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RE: Beginning gardening

Both of my grandmothers were gardeners. My father's mother had a city garden
behind a brownstone. It was formal with statuary and a gazing globe. It had
a small lawn where we used to relax in lawn chairs. My maternal grandparents
lived in the country. They grew vegetables and old-fashioned flowers like
hollyhocks. We used to pick peas to shell and husk corn on the cob. They had
a hen house where we collected eggs as well. I loved that old farm house
with its hand pumped well and a ravine on the property.  We did a lot of
exploring there!  One of my favorite pastimes was hunting for garter snakes.

As a child, my parents had gardens wherever we lived. When I was a small,
there was a weeping willow tree that took up a lot of the backyard of our
Cape Cod style house. My mother grew roses and annuals like petunias and
moonflower vines.  I had a small garden space on the back side of the house
where nothing grew very well.  It was pretty shady and I remember moss grew
well in that spot!  We also had a towering clump of pampas grass that gave
us paper cuts if we brushed up against it playing hide and seek. Somewhere
there was a kerria bush and of course forsythias along the back fence.

At my next childhood home, my parents planted our Christmas trees every year
until the house was hidden from the front. There was an acre of land that
seemed like an estate when I had to mow it as I became a teenager. My mother
had some garden beds under some black pines where she grew mostly pass-along
plants from friends and relatives like Shasta daisies, thistles, poppies and
black-eyed Susans.  I took flowers from her garden with me when I moved into
my own home. My dad grew vegetables.  We grew indoor plants as well
especially hanging plants like wandering Jew, spider plants and Swedish ivy.

When I moved out on my own, I grew many annuals from seed.  I specifically
remember portulaca and zinnias. I also planted spring bulbs. I had a
neighbor who loved gardening and she gave me old fashioned balsam and
cleome. I planted a Christmas tree in the yard of every house I lived in.  I
grew things indoors on my window sills and in macrami hangers.

When I purchased my own home, a 1930's cottage with a 50' X 150' plot, I had
flower beds along the driveway and vegetables out back. I ordered daylilies
from Wilds and seeds from Burpee and Parks. I grew irises, dwarf
rhododendrons, and uncommon annuals including coleus. I had house plants
like a weeping fig tree, Rex Begonias and cacti. I loved making terariums
and dish gardens.  I also joined an African Violet club quite by accident.
I went to a local show and was giving growing advice to some people
attending the sales.  The club members assumed I was a new member working at
the sale and put me behind the counter!  My husband built me a six foot,
three tired plant shelf with lights where I grew over 400 African violets
and Gesneriads. I belonged to that club many years serving as an officer and
Flower Show Chair. I often tell people that I got my best education about
growing plants from that club. We learned everything from soil to
fertilizers to propagation techniques to grooming for show!  Whoever hosted
the executive board meeting served a formal tea. I never had a silver set or
fancy china, but I took my turn.

I've had aunts and cousins who loved gardening as well. Two of my three
sisters love plants. The other sister has a brown thumb, although her
husband grows tomatoes and she weeds!  My dad has a nice garden in his
retirement home.  At 83, he still plants seeds in the spring for his squash,
cucs, and flowers. 

Some of the plants I grow today are from divisions of plants from my
childhood garden.  I have mini sinningias that I have grown for more than
twenty years!  I especially love the plants Ive gotten from family and
friends and I love to give plants away!

I belong to a few arboretums, my local garden club (which meets in the day
so I only can go to meetings twice in the summer), and of course the Long
Island Daylily Society and the Hosta Society. Fortunately, the daylily group
meets on Saturdays so I can make the meetings. I belong to two other e-mail
groups, and as many have said, I've learned so much form these groups!

Chris Petersen   
Northport, Long Island, New York
 Zone 7a (Average min temp 50 - 00)
My garden: http://photos.yahoo.com/chrispnpt

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