Joy of Gardening

Collection Notes

Need a little inspiration? The writers in this collection manage to capture the little moments that embody the joy of gardening.

It’s hard to understate the joy of gardening on a balmy Spring afternoon or when you bite into that sweet, juicy ear of fresh corn. There’s something magical about watching your first tulips of the season burst forth with their bright reds, golds, and oranges. And the memories that come with an heirloom seed passed down through generations can speak to us in a way that few other things can. READ MORE

Bill Dugan


The Gardener’s December

Karel Čapek was a 20th-century Czech writer, playwright, and science fiction author who was nominated seven times for the Nobel Prize in Literature and invented the word “robot.”   READ MORE
The Boysenberry Saga

The Boysenberry Saga

From my angle, The Boysenberry Saga started when Paul, my husband Mike’s brother, married Carrie, his talented, upbeat lady fair in 1976. It was at their wedding reception that I learned that Carrie was a member of the Boysen family (her mother’s maiden name) and what that meant.  READ MORE

Mother Hen

I am in LOVE with daffodils. Have been for years. Ahem! Make that decades, about five of them as an adult. I’m not sure I ever noticed the wonder of daffodils during my wild-and-woolly youth. But somewhere along the way to adulthood, they grabbed my attention.  READ MORE

Setting Down Roots

Finally, this year, we took the time for some long overdue planting. The plants themselves weren’t very extraordinary: three small ivy topiaries and one bougainvillea tree. We gently removed them from the pots where they had long been residing and lowered them into the soft, cool earth.  READ MORE

A Real Gardener

Ever since I first read about Vita Sackville-West’s white garden at Sissinghurst, I had to create one of my own. She was my definition of a real gardener—writing in the morning and gardening the rest of the day.  READ MORE

The Flower Shop

In 2018, I found myself working in a flower shop in up-state New York on Valentine’s Day. I opened at 7 a.m., and at 11 a.m. in walks the doctor who had delivered my son less than 30 hours ago. I knew he was coming, because I had scrawled his name on a piece of white tissue paper when he phoned in an order earlier in the day.  READ MORE
Boy looking at pumpkins

My First Pumpkin

This is a story about a young boy, his mom, and a cool crisp October afternoon in the early 1950s.   READ MORE

The Stump

I was in my 20s when I bought my first house, a dilapidated Victorian in the little town of Winters, California. I was delighted to get out of my 8 x 21 trailer, even though my new house had knob and tube wiring and didn’t really have a bathroom or foundation.  READ MORE

Lemonade with Nonni

Nonni, my grandmother, would call out to me from her small front porch while she rubbed her flour-laden hands on a big apron. The apron was usually covered with ruffles that disappeared behind her curly white hair.  READ MORE

Ephemeral Spring

A couple of Februarys ago, I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. People told me that hip surgery is the easiest to recover from, knee surgery next easiest, and shoulder surgery the hardest.  READ MORE


I have to confess I like the smell of dirt. As a gardener and especially during the Winter months, I find myself longing not so much for the calming scent of lavender or a heavenly sniff of my English roses, but more for the earthy smell of dirt warmed by the Spring sun.  READ MORE

Dad and the Fantasticks

My father’s favorite musical was “The Fantasticks.“ He loved to sing. Dad was also a gardener, an avid gardener. I’m not sure I tasted a grocery store tomato before my teens. As a child, I had no patience for gardening.  READ MORE

Let Us Grow Lettuce

A quarter of a century ago, a wise-looking, older fellow leaned over my back fence as I considered what to plant in my newly made raised beds. Without introducing himself, he said, “Don’t bother planting lettuce.  READ MORE

A Growing Gardener

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.  READ MORE

Zephy, Creeferter, and Me

I once lived in an iris-blue Queen Anne house that was bordered with 20 pink, yellow, and white roses, but that was another lifetime. When my husband died, I took a teaching job in another county, farther west, one that provided teacher housing.  READ MORE

Waiting for Zinnias

It’s early October and my zinnias are ugly. Their stems have grown brown and brittle. Their curled-up leaves are mottled and mildewed. But I can’t say good-bye to the zinnias just yet.   READ MORE

Brick by Brick

When this stay-at-home order started, I thought it might be fun to rebrick one of our garden retaining walls. Yes, I know. I am curious about my sanity, too.  READ MORE


