(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 21, 2008.)
It all began in December of 1992. I moved way out here from my hometown of Oshawa, Ontario. Needed a change of pace, fresh air, and no more city living.
You see, even though we were raised in a city, my dad raised us to enjoy the country. We had a "cabin" up north. No plumbing, no running water, and the nearest neighbour was 5 miles away. We spent every holiday up there and I spent a few extra weeks evey summer with my grandparents, who lived nearby.
This was where I learned about the "great outdoors" and this was where I learned that I hated the city.
I moved from a small 1-bedroom apartment into a 3-bedroom house that was built in 1845. I had a yard!! Okay, half a yard, since there was an apartment stuck on the back of the place. I had the front yard, they had the back. Money was tight that first winter, but I put everything my dad had taught me to good use. By the time spring rolled around I had me a job, but I also ate off of the land. Cattails, fiddleheads, berries, everything edible.
I also started digging gardens. I learned about gardening from my grandfather on my mom's side. I remember being allowed to stay home from school in the spring to help him plant his gardens. He had three city lots right in the middle of town, and they were all garden. I even got to stay home to help him pull weeds. Having the use of only half of a yard I needed to get creative. I loved my flowers but I also needed some vegetables. This is when I first started mixing the two. I planted tomatoes, beans, peas, etc. surreptitiously amongst the perennials. The locals, on their daily walks, began noticing my "unusual" gardening style.
When my dad retired in 1994, he packed up my mom and brother and they all moved out here, too. They bought a house ten minutes outside of the village I'm in. Sadly, dad passed away in 1999, and mom and brother suddenly became my responsibility.They say that behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Mom and I became closer than ever and decided it would make sense for all of us to live together. Fortunately, my landlord agreed to sell me the house I'd been renting, with the yard and garden I'd already fallen in love with. The adventure had begun.
I had mom and my brother close by. I also had the WHOLE yard!!!
Mom is an avid gardenerer as well and so the digging began. We started enlarging my existing beds. We dug new beds. All around the house, against every wall. The whole length of the yard between us and the garage next door. We built an area for compost. We filled all of this new space with divisions of my existing perennials combined with the truckloads we brought from mom's old house. We haunted garden centres and learned where all of the "reduced" tables were.
In 2003 I met the man who was to become my husband. I discovered he liked gardening too. Now we had some real muscle!! The driveway was wide and long--you could park two, 40-foot-long tractor trailers side-by-side on it. My husband built a raised garden the entire length of it, 6 feet deep near the garage, 14 feet deep by the road. In the middle of it he put the old woodstove, out of the old cabin, which I refused to have hauled away for sentimental reasons. He also built the pond under the red maple, and put a bench there for us to sit on.
We found we needed a few rules. It is disconcerting to plant something and wake up the next morning to find it gone. Mom or my husband would abscond with a plant, thinking it looked better in "their" gardens. I have learned since to purchase only those plants that have three divisions in the pot, or buy three of the same plant. It kind of happened that my husband's garden is the raised one he built. Mom is in charge of the back yard, all of the beds alongside the house and around the garage. I get the front yard and the long side bed.
It must be quite the sight, the three of us roaming around the yard, my husband carrying the shovel, mom the watering can, and me the plant, all of us pointing in a different direction.
Mom is a garden putterer. She's up with the birds and out in the garden. She moves seedlings around, edges the beds, rearranges plants. She has an artistic eye; she built the little 2-foot high picket fence around the vegetable garden. Mom always has a pocket full of twist ties and little white plant markers. She is constantly roaming around, cutters in one hand, compost pail in the other, looking for a misbehaving branch or flower. She does most of the dead-heading. My brother keeps her hydrated by bringing her a steady stream of cups of tea.
My husband is a perfectionist. He is a lily addict and has filled his raised bed to the brim with lilies of all kinds. He's never quite satisfied with it though and is forever rearranging things. Constantly. Not a problem under normal circumstances. The problem arises when mom has been surreptitiously sneaking little seedlings of this and that into his bed. Her artistic eye has decided there should be a little patch of coral bells among the lilies, or a calendula or two or three along the front edge. My husband is six feet, three inches tall, with feet to match, and doesn't always notice mom's little surprises, or the little white stakes marking them. Luckily he has to go past her window to get the shovel. When she sees the shovel go by, she grabs her hat and follows.
I am a haphazard gardener. I don't plan ahead. I plant something where I want it to be with no regard to what's around it, except for height. I like the wild look. I prefer my garden plants to be growing amongst themselves, mixing with carefree abandon. This drives mom's artistic eye insane. She gets up early and trims things back, trying to tame the jungle before I wake up and notice. My hand always holds my little garden digger. I tackle any weed that dares show itself.
We vote on major undertakings. Heavy lifting is my husband's job; so is the mulch pile. He loves flipping over the mulch, so we concede that job to him. We have a lot of laughs, the three of us. Everything gets done, although sometimes it takes a bit longer because we can't make up our minds.
It took me not quite half of that first summer to lose the "possessive" feeling I had towards my gardens. Now I enjoy the companionship that it has brought us all, and I wouldn't change any of it for the world!!!
All of the photos are of our gardens :))