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:
When I wrote about Shuttergate last week, I mentioned how soon after I had made a trip to my local nursery and picked up a shrub and read a plant label for the very first time. That kickstarted a new interest in “landscaping”, not to mention a small criminal enterprise that involved stealing plant tags. You can read about those high stakes adventures here.
Today, we pick things back up in spring of 1998. The world is Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, Titanic continues to dominate the box office, major league baseball season is upon us, I’m continuing my plant label thievery and my new found liking of “landscaping” hasn’t waned over the winter.
You’ll notice I’ve used the term “landscaping” multiple times rather than “gardening”. That is exactly how I referred to my interest in plants at the time.
Like so many uninformed people today, I associated the “gardener” with an older woman snipping daisies while wearing a large brimmed hat. That could never be me. I like “landscaping” which is like totally masculine and shit. I like cutting lawns, firing up a gas powered trimmer, using a backpacked leaf blower unnecessarily on my postage stamp sized lawn and maybe planting some “green bushes”. There was no room for flowers or anything the least bit “feminine”.
While still armed with that ogre-like mentality, I made a trip to Home Depot to pick up, um, something. While impatiently waiting on the never ending checkout line, I spotted this.
Without much thought, I scooped it up and added it to my cart. Perhaps a little light reading to accompany my breakfast.
A quick aside – my breakfast did not include coffee at that time. Believe it or not, my discovery of coffee a year later will be the topic of a future post as the story weaves in beautifully with my discovery of what a true garden is all about.
Damn I am deep.
I ended up never putting the damn book down. It was the ideal bathroom read, the ideal book to leaf through while watching bad TV and the ideal book to bring outdoors as the weather warmed up that spring. Eventually and fortunately, it became my gateway book into “real gardening books” (another story for another day).
Around that same time, with the greatest of intentions, I had picked up another book.
Don’t laugh. This wasn’t a gag gift from my family. The internet hadn’t truly blown up yet, so this was THE reference guide.
I managed to follow some of the directions (translation – the real easy stuff) but diagrams like this made me run for the hills.
I’ve managed to comprehend things like plumbing and electrical in my later and wiser years (no comments family) just so you are aware that I am not a complete dolt. But items like this overwhelmed me to no end in my mid 20’s. I realized then that I really was missing the spatial relations gene.
As a result, I would seek refuge and take comfort in my precious landscaping book. I couldn’t do too much damage while digging a hole and throwing a plant in there.
After many hours studying and memorizing my Home Depot book, I actually started to map out a plan for my own yard. It mainly revolved around adding/replacing shrubs since my property at the time had sufficient mature trees. I had identified the shrubs I was interested in purchasing without a concern as to where they would be situated. Just a minor detail missed.
The very first shrub acquired was a ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea. I was pulled in by the fantastic blue blooms (the move to “gardener” was initiated?) and bright green foliage. I figured I could just plant it and see the same results witnessed in my beloved book. Plus my wife was a big hydrangea fan and I needed to show that she in fact a part of the master plan.
It is difficult to see and I really had to dig through the archives to find it, but if you look closely enough, you can see the hydrangea to the right of my front
Nothing like dumping it in there without a thought around design. If my memory serves me correctly, the blooms were pink when I purchased it in late spring but I had plans to “make them blue” based on my new found knowledge of soil PH in the HD book. How you like me now?
By the way, how great is my shearing job on those shrubs along the foundation? I want to go back in time and punch myself in the face for that ridiculous display of lollipop-ness. Luckily, I eventually developed a plan to replace those hideous things.
But what I hadn’t included in that wonderful plan was how to account for the arrival of a shady looking stranger who pulled his car into my driveway as I was replacing the aforementioned shrubs.
The man slowly emerged from his vehicle, gazed at me creepily and asked “Are you John Markowski?”
To be continued …