Seasons In The Studio

Nature, and the things it inspires..........

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Gardening, My Grandfather's Gift to me

I love all things horticulture related.  This is part of who I am as an artist, but I think of myself as a decent gardener too. Plants and flowers are such a part of my spirit, I couldn't imagine living without them.

I have, by anyone's standards, a modest obsession with growing stuff.  In, or out of the garden, I can't resist flowers. I've always had a garden, even as a child, and I often wonder if this gardening bug is something one is born with, or if it's learned behavior.  If it's learned, I know who's responsible.

My maternal grandfather had a third grade education, but was one of the best amateur botanists I've ever known.  He grew up on a farm, which might account for his innate ability to grow and propagate plants.  He truly found joy and peace in his flowers, and that's the bug I caught.  I would walk around his garden with him, while he told me about things like air-layering camellias, or storing dahlia bulbs over the winter.  He knew his plants by name, as do I, and took great pride in his collection.  He was a simple man, without formal training, but he had a vast knowledge where botany was concerned.

Grandaddy had a moderate sized yard in Charleston, with really sandy soil that was better suited for cacti than camellias, but his plants thrived.  I never saw him amend the soil with anything, so one wonders how things grew so well.  He had a huge vegetable garden in addition to the flowers, and his main form of exercise in later years was working in the yard.  His skill wasn't limited to outdoor plants, he also had a large collection of houseplants.  This man could grow an african violet anywhere, and in anything. I've never been able to keep an african violet alive, they somehow know this, and start to fail in the car, on the way home from the greenhouse.  He had them growing outside in the garden, which astounded me.

If orchids had been readily available in his time, grandaddy would have had them growing from the trees in his yard.  My collection mostly stays indoors, but I am to orchids and ferns what he was to african violets.  I've had to limit my collection of houseplants since downsizing, but at one point, I had huge ferns and over a hundred plants in my indoor collection.  Some of the ferns got so big I had to have help moving them in and out in the summer!  Who knew a staghorn fern could grow to be more than 6 feet in diameter and 5 feet tall!

When he stayed with me once in Syracuse, grandaddy said (as I was making the rounds watering plants) "you have too many houseplants".  I looked him in the eye and said back, "and where do you think I got this behavior from"!  He laughed.

I've moved far enough south to be able to (FINALLY) grow camellias outside.  I have a number of four year old plants, that came from cuttings of plants he started in North Carolina.  (A cousin once told me that grandaddy was responsible for propagating almost all the camellias growing in the county he lives in.)  My new garden also has the Cecile Brunner climber and pink flowering almond, which were in his garden in Charleston.

I don't know what grandaddy would think of the garden at my new house.  He might tell me I am working too hard (but I wouldn't have it any other way).  I think he would smile when people stop to admire what we've done in the first year in our small yard.  I do know that he is right there with me when I tend plants, and I think he'd be pleased that I get as much peace and joy from my outdoor space as he did.