Collection Notes

The Gardening History Collection

Gardens contain more than flowers and vegetables; there’s history in that ground.

Dear Gardener,

“Perhaps more than other occupations, gardening lends itself to philosophizing.” So begins “Autumn Thoughts,” by Diana Wells. It’s true, too. What other activity gives you so much time for contemplation and letting your mind wander while your hands are busy creating? And as we dig into the soil, we connect with the gardeners that have come before us, also contemplating the world around them.

I say that figuratively, but gardening history is embedded in the plants we grow and the stories we tell. The dill growing in my garden reminds my neighbor of the beautiful fresh dill she would pick as a child in Eastern Europe. In the story, “Fairies,” author Diana Wells describes the way a fairy garden brings to mind her father’s childhood in Scotland, “a land with a long tradition of ‘second sight’ and the mystical powers of natural spirits.”

Gardening history doesn’t just reside in memory, though. Some gardening history comes in the form of tangible artifacts. In “Buried Treasure,” Becky Rupp writes of gardeners in southern England who found “a hoard of medieval gold and silver coins” that were buried “sometime around 1540.” Another gardener “unearthed a pottery jar containing nearly 600 gold coins and a gold ring inscribed with the phrase ‘When this you see, remember me.’” Why would someone bury so much treasure? And what happens when you dig up a treasure chest in your garden? I promise that once you read this story, you’ll head to the garden with your shovel!

Could gardening be not only history, but also the future? That’s the question Alison Townsend asks in, “A Sprig of Lilac.” This short story has us following Townsend’s life through the lilac. She shares with us her moments as a child lying in fields of lilacs and watching the stars, as well as the “sweet scent” of the lilacs her husband picks and arranges in a vase for her each day. There is so much wonderful sensory detail in this piece. One of my favorite lines, however, is this one: “This is, I think, part of what lilacs suggest to us, summoning our own pasts, both personal and national, and a sense of the future, of things beginning again.”

History is there every time our hands dig into the soil. Whether it’s the memory of a favorite herb, an actual treasure from the past, or growing memories for the future, our gardens contain so much.

Bill Dugan signature

Bill Dugan
Editor & Publisher


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