Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Friday, July 6, 2012

There are Places I Remember

As gardeners,  there are people and places that help to form us, make us who we are.

My earliest green memories include my dad planting pumpkin seeds in a mound of horse manure, my mom's rock garden and her picking lilacs to take to the cemetary, our neighbor, Edna Kluting, who shared a division of Shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia) with me and where I first tasted a sweet carrot pulled fresh from the ground. Percy Colton's vegetable garden where I watched with wonder as potatoes magically appeared as the gardener dug. Wanda Warner's rosa rugosa bush that always smelled soo good. Wonders all for a 5- 10 year old!  In my teens,  Eddie Lee's Garden with its north facing bed of towering delphiniums skirted with tuberous begoinas and  fragrant stock.  Riding with my sister, Dirce, back from Skagway's nearest nursery, (110 miles north in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory) car overloaded with plants.   Filling buckets with  seaweed that had been washed onto the beach by storms with Barbara Kalen and Betsy Albecker, who introduced me to organic gardening.

When I came to Washington from Alaska, the astounding vairety of plants here was overwhelming!  Broad leafed evergreens?  Oh so exotic rhododendrons screaming in a riot of color while it was still winter at home?  Was this the tropics or what?   As my exploration of this awesome plant pallet expanded and Anne Lovejoy's books were read and re-read I found a magical place called Jungle Fever   where I got my first musa basjoo. You mean you can grow bananas here? And palms?  Wow!  Then came my discovery, through Stephanie Feeney's Book The Northwest Gardener's Resource Directory, of Heronswood (Shade gardening is way cool and there are more plants that can thrive here than I ever imagined.)  Just a couple of years ago, I found a blog called Danger Garden and last fall, as a surprise for a milestone birthday, I got to meet its creator and see her outstanding garden.  I've always loved succulents but cacti and agaves; too prickly, too sharp, too dangerous.  Viewing Loree's creative use of these plants and watching her gift to me of an opuntia paddle and some agave pups thrive began a new chapter of appreciation.

Yes, I'm a plantaholic and revel in the latest introduction but in my garden and in my heart there will always be places for more common treasures.   My little clumps of shooting stars, so small and sweet bloom unnoticed by most everyone but me and, I'd like to think, Edna Kluting. When I smell fragrant stock or admire a tuberous begonia's voluptuous blooms, Eddie Lee's voice whispers to me. The fragrance of rose or lilac brings Mom and Wanda back to life. My father's hand guides mine as I push the seed of something as common as a pumpkin into soil.  I brush the foliage of tagetes 'lemon gem' and I'm twenty again, riding in a plant-filled car with Dirce.  When I spray fish emulsion or shovel manure onto my living soil, Betsy and Barbara work invisibly by my side.  Musa Basjoo unfurls a new leaf and my heart sings with the joy of discovery.  Podophyllum pokes a spring umbrella up from the floor of my shade garden and, for just a moment, I'm in the cathedral of Douglas firs that was Heronswood.  Out on a sunny path  I've a large group of pots filled with various succulents, agaves, and cacti which I call the danger gardenette.

Our gardens are ever evolving, looking forward but deeply rooted in memory. 

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap'd for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.


There are places I remember all my life,
though some have changed;
Some forever not for better.
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living.
In my life I've loved them all.

- Lennon & McCartney


  1. I am honored to be included in such an important group of people.

    Who is the lovely photo of?

    1. It's interesting where and when inspiration strikes. Jungle Fever has carried agaves and cacti since they started & Heronswood had potted agave americanas punctuating their sunny areas. Must have been your enthusiasm, through your blog, that pulled the trigger (lifted the veil might be a nicer image.)

      The photo is of my mom (1964) in an uncharacteristically casual (Barefeet outside, shameful! She always wore long sleeves.) moment in our Vermont garden. (Family moved to Alaksa in 1967.)

  2. Ah I thought it might be, what a great photo to have! She is beautiful.

    So seriously you mean to tell me your "danger gardenette" is really that new? It looks so perfectly incorporated into your garden and the plants so happy!

    1. It's amazing the patina (moss,dirt and bamboo growing through everything) that objects take on when a gardener is as slothful as I:)

  3. A lovely photo of your dear Mom, and beautiful post. My garden is full of souvenirs of people I remember too, most of them living only in memory now.

    1. Having these souvenirs is a lovely way to keep memories & is one of the things that ties our hearts to our gardens and to the cycle of death and renewal that a garden illustrates for us.

  4. What a nice post! Thank you! I can relate to what you said about the people who inspire you. When I named my blog, I was thinking of my Grandma's garden and my Mom's garden and my first own garden. They all, together with my current garden, create MySecretGarden.
    A also want to thank you for the DIG's pictures. I haven't seen it yet.

    1. I love that MySecretGarden is a combination of the gardens of three generations of your family. Beautiful!

      Dig & Vashon Island are wonderul!


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.