In progress for 20 years, my garden is a place I never tire of. Knowing that it stays on course growing steadily, regardless of life‘s events, supplies me with a sense of composure. When I concentrate my attention on the garden, I’m granted the parallel reward of ignoring everything else.  READ MORE

Buried by Cucumbers

Almost 40 years ago, I went to school for horticulture, a two-year, hands-on program at the University of New Hampshire. During the Summer between those two years, we had to get a job in our chosen specialty.  READ MORE

My Yard

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.   READ MORE

An Unexpected Bonus

I tend to buy my organic fruit and vegetables from Whole Foods, and a couple of years ago I bought some beautiful organic grapefruit there. A few days later, I cut one of them in half, looking forward to a delicious breakfast of pink grapefruit, whole wheat toast, and a cup of Earl Grey tea.  READ MORE

The Dead Rack

Every Spring, I scout deals at my local garden center. I mostly ooh and aah at the beautiful plants I can’t afford, but one day, I noticed a rolling shelf rack shoved in the corner.  READ MORE
Woman Eating Tomatoe


A hot, wet Spring yielded small, intensely sweet strawberries. We ate gallons of them—in homemade ice cream or over fresh warm shortcake, sure, but mostly right out of the bowl, each glowing berry raised by its stem and devoured—every day in May we could get them.  READ MORE


As I get older I remember my great-aunt, Auntie. All my other great-aunts were Aunt So-and-so, but she was always Auntie. She was, as she called it, “a maiden lady,” and her family didn’t have much by today’s standards.  READ MORE

Simply Gourmet

Forget fancy restaurants. Forget complicated recipes. Nothing compares to the breakfast I ate this morning—a hearty serving of red potatoes with green and yellow wax beans fresh from the garden and all boiled together with a dash of oil. The only extra ingredients needed for the vegetables when I put them on my plate were…  READ MORE

Life Lessons from My Tomatoes

The worst seedlings can flourish if they receive fertile ground and regular encouragment. But the best seedlings rarely thrive in rocky sites where their needs are not met. The size of a tomato has nothing to do with its quality. Volunteer cherry tomatoes teach me that lesson anew every year. A garden of all sizes,…  READ MORE

Gardening is Great

Soooo…I (Pat) get a daily email from The Week magazine touting articles on their website. Yesterday—it's March 21 when I’m writing this—along with their standard political fare (“Trump calls Putin to ‘congratulate’ him on his win,” “The sad hysteria of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” etc.), they had an article titled, “Gardening is Great.” Isn’t…  READ MORE

The Raspberry-Life Question

My favorite member of my husband’s family was his grand-mother, Marjorie Faerber. She was an adorable petite grandmother type with short curly gray hair and the spunk of an 18-year-old. She had a backyard of red raspberry bushes that she meticulously cared for and the entire family cherished. One day Grandma got it into her…  READ MORE

Watering Cans and Rain Barrels

I have become a lover of watering cans. And of rain barrels. As the dawn begins to creep through the drawn curtains, I resist the urge to snuggle under the covers for a few more minutes of early-morning dreaming.  READ MORE

Elsie’s Daffodils

Just down the hill from where I work in Glasgow, Scotland, there is a ruined garden in an abandoned churchyard. Graffiti is scrawled over the locked front door, rubble and trash are scattered all over the premises, and weeds flourish in every corner.  READ MORE

Second to None!

Approximately 13 years ago, I was the school principal in the village of Serowe in Botswana, Africa. It was a day in September when my personal secretary, Mary, knocked on the door of my office. I asked her to come in.  READ MORE

Charles Wells

All last year I wrote how much we missed our garden. Finally, after ten months, Spring and Summer having passed, we were able to move back home. Sadly, it was too late for my darling husband and companion of 53 years.  READ MORE

My Part for Monarchs

Last spring, I attended a lecture at my local library entitled, “How To Create a Pollinator Garden.” The speaker impressed upon us the importance of including milkweed, the sole host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, when planning our gardens.  READ MORE

Planting Irises

“About six inches,” my mother replies. She and I are in the country, about two hours north of San Francisco. It is winter and we’re planting iris bulbs for the spring. I dig the hole as directed, then spread black compost at the bottom. The soil itself is red, thick with clay. My mother is transforming her two acres bit by bit into a lush garden.  READ MORE

Today Is The Gate!

