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.