The very first time I built a garden I was very young, before my second child, Katrina, was born. Heidi was two years old and had found friends in the neighbourhood; the only way I could keep tabs on her was to be outside, along with her and her gang.
We lived in an older home which had been renovated many times and not in a particularly good way. But it was affordable. For $20,000 we received a five bedroom two bath full basement home, with a mother-in-law suite and the added bonus...a large covered deck. During foul weather, that deck kept Heidi and her friends outside with all their toys.
There were the obligatory plants around the foundation in front of the home, a large Cherry Tree, and five smallish Walnut Trees, all in a row. Oh, and a poor, old Pear Tree on the West side of the home.
Having many gardeners as relatives and feeling a garden should be more than Trees and a few Shrubs, I thought I could make it look more inviting. And so, with very little knowledge of what I was doing, I went to work.
I had no understanding of Plants which preferred Sunlight or Shade, wet Soil or dry, or even in which direction South or North lay. I didn't know the prevailing Wind, which began to blow at four o'clock every afternoon.
And I didn't begin with only a small corner of the yard...oh, no. I wanted the whole corner lot on which the house was situated to be completely landscaped. Since we were broke much of the time, there was no doubt that I would have to do this landscaping myself.
I was lucky in that most everybody I knew had a garden. I received many cast-off Plants and a huge amount of Seeds from friends and family.
Plant nurseries, when I began to garden at the tender age of twenty-two, were not places I was familiar with. They intimidated me with the lush, gorgeous Plants on display. But...you guessed it...it was not long before I began to yearn for this Plant or that one.
And I wanted a soft-Fruit garden...Raspberries, Strawberries, Rhubarb and Currants. And of course, a Vegetable plot, as well.
In fact, I wanted to transplant my mother's garden right to where I lived...
I borrowed shovels and rakes and edgers. I mapped out the yard, just as all those gardening magazines said to do. And then I got to work...
Beginning on the East side of the house, mainly because I could see my daughter more easily from that side, I began to dig. There was a concrete sidewalk, I recall, between the house and what would be the new garden bed.
Nobody told me that all Soils are not created equal. The Soil on this piece of property was nothing but very hard-packed Clay. As difficult as it was to dig, I still marvelled at the rich, red colour of it...and I was sure it was as fertile as any Soil. Even if I was told differently by my gardener friends and family, nothing could deter me.
I discovered then something which has never changed for me. I discovered that I loved to dig and make garden beds. Whether or not there were any Plants in those beds matters not to me, even now.
There is something about a clean, raked bed that I love. I could leave these beds empty forever, if Mother Nature did not have other plans. She strews her Seeds everywhere, and a bed that has been raked to the nth degree excites her no end. Soon, that beautifully clean space of Soil began to show signs of...oh, no!...the dreaded Buttercup...
Huh. I had to plant my minimalist garden, if I wanted to have more than Weeds surrounding me.
I had been given slips and divisions of plants and Seeds gardeners had saved. I planted the slips and clumps of Plants...yet, still, my long garden bed looked strange and empty, just waiting for Mother Nature...
A movie came out just around that time...The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds. I remember seeing it and loving those Marigolds featured in the film and planted all over in my Mother's garden.
I had Marigold Seeds, in my very minuscule gardening supplies. So very early on in my gardening career, I had no idea there were so many varieties. I planted those Seeds in my possession into that red Soil. And I waited for them to appear, glorious with their shaggy, golden heads.
And waited...and waited...
After two weeks of peering closely at the Soil where the Marigold Seeds had been planted, still nothing had appeared.
And then I learned that these same Marigolds I was trying to raise by Seed came in large flats, already half-grown and already quite charming, in my book. I saved the money for them by feeding my family some very creative wiener dishes.
Feeling quite flush, I bought myself a flat of those gleaming-like-gold blossoming Plants and planted them the very same day. Still there was room in that bed!
Hmm. The marigolds looked like soldiers on parade, all in a row...with at least a foot between them.
The neighbours were watching the travails I was undergoing by now. They would wander over with coffee cups in hand and offer all kinds of advice. But not one of them suggested I wait awhile and let the Plants grow. They only suggested other varieties of Seedlings I could add to make the new garden bed look fuller.
One of my neighbours brought me a flat of Seedlings she insisted she did not need. It was true kindness on her part...any gardener will tell you there is always room for one more Plant in the garden.
At any rate, I planted them and was at last satisfied as to how my first garden looked. Full of Marigolds, Pansies, Nasturtiums, Spinach (yes...any Plant will do when you're desperate and we could eat the Spinach) and Petunias and Zucchini, it was a riot of colour!
At first. Then, with copious amounts of fertilizer and water, those Flowers grew and grew. Over and under each other, flopping here and wrapping themselves around another Plant there. And then...I noticed the Marigold Seeds I had planted earlier were also up. Not to mention the three Zucchini plants that brought forth great, green bats that seemingly grew overnight...
That year, even as I enjoyed cut Flowers for the house, I learned a gardener needs patience. Gardens do not just happen...it takes concerted effort. And time. And even (although I disagreed and went my own way at the time) knowledge, either from others or books.
I learned, as well, that my enjoyment of this little garden was not only about sprucing up the corner lot we were living on. I discovered I loved giving away the extra bounty, and my neighbours seemed pleased to receive it.
At any rate, they were, until there was just one too many visits with those Zucchini bats...
My first long ago garden is lodged in my memory.
Just as all first experiences of anything tend to be.