I recently read an essay in the superb Christian quarterly Weavings in which the author, Minister Kristen Johnson Ingram, describes herself as standing safely inside her front fenced yard while Jesus, in the street, calls her with a beckoning finger to “Open the gate!”  READ MORE

The Little Geranium That Wouldn’t

I purchased the packet of mixed-color geranium seeds at my local do-it-yourself store. It was only a dollar, on sale, and I had read somewhere that bugs that eat tomato plants don’t like the smell of geraniums.  READ MORE

Paradise Lost

When I was a lad of seven, I got my first garden plot. It wasn’t by choice. My father had decided it was time for me to start contributing to the family larder. This was in late August, 1945, after the war had ended.  READ MORE

The Great Squash Victory

I live in a city with a city-size, shady yard. Unfortunately, most of the shade-producing culprits belong to my neighbors, and I can’t do a thing about it.  READ MORE

I Can Regrow That!

To understand how I became so excited about growing plants from leftover vegetables on a window shelf in a British Columbia apartment, you’ll need a little background … Michael and I met five years ago and promptly set about casting off our suburban lives.   READ MORE

Between Nature and Culture

And so I read to garden, and gardened to read, counting myself lucky for having stumbled on a sideline with such a lively and lasting literature. For what other pastime has spawned so many fine books? Only fly-fishing comes even close.  READ MORE

Serendipity Ducks

Growing up, I’d often heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” That saying summed up the summer our Indiana farm family lived with a family of ducks. Numerous times over the years my husband, Dave, wished some of the ducks that stopped by our backyard pond would take up residence.  READ MORE

Islands of Clover

Andy had been mowing for at least an hour when I came out, balancing a basket of wet laundry on my hip, and breathed in the day. The air was thick with the sweet scent of fresh-cut grass. Damp with dew, it stuck to my sneakers.  READ MORE

Garden Wisdom

My friend Ally is going to college. She and hundreds of other young people like her are about to leave home and embark upon a life away from all that is familiar. The night before Ally left, I wrote her a letter—words of wisdom learned from years of living and pondered upon in all those hours spent in my garden.  READ MORE

Man Vs. Knotweed

The summer I first visited the circa 1795 Massachusetts farm-house that eventually became our home, I noticed a long row of tall plants arching over the fieldstone walls behind the house. “What is that?” I asked. “Japanese bamboo,” my elderly friend Elisabeth replied. “It just sprang up out of nowhere. Isn’t it lovely?”  READ MORE

My Imperfect Garden

I am just a half-way, fair-weather, wanna-be gardener. There, I’ve said it. My niece, now she has a beautiful garden. But then she does everything beautifully.  READ MORE

Believe This

All morning, doing the hard root-wrestling work of turning a yard from the wild to a gardener’s will, I heard a bird singing from a hidden, though not distant, perch; a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding like Can you believe this, believe this, believe? Can you believe this, believe this, believe? And all morning,…  READ MORE

Sense of Wonder

The joy of gardening is in doing it yourself, in devising a plan or parts of a plan, reflecting on it, refining it as you go along, revising it, fine-tuning it, figuring out, season by season, how the pieces fit together, what works well together, what has absolutely no interest in living on your property,…  READ MORE

My Row of 2,000

I was invited to a wedding happening the next Wednesday. When you go to a wedding, you dress your best. You do your hair, wear lovely clothes, polish your shoes—and don’t forget your fingernails! Well, my hair could wait until the last minute. I had a new dress hanging ready in the closet. My shoes were shined. But my fingernails …  READ MORE

The Survivor

Who can resist little daffodils, with their bright yellow baby faces? What a perfect choice for a ribbon of space between the side yard chain-link fence and the sidewalk. And delightful they were the next year, a row of little sunbeams to cheer passersby.  READ MORE

Get To Stay

The house I bought here in Houston is assaulted by flowers, shrubs, and trees: a phalanx of thriving, and obstinate, plants. The man who built it, Mr. Anderson, spent his retirement growing things.  READ MORE

Taking A Moment To Be Still

I’d had a long session with the trowel, the weed eater, and my hand pruners, attacking weeds, setting out plants, and generally tidying up my shade garden. Sweaty, dirty, and tired, I found a chair and a bottle of water and decided to catch my breath.  READ MORE

