If you grew up reading books like The Lord of the Rings or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you might understandably believe that if you want to find a magical secret garden, you need to head off to some forgotten realm or stumble upon an adventure. Can you imagine how magical a Hobbit garden might be?
Unfortunately for the kid in all of us, places like the Shire and Narnia are fiction. But! Before you get too disappointed, I’d like to point out that there really might be a magical secret garden right in your backyard. Will there be elves or talking lions? Probably not. However, if you dig just below the topsoil, there is true magic happening all the time. The tiny little seeds we put in the ground dig down into the earth and create entire little ecosystems. And there, out of our sight, grow some of the foods we love, like carrots, onions, beets, and potatoes.
In fact, potatoes are the reluctant star in today’s story, Show-and-Tell Potatoes. When writer Robert Wolfe taught his children to garden, his daughter grew more excited every day as beans, squash, and tomatoes grew and ripened. To her dismay, though, the potatoes weren’t growing. The leaves got bigger, they looked healthy, but no potatoes appeared.
“Daddy,” she said, “the potaters did not make.” “Really?” I said. “Look.” She led me to the potato patch and pulled back the leaves. “They got blooms, but there’s not any potaters.”
This is where the magic happens in the story, because there’s little that’s more magical than seeing the excitement of discovery! Find out what happened in the story below.
Enjoy Your Very Own Magical Secret Garden
This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that turn gardening stories into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope this story does for you as well. Enjoy!
Where were the potatoes?
By Robert Wolfe
A couple of years ago, we moved to a place with a large lot. I borrowed my dad’s rototiller, broke up a large area, and planted rows of vegetables.
Our son Paul, eight, and daughter Paula, five, helped us plant the seeds. Then we covered them and watered the garden.
Paul enjoyed gardening—but Paula became fascinated with it. One day she came into the house, her hands full of little beans. “Look!” she said in her shrill little voice, “I picked the beans!”
When we explained that the beans needed to get bigger, she began to cry. She thought she had ruined the garden. We told her the plants would make more beans. She thought that was magic.
After that, Paula checked the garden every day. When plants matured, she was elated. She would come running into the house, calling, “The beans are big,” or “The squash is ready,” or “The tomatoes are red. Now!” We would have to go out—right away—and harvest.
Then one day as I pulled into the driveway, Paula met me with a confused look on her face.
“Daddy,” she said, “the potaters did not make.”
“Really?” I said.
“Look.” She led me to the potato patch and pulled back the leaves. “They got blooms, but there’s not any potaters.”
I rubbed my chin. “We’ll have to keep an eye on them,” I said. After that, every day she would come and tell me that there weren’t any potatoes. Every day. The plants bloomed. The plants dropped their flowers. Still no potatoes.
One Saturday morning at the end of August, my wife looked at me earnestly. “Paula is out there again looking for potatoes,” she said. “Don’t you think it’s time to show her where they are?”
As I was drinking my coffee, Paula came in, a sad look on her face. Before she could speak, I said, “I guess if those potatoes are not going to make, we need to just dig them up.”
My wife looked at me and—trying to keep a straight face—said, “That sounds like a good idea.”
Paula ran out the door, shouting, “I’ll get the shobel!”
By the time I got outside, she was dragging the shovel across the yard. “Here, let me have that,” I said.
I carried it out to the garden, dug deep under a plant, and turned it over. Big, beautiful potatoes rolled all over the ground. Paula stood transfixed, her eyes as big as saucers.
My wife walked up with a paper sack. Paula screamed, “Mommy! Potaters! Under the ground! LOOK!”
“Here, baby,” my wife said. “Put them in the sack.”
Paula dropped to her knees and grabbed potatoes as fast as she could.
“Dig another one, daddy! HURRY!” she shrieked.
We dug up two more plants and left the rest for later. Paula talked about nothing else all day. She showed Paul. She told the neighbors. She even called Mamaw and Papaw on the phone.
That Monday she took a sack of potatoes to her kindergarten class for Show-And-Tell. ❖
By Robert Wolfe, published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #103. Illustrated by Hannah England
Do you have any stories about a magical secret garden?