Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gardening influences

Today, Teza asks, "Who Has Made The Greatest Influence On Your Garden Career? As I wrote my reply, I realized that it was getting far too long for his comments page, so I'm posting it here.

[Image: 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants by Lorraine Johnson. © someone else, used under fair use.]I first started gardening a few years ago when, in early spring, I was feeling homesick for the hepaticas which were the first flowers of spring in the forest surrounding my childhood home. Looking at the library for wildflower books, I discovered Lorraine Johnson's 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants. It had never even occured to me that people in the city could grow my beloved wildflowers; I somehow had got the idea that in the city people had to grow "city plants" like the ubiquitous petunias that filled all the city planters (or so it seemed) when I was a kid. Johnson's passionate writing got me excited about gardening with native plants.

[Image: Noah's Garden by Sara Stein, © someone else, used under fair use.]More recently, Sara Stein's Noah's Garden inspires me with her moving account of how she and her husband inadvertently drove away the wildlife from their property in the course of creating their conventional garden, and then using the magic of native plants lured them back! Having grown up in the country I really miss the huge variety of songbirds, butterflies, frogs, snakes, dragonflies, and many more that made our landscape gloriously beautiful and full of life all year round. Stein gives me hope that I can recreate a bit of that in my present life.

[Image: Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. © someone else; used under fair use.]Regular readers of this blog will know how fond I am of Douglas Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home. An entomologist, Tallamy makes a compelling case for the importance of native plants as habitat for insects and the animals who depend on them.

On March 1, my mother passed away, and I have been reflecting on the influence both my late parents have had on my life.

[Photo: Dr. G. X. Amey, circa 1950.]My father, a city boy from Australia, had no attachment to the native plants of his adopted Canadian home. But he did have a passionate love of gardens, spending hours poring over his collection of gardening books (some of which I am lucky to have inherited) and ordering dozens of varieties from the Stokes and Park's seed catalogues every year. Dad designed and with my mother built our house, which had scads of large windows filling the rooms with abundant sunlight all year round. Our living room hosted a collection of dozens of plants (pruned by our two pet budgies!); the highlight was a gorgeous bougainvillea. Although my choices of garden plants are often different from what Dad would have chosen, I share with him a love for reading, learning, and imagining the potential beauty of the garden.

[Photo: Anne Amey at her 75th birthday celebration, probably © my sister, Jennifer Beer.]My mother, on the other hand, was a true nature lover who would have been content to leave the property completely wild. It was she who took my sister and me for walks in the woods and taught us the names of the flowers, the butterflies, and the birds. She established an annual tradition of hand-rearing a monarch caterpillar to butterflyhood (a tradition I long to reanact with my son, but I haven't been able to find any monarch caterpillars here in Toronto); she would rescue the birds who crashed into our masses of windows (and donate those who didn't survive to the museum in Ottawa). As a child I didn't understand why, although the gardens weren't really her idea, she would spend hours each night weeding, but now I do the same thing. I think for her, like me, this time in the garden was a time to slow down and be immersed in the beauty of nature.

1 comment:

  1. Rosemary:
    What a wonderful post! My forum cohorts and I will have to work hard to emulate and meet the eloquence contained herewithin! I love how, when we really think about it, there are always more than a single person who has effected our gardening education and style. It was a wonderful tribute to both of your parents to include them. A wonderful, heartfelt post!


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