Why I Didn’t Want To Go To Italy

Get in the car! We’ve got to pick up our passports before the post office closes at noon,” my husband shouted—over our teenage sons’ MP3 player. Over the high-school spring break, our family was traveling to Italy on a trip chartered by the school.  READ MORE

Instant Salad Garden

One lovely spring day, I decided it was time to introduce my preschool daughter to the wonderful world of gardening. Our arms full—shovel, rake, spade, hose, seeds, string, and stakes—we headed to the rototilled area.  READ MORE

A Ballet in the Biosphere

Spring is here. If you are inclined to look for the meaning of life, get thee to a garden. There are profound reasons why the garden is central in the sacred texts of major religions. Since ancient times, it has been the place where the soul goes to exercise, while simultaneously engaged in a multilayered…  READ MORE

The Old Rose

Outside my Dad’s bedroom window in our little house in Paramount, California, grew an old rosebush that covered most of the back wall and the two windows looking out over the yard.  READ MORE

Turning Certainties

Outside, in the midst of a Massachusetts January, the temperature huddles around twenty degrees. A sprinkling of snow softens the driveway and the rooftops. Inside, I huddle under an afghan on the couch, next to the cat. A cup of black coffee warms my insides.  READ MORE

Aim for Beauty

After three years of traveling and living in Europe, my daughter and I returned home to the States, and I began my fledgling publicity business. I took a couple of offices in the Marin County seat in Northern California, at the back of a building on the main drag of downtown.  READ MORE

After the Spring

I have never understood why we keep a garden and why, 35 years ago when I bought my first house in the country, I started digging up a patch for vegetables before doing anything else.  READ MORE

My Sprawling Cherry Tomato Plants

It’s winter and there is a sprawling cherry tomato plant in front of my picture window. There is a history to the sprawling cherry tomato plant in front of my picture window. (There is, of course, a history to everything.)  READ MORE

I’m a Peasant

In increments of two or three minutes at bedtime each night, I’ve been reading A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman’s bestselling history of 14th century Europe. What better respite from the pressures of modern life, I thought, than to be carried back into the remote past and marvel at such a different place and time?  READ MORE

Perennial Friend

My friend Sylvia and I go way back. Over 40 years ago, we both moved into the same small town two houses away from each other. Our friendship has lasted all these decades—through birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren, retirement, broken bones, and replaced joints. Near our little houses was a small lake. We’ve circled that lake…  READ MORE

Summer Ends

It’s the tail end of summer, a liminal time like dusk and dawn when things are neither one nor the other, but for an instant both at once. The air is still and breathless, our brains sluggish and limp; the simplest tasks are beyond us.  READ MORE

To Rose and Ed

Being a small-town California girl, I’m always endeavoring to do small-town things. So I start most Saturdays as I did last week—at the local coffeehouse, where the baristas are friendly and remember the regulars ...  READ MORE

The Case of the Half-Dead Hedge

I like to read mysteries. Not the brutal kind but more of the cat-helps-find-the-missing-lunchbox type of story. It’s interesting to see how things get solved. It usually seems obvious at the end, in a satisfying “Of course!” kind of way.  READ MORE

Garden Wall, Stone Roots

The year we were married, I moved with my husband to a white farmhouse in northeastern Pennsylvania. The place, old but well cared-for, was once part of a much larger, still-operating family farm. From my porch, I can see the wide fields, red barns, and pastured hills of the farm next door rising in the distance.  READ MORE

My Burlap Garden

OK, OK, for a would-be gardener, renting is not ideal—and renting an apartment even worse. So from the start of my search until the day I signed the lease, I did everything in my power to rent a house rather than an apartment.   READ MORE

Life-Changing Magic

Who wouldn’t want a little life-changing magic? That is probably why the catchily titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo spent over nine months on the “New York Times” bestseller list.  READ MORE

My SpongeBob Garden Tool

How did my $4.99 Walmart SpongeBob electric toothbrush become my new favorite garden tool? It happened last year when we moved and I started a vegetable garden in the backyard. The plot had good soil, plenty of sun, and my vegetable starts were healthy and strong. The plants grew and flowered. But they didn’t form…  READ MORE

The Man in the Garden

From Cathy Tallady of Lewiston, NY:       “My summer cottage is on a lane in a colony. My brother’s cottage is near the entrance. One day, someone asked him where he could find my father. My brother answered, “Go down the lane until you see the man in the garden.” That remark inspired this poem. The…  READ MORE

Too Much Moss

Today I noticed that the moss on our lawn is at least two inches deep, maybe more. No matter that I raked it up two dozen times last year, it always seems to come back thicker, greener, and stronger.  READ MORE

Why Bother?

