An Ever-Growing Garden

Trace back the years of your growing garden - what memories have you made along the way?

Everything you need to know about today’s story comes in these two sentences: “I had never been much of a gardener, but when one acquires a home for the first time, one is motivated to garden. It would become an addiction, one that—I am now 71—has been going for 41 years.” I love stories that trace back the years of a growing garden!

The author of this piece, “My Yard,” is Suzanne R. Virchick, and she recalls the stages she and her garden lived through to get to its current brilliance, which she calls her “final home.”

What I love about it, is that it makes me think of my own gardening journey. I spent years as a girl who was sure she had a black thumb but was mostly just too lazy to keep up with anything. Now I’m smart enough to give all the credit to my soil and the weather, and most of the rest is out of my hands! For example, I couldn’t tell you why it took me years to grow watermelons, but I do know I grew five fat ones this year! I don’t think it had anything to do with the color of my thumbs, but I sure did put more work into my soil and weeding. My watermelon bed was practically a sanctuary!

Now I’ve gone on too long, but I just love how these stories always stir up something in me when I read them. I hope this one does for you too!

More Joy in the 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 the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope this story does for you as well. Enjoy!

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My Yard

And my final home.

By Suzanne R. Virchick

I was 30 years old when my father retired. Since he was a pastor, we had never really had a home: our family just resided in the church manses where we lived. On retirement, my father bought some land out in the country and built a small house in an empty field. My mother was in frail health, so I was living at home to help care for her. When I looked at that field I thought, “Well, I have my work cut out for me!“ I had never been much of a gardener, but when one acquires a home for the first time, one is motivated to garden.

It would become an addiction, one that—I am now 71—has been going for 41 years.

I started out with a small vegetable garden. Some things grew, some did not. I remember the first sweet corn I planted, so delicious served with heaps of melted butter.

I went on to plant flowers. It was a while before I found out what perennials were and that they came up year after year. How wonderful that was! (Weeds also come up year after year.)

I always bought my plants at the end of the season, when garden centers got rid of things for the bargain price of two or three dollars. I bought this and that­—as long as they were supposed to flower. Two bushes that were supposed to bloom pink ended up white. They are still blooming all these years later, and still a little of a disappointment.

Then I bought some bundles of small trees from the arbor society. They turned out to be beautiful!

Every year I would plant a few new flowers, bushes, and trees. We lived in the country, so there were always a few stray cats around, which I would feed and care for. When an older cat would pass away, I would bury it beneath a flower or a bush. Many years later, I would be digging a hole for something to be planted and come across the bones of one of my dear cats.

As the yard became beautiful, I told my parents, “When I pass away, I want to be cremated and buried under my pine trees.“

My father said I would not need a tombstone, as the yard was sort of a memorial garden. I agreed. One gets a sense of love and comfort sitting under the boughs of a tree. How can one want to be buried under a cold marble tombstone, when one can be buried under a lovely green tree with birds singing overhead every day?

This year I dug holes for two new trees, a redbud and a peach, to replace ones that had rotted out. Every year it gets a little harder to plant things. I just work more slowly.

At my age, I don’t know how long I will be around, but I will be the last thing to be planted in my beautiful yard. And every Spring when my dormant, colorless yard awakens from its Winter sleep and begins to bloom in an explosion of beautiful vibrant blossoms, my spirit will applaud from under the pine trees and say …

By Suzanne R. Virchick, published originally in 2021, in GreenPrints Issue #127. Illustrated by Linda Cook Devona

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Did this remind you of a similar story in the garden that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear it. 

  • Janice W.

    I came by gardening parents always gardened. When they got a little place in the country, Mother had a huge vegetable garden. One of my favorite things was her asparagus! So wonderful just picked and barely steamed with butter. And she had lots of flowers and trees.
    One thing I do remember from my childhood is the bachelor buttons and cosmos she always had. I loved those flowers.
    In my gardens, I mostly have flowers. We have one tree I adore..a Dragon Fire the fall it is gorgeous, and in the spring it is loaded with beautiful clusters of yellow flowers. I have lots of roses, and many other perennials. Last year I created a new bed, and filled it with spring blooming flowers..mostly daffodils and big hyacinths. I added 70 new bulbs this year. Can’t wait till spring to see it! I added a few perennial ground covers to fill in when the bulbs died down..still working on that aspect. One of my favorite gardens was in a house in Kansas City, Missouri. We had a very shady back yard, and I created a small garden filled with English violets..purple, yellow, white, pink. I just loved them.
    And at another house I had a garden of Iris–over 100 varieties–what a show when they were in bloom. Behind them on a trellis I planted sweet pea vines, and just loved them I wallpapered my bathroom in sweet pea paper, and had fun bringing in small bunches so I could have them in there. I did the same with my violets, and acquired a lot of very small vases for the “littles” of the garden world. I have had roses in every house I have ever had, and added a new yellow climber this year. We live in a very hot climate, and in a river valley with sandy soil, so it has been a big challenge. But slowly I have learned what grows, and what doesn’t. I have one or two spots of shade, and have 2 hydrangeas, and one tiny bunch of violets. I hope they do well.
    I am now 78 and still learning. I think gardening is one thing you can never get tired of. I have mentored a few young women in gardening, which is fun when we get together. Notes to share and things to learn!


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