Gardening grows on you

Happy Earth Week, and Happy Earth Day (Saturday), and some encouragement:

When you don’t coach Little League anymore and you’re not very good at playing golf/golfing your ball/hitting the dimpled orb, you look for other stuff to do, stuff that’s preferably legal.

If you are in that boat, consider gardening, either vegetables or flowers.

I grew up in the middle of a lot of vegetable gardens in a farming community. I never knew how to do it, the planning and planting part. I just knew how to hoe and pick and shell and eat. Somehow, I had a conscious thought when I was 8 or 9 that I was eating better than most people in the civilized world. Lucky break.

But that is a memory and even if I could grow it, I couldn’t cook it right. It would not taste like momma’s or Mu’s or Mrs. Helen Barfield’s or all those other spectacular women I grew up around. They had both a green thumb and a grease thumb.

So … I turned to flowers.

It’s the time of year when you go to The Flower Store and stand in line behind like-minded flower nuts buying hydrangeas and ornamental grasses and begonias and the happy, workmanlike zinnias and shade-loving impatiens and hostas. You trade “good luck” glances because gardening is a trial-and-error business.

And that’s the secret: just trying. Just get started. A hard-to-believe 25 years ago, I didn’t know a marigold from a Mandeville. I thought a hibiscus was a bone in your arm and Lantana was a town in west Texas.

You literally just jump in there and get your hands dirty. And — word to the wise — dirt is the key. All the good and colorful green stuff starts with the good brown stuff. Bad dirt or poor potting soil is a rally killer.

Lots of help is available from books, online, and from our AgCenter sisters and brothers, who have inspired me to try the Supertunias this year. Every year I try something new (to me), and years ago that was petunias. While they are pretty in Colorado in the summer, the Colorado heat differs greatly from the Louisiana heat. Back then, my pitiful petunias looked like you do when you get through mowing. But Flower People have developed new varieties that have improved tolerance, so we are trying again. If they “do” right, they are exceptionally pretty/purty.

Also, to help you along are your local Master Gardeners clubs. The Master Gardeners among us will tell the beginners that you never learn it all, and in my experience, they are happy to encourage and advise. Except for this one time . . .

It’s been a few years since I saw my retired friend and her husband one evening and tapped her on the shoulder. I had some flora and fauna questions since I knew she was a Higher Up in the local gardening club. So, I asked.

“Oh honey,” she said, and she put her hand on my shoulder like you do when you feel sorry for someone who might not be stupid but is plenty ignorant. She paused a few seconds.

“Sweetheart,” she said, “we don’t really ‘garden.’ We just get together and drink wine.”

Contact Teddy at or Twitter @MamaLuvsManning

To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Leave a Reply Cancel reply