I admit it. I’m not a good gardener. I have killed or badly damaged most of my plants (housebound and otherwise) by lack of correct care. Oh, I try. I put them on watering schedules. I repot. I prune. I weed. I debug. I don’t mean to kill them—I promise!  READ MORE

To the Celery in My Life

In February I set a tray of soil on an old bathmat on the floor of my office and planted a line of tiny celery seeds. I gave the soil a pat as I stood up, switching on the shop light I’d finally figured out how to suspend a few inches above the dirt ...  READ MORE

An Unexpected Compliment

It was Saturday and I was standing at the Burpee seed rack in a local big box store. I’m retired now, but I spent 35 years in the seed business, 29 of them with Burpee. I still enjoy poring over a seed rack.The store greeter, a pleasant-looking lady past middle age, walked over to me.…  READ MORE

Oh, Help—Hydrangea!

Yes, I admit it. I am an addict. I can’t seem to get past any plant with a For Sale sign on it. Yesterday… I was on my way home from church and needed to stop at the market for a few essentials. How is it that we always need bread, milk, and eggs—it’s not like I make French toast every day.   READ MORE

Jesus a Gardener?

The devastated woman was completely beside herself over the death of the man she had held dear, the wholly unexpected end to his hearty, hardy life. She rambled toward his tomb, searching for something; what it was, she wasn’t sure exactly. Would seeing his body give her solace and answers? His tomb was in, of all places, a garden.  READ MORE

A Simple Sign

A surprising number of us believe in signs—those odd synchronicities or happenings that seem to point us down a certain path. The still, small voice that tells us an impending choice is right—or wrong—and sometimes leaves a tangible reminder just in case we forget to believe it.  READ MORE

“Oh, Cedar Tree”

My dad ran a family farm on 70 acres in rural Ohio. He milked cows and grew and sold corn, soybeans, and alfalfa hay. It was a good life, but definitely a frugal one.  READ MORE

Gardening Up North

For over 20 years, I have battled sand, drought, cold, bugs, and weeds to grow a vegetable garden up here in Northern Michigan. Some years, when the deer ate all my tender new shoots or the first frost came in August, I vowed to never grow a garden again. But fresh dirt calls to me.…  READ MORE

Growing Up with GreenPrints, Part V

As part of our 25th anniversary year, I’ve run stories from each of our four offspring about growing up with a magazine business in the house. For the very last piece of our anniversary year, I asked the two people who most directly deal with our subscribers to write about YOU, the magazine’s readers—for you, too, are a big part of the GREENPRINTS family.  READ MORE


When I was young, in post-war Germany back in the 1950s, I promised myself that I would never have a garden. Mother was to blame. She had a huge garden. Since she also worked in the family store, she eagerly drafted as many of us seven girls as she could for garden duty.  READ MORE

Messenger for the Bees

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” —Bill Mollison Where would our gardens be without bees? Bees are messengers of love. They flutter around, getting drunk on nectar. They carry sex on their furry bodies while spreading pollen from one flower to the next. They even do little…  READ MORE

Birds and Boysenberries

The garden of my childhood was a wonderful place. The caretaker of this magical playground was my father. He spent hours tending the flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees. One of Dad’s prized crops was his boysenberry vines—carefully tended, pruned, and trained onto homemade fences. (The jams Mother made from them was one of our family’s…  READ MORE

Bluebirds in the Pokeweed

Here’s a scenario that used to snap my pitchfork: I’m working in the yard. The guy next door goes for a walk with his son, and passes my way. I chat with the man a bit, long enough to confirm that we still have nothing more in common than our geographical proximity.  READ MORE

Peanuts from Cameroon

At my community garden in the Bronx, we grew many things. Sunflowers bobbed at the fence line, overlooking the cracked sidewalk and the rundown bus stop. Spindly peach trees offered up small, fuzzy fruits, many of which were stolen before they were ripe.  READ MORE

