Someone recently asked me, “How did you get this into gardening”? Most have an easy answer like, “My parents or grandparents were gardeners” or “I had an interest in plants from a young age”. For me, there was no simple answer.
With that in mind, I started to analyze where my passion for plants originated. And I realized it came from a series of events over the past 17 years.
Here is the story of one of those events:
October 12, 1997:
Two weeks prior, we had just moved into our first home in Somerville, NJ. I’m 25 years old, married for one year and 100% clueless when it comes to home ownership responsibility. It is exciting, intimidating, overwhelming, fun and cozy all at the same time.
I know the exact date above because it was the perfect fall Sunday, in the heart of the NFL season and truth be told, I actually looked it up online a few minutes ago. I vividly remember watching a specific game while standing on a ladder and looking through the picture window at the front of our house. Why was I watching TV on a ladder and what does that have to do with gardening? Glad you asked.
The curb appeal on our 1950’s Cape Cod styled home was decent but it needed something more. Believe it or not, landscaping didn’t even enter into the equation at the time. I couldn’t have told you the difference between deciduous and evergreen. There were a few “green bushes” along the foundation and I had already (cover your ears) sheared them into lollipops. Perfection.
Eventually, that something more ended up being new shutters. Once that decision was made, I confidently volunteered to hang said shutters. Did I have any idea how to do it? Hells no. And there was no You Tube to lead the way. Here we go Johnnie Boy.
This was a huge moment for me. This was my first chance to show my new bride that she married a man who could “do it himself”. Well technically not the first time. Upon moving into the house, I did pull up a hideously awesome 70’s carpet and proceeded to pull out each and every associated staple.
Those are some solid shorts you got on there buddy. Whew. But I digress …
I knew my wife quietly feared that we would have to outsource simple tasks like the replacement of light bulbs. Failure was not an option if I wanted my lady’s respect.
That October morning, I grabbed my ladder, my newly opened drill, a couple of screwdrivers and the shutters and got ready to amaze the world. As I climbed up the ladder and caught a glimpse of the football game through the front window, I strongly considered crying uncle and hitting the couch, beer in hand. It took all of my considerable strength to push on.
I’m not sure how, but I managed to get on two of the shutters without much of an issue. I could have quit then and been happy for
a lifetime the day. End it on a good note.
I moved on next to the side of the house near my driveway (key piece of info here as you’ll see in a minute) and was all set for shutter set numero deuce. As I climbed the ladder for the third time, I could see my wife through the window and I gave her a cocky nod like “I got this shit.” Apparently “having that shit” means you proceed to fall off said ladder while perfectly framed through a window while your wife looks on in horror.
Yes, I fell off that ladder.
But luckily and comically, I fell onto my car, rolled off the hood and onto my neighbor’s lawn. One shutter was broken as was my already fragile ego. After gathering myself and calmly getting to my feet, my wife popped outside to make sure I was OK. I laughed it off and gave the proverbial “no biggie” and pretended to get back to work.
Except I opted for a meltdown instead. A contained meltdown from the outside but damn did I give myself an internal tongue lashing like never seen before in my 25 years on this planet.
“You suck John”.
“Your wife will never respect you a-hole”
“If you can’t do this John, all hope is lost.”
To make a long story … longer, no shutters were ever added to the side of the house. I couldn’t maneuver the ladder properly to be able to screw them in.
I also ended up requiring help from my in-laws to install the other two shutters on the front of the house. I had issues with screwing through the aluminum siding and made the desperate call for help.
So all in all, I failed my initial test.
I really started to worry that maybe an apartment was a better choice for us. That, or our money budgeted for groceries each week had to go towards a permanent handyman who lived in our tiny shed in the backyard. Panic time had set in.
That following week, still mentally beat up after Shuttergate, I set out for the local garden center to pick up some mums. I couldn’t possibly screw up placing two baskets on the front porch.
Once there, I innocently picked up a Helleri Holly on sale and casually read the label. This is kind of nice and the label sure seems to indicate that it is easy to grow. What is a “zone” and why do I care?
Maybe we did need to address that landscaping after all. How hard could it be to add some flowers? And I don’t need a ladder or a drill to put them in. I can handle a shovel.
And ladies and gentleman, there was no looking back from there.