of the weeds.  So I don't know if they'll become garden infected, but I occasionally see hope.  Just the other night, when we found my neighbor's horses had escaped into our back yard, my daughter hollered "I see them, they're by the honeysuckle."  I couldn't help but take heart that she knows still where the honeysuckle lives.  And I've seen signs that my son will only need a place of his own, like I did, before the infection becomes a terminal illness.   

So thank you, Campanula, for fertilizing my hope.  Gertrude Jekyll once said "The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies," and I hope she was right, whether the gardening seed is genetic or infectious or learned.  In the end, I wish nothing better for my children than that they someday know the simple elegance of good soil, the wonder of growing life, and the quiet strength of time spent in the garden with God.

1 comment:

  1. This is an enjoyable read. I gave my kids a patch each for gardening 2 years back, thinking they may be infected like me. I guess all I did was planted some seeds which may or may not germinate in the future.

    Your daughter is so cute with her smile and goggles.

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