Rhonda’s Garden

The tenth November in my kitchen garden found me cleaning it up just like I had the nine before. Saving the few green tomatoes that still hung from the now-blighted vines. Picking the last chilies that dangled like colored lanterns among the debris.  READ MORE

Growing Up with GREENPRINTS, Part IV

As part of our special 25th anniversary year, each issue in 2015 will contain a piece by one of our four offspring about “Growing Up with GreenPrints.” So far, we’ve heard from the three oldest, Nate, Jesse, and Sammy. This go-round, it’s 26-year-old Tucker’s turn!  READ MORE

Scaping Lessons

One morning last summer I was soundly schooled, by an elderly Chinese lady, on the proper way to harvest garlic. It was the best lesson I’d had in years.  READ MORE

Fair Play

It’s been 40 years since I first loaded a horse into a rickety borrowed stock trailer and headed to Hamilton, Ohio for the Butler County Fair.  READ MORE

A Hosta for Mrs. Malloy

I came to my senses in the nick of time, deciding not to throw out an old galvanized watering can that leaked. Instead, I pounded a 40-penny nail into the side of it, then hung it on the garden shed.  READ MORE

Summer on a Dime

Our California backyard is nearly an acre, but all the sunshine we get can be focused on a dime, between 3:00 and 3:02 on the afternoon of the summer solstice. That is, last summer’s solstice. This year even that will be gone.  READ MORE

From Pea to Pod

I grew up in a family where emotion was held close. Displays of affection were few. Folks didn’t hug and kiss as they do today—but they did care. Yes, they cared. My grandmother, Lena, lived many miles away, so we didn’t see her very often.  READ MORE

A Prayer in Motion

It is dry! The sun beats down from a sky of brilliant blue. The native trees and bushes droop pitifully as they try to stay alive by dropping most of their leaves. The cattle ponds are parched, cracked dirt, and the creek hasn’t run in so long there are small bushes and weeds growing in its bed.  READ MORE

Growing Up with GREENPRINTS, Part III

As part of our special 25th anniversary year, each issue in 2015 will contain a piece by one of our four offspring about “Growing Up with GreenPrints.” So far, we’ve heard from the two oldest, Nate and Jesse. This go-round, it’s 28-year-old Sammy’s turn!  READ MORE

My Tulip Turnaround

On a cold day in February, not so long ago, my daughter nudged me in the grocery store and pointed her gloved fingers at the profusion of color brightening up an otherwise quiet corner stocked with root vegetables and canned soup.  READ MORE

Growing Up with GREENPRINTS, Part II

Just try answering this stumper: “What does your dad do?” “Um…well, he kinda…he works from home…and he publishes this magazine…no, you probably haven’t heard of it…it’s all garden stories…No, not like that.  READ MORE

Jetfire: Loser and Winner

Every fall, bulbs will be on sale in bins at my local grocery store. There’ll be lots of daffodils, tulips, and more. At first the prices are expensive—but people buy them. All the larger daffodils sell best.  READ MORE

The Rhodora

On being asked, Whence is the flower? In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes, I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods, Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook, To please the desert and the sluggish brook. The purple petals, fallen in the pool, Made the black water with their beauty gay; Here might…  READ MORE

Birthing Butterflies

The world is still full of so many wonders. I have to remind myself of this on days when watching the news makes my chest tighten. Liz, I chide myself, move. I do. I stand up, step outdoors—and spot courting blackbirds gleefully circling over the tops of my crepe myrtles. See? I tell myself, life is still full of miracles. Oh, how small these wonders often are. And how often they crop up where we least expect it.  READ MORE

Making the Bed

My grandma, fighting dementia, sometimes loses things or forgets what she meant to do. She once told me whenever she feels that life has gotten too large, she makes her bed.  READ MORE

The Enthusiastic Gardener

I grew up in southwest Ohio, the second of seven children. Our family’s vegetable garden covered over an acre. In early March my dad would purchase Kennebec seed potatoes.  READ MORE
Man Carving a Gnome

Gnomes? Why Gnot?

