Practice Makes Patience

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Most gardeners are old people. Why are there no young gardeners? They have perfectly agile fingers for planting seeds, yet they use them for texting. Texting is instant gratification. Blah blah lol. U r so funny. Someone lacking the patience to type full words can’t garden because it’s a bunch of work and nothing “happens”. Plant something, and it just kind of sits there, growing at about the same pace as their prepubescent little selves. The reward takes months. Or heaven forbid, years. And when you’re only ten years old, well, a year is a hefty percentage of your lifetime. It seems we keep patience on the high shelf in child-proof bottles. Even at 21, when you can legally be patient in most states, young people choose instant gratification for their recreation. Gardening is still beyond them. Plus, most don’t own any dirt to grow something in. Though you could argue the floor of a fraternity house qualifies. So what starts a young human on the dirt path to gardening? These were my influences.

My grandpa grew pink peonies down the side of his small yard. And he grew a small tree in his front yard that he pruned in the shape of a mushroom cap. He cut his grass with a push mower that was so heavy I wondered if it might not be easier to use scissors. When it rained, and the ground was saturated with water, he pushed an electric rod into the ground and zapped it with electricity. The current caused night crawlers to come up from the ground and he’d collect them for fishing. (This seemed neither safe nor rational to me.)

The house I grew up in was on a dead end street, stopping at the edge of a farmer’s field. I didn’t know what soybeans were good for, but I did know if you stomped them flat you could make a pretty cool three bedroom fort. Later, when the street was put through, soybean forts were replaced with more baby boom housing.

My mom grew roses and old fashioned coral bells. Pink and white peonies grew along the side of our garage. In spring she shook the ants off and filled a vase with exquisite pink buds that opened into fluffy pom-poms over the course of a few days. Autumn Joy sedum bloomed under our kitchen window and was covered with fat floating bumble bees. Our dog Mike swallowed them whole and they stung him on the way down his throat. (This too seemed neither safe nor rational to me. Poor bumble bees.)

When I was 12 years old, I turned over some dirt along the property line in our back yard. I wanted to grow a strawberry patch. I bought a few dozen plants from a local nursery called Achin’ Back Acres. (Only now do I see the humor). Old man Achin’ Back told me the first year I should pinch all the blossoms off to establish a stronger plant. Berries were for the next year.

Apparently this man didn’t understand that was practically a tenth of my lifetime. I was yearning for bowls of sweet plump strawberries in a few months. I had to wait another year and three months? I remorsefully did as I was told. And I learned patience. And I learned that delayed gratification is sweeter than instant gratification. I am now over 5 decades old and have never tasted sweeter, juicier berries than the ones I planted, weeded, pinched, watered and  w a i t e d  for. I hit the strawberry jackpot. I picked bowls and bowls and bowls full of them and I sat and ate all I could harvest in one sitting, warm from the sun. And I learned all those lessons about the “Fruits of my labor.” And, “You reap what you sow.” And plenty of other cliches old folks tell impatient young people. “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach” comes to mind after eating 4 quarts of berries in one sitting.

The older I get, the more I wield patience as deftly as my pruners, though I still lose both occasionally. But I learned the lesson of patience early. I knew when I planted a spindly 3-foot tall, $3.00 Star Magnolia tree when our son was 3 years old, that it would grow. As fast and as surely as our son. And 20 years later, it’s a tall, beautiful specimen of a tree. A tree so impatient to bloom each spring that most winters, the flowers freeze upon opening. And a tall beautiful son so impatient to bloom, I wonder if he couldn’t learn a few things planting strawberries.

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10 Responses

  1. courtesy February 14, 2013 at 4:38 am

    wow. is that your yard. its beautiful. i love the way you write. gardening is not boring for sure. i bought a pieace of land inZimbabwe and i have great ideas for it. but for it to eventually turn oout like yours will take a lot of patience indeed.

    • greenthumblonde February 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Courtesyn, yes, that’s my yard in Ohio. Zimbabwe sounds like an exotic location for an acre. I had a friend who gardened in South Africa for a while. The plant variety was phenomenal. Sure would love to see what you create. My Florida garden (USDA zone 9) is small but takes far more patience because I’m still learning. There’s winter and it can freeze. Follow by HOT, DRY, and WET. And learning pests is a challenge as well. Dream big on your acre!

  2. Laurrie February 18, 2013 at 9:29 am

    You got me. I am hooked on your blog, and so glad I found it. I plan to spend some time wandering through your older posts now. Your pictures, words, and sentiments are lovely. And your garden is spectacular!

    (I love the fact that your son and your star magnolia grew alongside each other and matured so beautifully)

    • greenthumblonde February 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks for coming Laurrie. I spent the day working on Google analytics so my little blog can be found. Analytics is not a gardener’s idea of a good time, so your comments are a very encouraging. Thank you.

  3. Kendra Riffe February 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Jan, it’s been awhile since I visited your blob, but I’m sure glad that I did. I needed every word you wrote this morning. It spoke to my soul. Patience is a virtue I routinely work to develop and I must say that gardening helps me with this virtue…but there is always room for improvement. Keep writing!

    • Jan Meissner March 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      That’s so cool. Thanks Kendra. When I get busy I’m not as consistent writing. So when someone relates to what I’m feeling and it makes a difference it really motivates me to share.

  4. Karla King March 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Jan…I believe this post resonated with me even more than the ASCP. I had similar experiences growing up – parents and grandparents who shared their love of plants and gardening with me and, like you, I understood the virtue of patience. Maybe that’s why we both feel the way we do about “creating”.

    This post made me remember those days of cutting zinnias from the garden’s edge (I was taught you always put marigolds and zinnia’s along the edge to help repel bugs), waiting for the 4 o’clocks to open, or popping the touch-me-knots. Thanks for the walk down memory lane…

    • Jan Meissner March 6, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      Hi Karla. Do you think the marigolds tip works? It seems like slugs still love them. But I’ve been a huge fan of the extra large cream colored marigolds paired with blue Ageratum.

  5. Karla King March 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Not sure about the marigolds…to my recollection, my grandparents never had an insect problem. Most of their food (year round) came from their garden. Maybe the marigolds attracted the pests and therefore left the other plants untouched.

    What are you working on? I have already started my annual garden store visits. It helps just breathing in that humid air. It is this time of the year when I miss Daisy Hill Greenhouse the most.


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