A Beginner Gardener Gets Her Markers

“You’re an ornamental,” the man said as he handed a beginner gardener a set of plant markers.

Ah, to be a beginner gardener. I remember those days. I think I even proclaimed to have a black thumb when I was young when really all I had was a heavy pour on my plants and no idea what proper drainage looked like. Most new gardeners simply love their plants to death and I think that’s just fine and lovely.

Gardening in itself is a bit of a whimsical activity. In theory anyway. When you’re elbow-deep in weeds that sprouted while you were away on vacation it doesn’t always seem so, but the build-up to planting season is one of my favorite things in the world.

In today’s piece from Lew-Ellen Hughes, I get a kick out of her semi-conscious love of gardening. In A Growing Gardener, I can just tell that she is one of those beginner gardeners who doesn’t know that gardening is all trial and error and learning along the way. I bet she even thinks she has a black thumb. But in her story, as she travels with her friends who are professional gardeners, I think we can all grasp some relatability to our early days, hoping for seeds to germinate and become something bigger.

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!

Download our FREEBIE, GreenPrints Sampler: Joy of Gardening today and get stories that highlight the joys of toiling in the soil, knowing that the process of gardening is just as important as the harvest at the end of the season.

A Beginner Gardener’s Baby Steps

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!

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A Growing Gardener

I’m trying. Really I am.

By Lew-Ellyn Hughes

It was my intention to take the bottles to the redemption center, meet my friends Laura and Lauren for lunch, and then come home. It took me ten hours. You see, my friends are gardeners—good ones—paid to be ones, actually. They are certified professionals, and they work in the field in which they excel: the field. They grow fruits and vegetables. They educate the public. They save heirloom variety seeds and, therefore, future gardens and gardeners. They are smart gardeners.

I needed cucumbers because my plants died. (I am obviously not a professional. I recently found out I don’t even know how to hill potatoes correctly.) So when they invited me to go with them for the afternoon, I accepted. I sat in the back seat, listening to them talk about their work, leaning forward and allowing any tidbit of valuable information that wafted back toward me to fully envelop and educate me, like a thirsty flower leans toward a drop of rain.

I have no idea where we went as we hopscotched across western Maine, but we visited some of the state’s finest greenhouses, farms, and gardens. Laura and Lauren know exactly where these places are because they are gardeners au courant.

One of the greenhouses was on a hill with a fantastic view of the mountains. If anything can turn my gaze from flowers, that is it. In awe, I blurted out to the proprietor, “Have you seen this view?” He looked at me like I was a (well-hilled) potato head.

Gardener standing on a pot

Another greenhouse/garden was devoted to a seed saver program. While my friend Lauren spoke with the farmer (technically a curator of seeds), I wandered from plant to plant like an insect, continually asking, “What is that? What is that?” There was stuff growing everywhere—acres and acres—on purpose!

He, Lauren, and Laura talked the talk of highly educated growers, stopping at a bed to discuss varieties, then going over to a field to talk about techniques. They do that because they are dedicated gardeners. I followed behind, daydreaming.

As the end of our visit neared, the farmer made wooden markers for the plants that were to go with Lauren. I asked if I could help. He handed me some cedar plant markers and said, “You are ornamental.” He then trotted up to the house for a pen.

I turned to my companions. “What do you suppose he meant?” Lauren said, “Maybe he thinks you’re pretty.”

I scoffed. “I doubt that! More likely he thinks I’m useless.” Laura laughed. “Perhaps he thinks you’re pretty useless.”

I didn’t mind, I can take a little teasing. After all, I’m just a growing gardener—I’m learning more and more and happy to do so.

Anyway, after ten hours, I made it home and was ready to plant my new cucumber plants.

Hold on. Do they grow in hills?

By Lew-Ellyn Hughes, published originally in 2020, in GreenPrints Issue #121. Illustrations by Jeff Crosby.

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Did you enjoy this story about this beginner gardener? Please tell us how it made you feel when you read this heart-warming piece.

Download our FREEBIE, GreenPrints Sampler: Joy of Gardening today and get stories that highlight the joys of toiling in the soil, knowing that the process of gardening is just as important as the harvest at the end of the season.


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