I’ve often wondered how my father developed his gardening expertise. Born and raised in the East End of London, Cyril was a true Cockney and was surely more familiar with digging an Anderson Shelter to escape the bombs of World War II than planting roses. And yet, when he and his young family moved to the rural outskirts of London, he began gardening—and never stopped.  READ MORE

Perennials are Forever

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the seasons in Upstate New York: Summers full of warmth and sunlight, punctuated by the crashing of epic thunderstorms off Great Lake Ontario; Autumns spent crunching through red and gold leaves, savoring the tang of apples on the tongue and the smell of campfires in the breeze; Winter evenings enjoyed under a plaid blanket by the woodstove, curled up with a good book and a cup of steaming cocoa; and Spring days with the sight of crocuses, the song of an early robin, and seeds to plant.  READ MORE
Woman Watering Plants


In the 1950s, Hudson, New York had two large cement plants that employed hundreds of men. It was a dirty job but paid a livable wage. My father was employed at one of the plants. The smokestacks from the kilns, each at least 100-feet tall, sent cement dust far and wide. As a child, I thought little about pollution—I’d never even heard the word. But we lived with it every day. All around Hudson, sticky cement dust fell with the early morning dew. Local farmers joked, “One thing for sure, we never have to lime our fields!” In town, it settled on cars parked in the streets. Porches, sidewalks, and outside stairs were heavily dusted with the gray, clinging dust—especially in the Summer months, when the humidity made it stick to everything.  READ MORE
I Get By with a Little Help

I Get By with a Little Help …

Wherever I have lived, my green-thumbed neighbors grew gardens that I envied for their beauty and abundance. Me, my name is Brown—and, alas, my gardening thumb matches.  READ MORE
Faith and Patience

Faith and Patience

I would hate to add up how many hours a gardener spends waiting for something to happen. But then, there’s a reward of some sort at the end of the wait—a crop, a bloom, a successful new plant.  READ MORE
Go Stand in the Garden

‘Go Stand in the Garden’

Early in the 20th century, my great-grandfather purchased the Massachusetts house that years later I would grow up in. It was sited on a ledge of pretty pink rock that lay a few inches below the surface.  READ MORE


It has been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon. It was cloudy most of the week, and a cold wind blew in off the lake and picked up some dust off the street and blew it right in your face.  READ MORE

Breaking Dormancy

My dad grew a vegetable garden in our backyard—a tiny one in a rocky, almost hidden corner behind the garage. He spent a lot of hours alone down there, digging, planting, weeding. Once in a while, there’d be a few, maybe small, ears of fresh corn on the dinner table, Dad smiling as he served them, as proud of them as his shot-filled quail or dove.  READ MORE

If You Build It …

The problem with a community garden is the community part,” Tanya sneered, crossing her arms over her generously exposed cleavage, “and if I know my residents—and I do—you won’t get anything outta them.” The weed-choked dirt patch sat fallow next to an office building where Tanya held court with the 150 or so residents of the public-housing project known as the “The Sheffield Estates,” a name which lent it an air of expansive sophistication that it did not possess in any form.  READ MORE

The War of the Rose (with audio)

A wrist-thick branch drops and smacks my face just below the eye. “Dammit,” I shout in unladylike fashion, disrupting the peaceful afternoon. Blinking, I continue to cut rose branches. A 15-foot section comes loose and wraps around my waist and both legs.  READ MORE

Shady Characters (with audio)

Psst, get this. My friend Linda? She’s got spotty dotty. She told me herself. In fact, she says she has it all over the place. “Oooooohhhh-oh-oh-oh,” I breathed (with that little shudder at the end) when she told me. I didn’t tell a soul. You wouldn’t, right? Well, OK, I did tell my friend Margo.   READ MORE

The Faces Behind the Flowers

I must admit I was rather taken back by it all my first day. I was just looking for a job as my last one was wearing on my nerves. I liked gardening and thought, what the heck, let’s give it a shot. A quick Google search later, I found myself driving down the gravel driveway of an industrial greenhouse.  READ MORE

The Fall and Rise of Pink Patricia

The potted geranium was one step away from the trash bin at Bob Cliff’s Garden Center. She had been displayed on a spacious outdoor table in Spring, along with many others of her kind.  READ MORE

Garden Follies

My dad was a rural soul, despite a closet full of suits and a house in a Birmingham, Alabama, suburb. This notion first presented itself to me one night when I ate supper at a kindergarten friend’s house and made a puzzling discovery: her family ate beans from tin cans!  READ MORE

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