Green Thumb

Once upon a time, I lived in an apartment I refer to as The Dump.  We lived there for about two years and anything that you could imagine was wrong with it absolutely was.  The one little shiny spot however was that behind the garage there was a vacant lot.  This left plenty of room for our dog Buddy to play, and, after clearing away some of the brush, it occured to me one sunny afternoon that it would make a lovely garden as well.  So, I went out and got some 2x4s and built a little vegetable patch.  That summer, as Buddy raced around me, I grew squash, peas, beans, cucumbers, and strawberries.  I had never showed any interest as a child when it came to helping my mother with her garden, and it surprised me how much I enjoyed turning seeds into food.  I had always assumed gardening was not for me, and only started my veggie patch because I was out of work and needed something to do. 

I have the ability to grow food at this house, but haven’t tried it yet.  My neighbors are planting a few things and have promised to share the crop.  What I do now is tend the front garden, where I am growing purple salvia and bright pink peonies the size of a baby’s head.  Last week I rescued a dying gloriosa daisy and soon it will grow alongside them. 

Then, there’s my indoor garden, which I love the most, especially in winter when I’m dying to see something green.  First there’s my spider plant, who came to me in a tiny milk carton from an actress friend and now is a huge hanging pot with dozens of babies dangling from it.  There were more, but I gave one to each of my aunts, uncles, and cousins as Christmas gifts and still it continues to grow.  There’s my aloe plant, given to me after a show in a tiny painted pot, which massively overgrew it and now takes up most of the table.  I have a shamrock and superbells from my mother (the latter should really be put outside but I love looking at them every day.)  I have a pansy and geranium mix that I just bought, and a dieffenbachia I got for my birthday, along with an unidentified little pot of purple flowers.  There are poppies I’m trying to grow, and a spider plant baby that I hope will some day match its mama.

I remember being a child in my grandmother’s garden.  She grew roses for each grandchild; mine was peach-colored.  She had raspberry bushes and would let me pick them.  I think that was probably my first look at gardening.  In youth I didn’t think much of it, but as I have gotten older I appreciate it more and more.  I find solace and peace in the garden, and often have wonderful story ideas or surprising mental breakthroughs when my hands are deep in the warm soil.  It has become a therapeutic tool for me, and one that I never thought I would be using.  When I’m in my garden I’m thinking of my gram, and my mom, and all the wonderful bits of nature that I get to experience in those instances.  It quite literally brings me back to earth.

I need a bigger table.

Secret Garden

A few years back, Mark and I lived in our shittiest apartment.  To this day I call it The Dump, and it will always be remembered as such.  I cannot actually go into detail about its grossness.  Never mind we were living like college kids at the time, both of us having caught the late bus to adulthood.  Suffice it to say, it was cheap, it was terrible, and we hated it.

One day I was in the backyard and discovered a plot behind the garage.  Now, it looked like it was part of our yard, as the neighbors yard extended back there as well.  Later we discovered the whole thing was just a vacant property plot.  But at the time, I thought it was ours.

It was huge, and there was room for Buddy, our four year old Pitbull at the time, to run around in circles and roll in the grass. It reminded me of the book The Secret Garden, which I loved as a child, and I got the idea to plant a few things.  Mark and his buddy found me some boards, and I bought some dirt, and built myself a little vegetable garden behind the garage.  That year I grew peas, beans, squash, and a single cucumber.  I also worked on the flower patch we had and grew beautiful sunflowers out front in an effort to make it look like someone actually lived in The Dump.  I found that I really liked gardening, despite a childhood where my mothers offer to help her pull weeds sounded like a death sentence.

When we moved, I switched to houseplants.  I have a killer spider plant that gives off dozens of babies every few months, a huge aloe plant that came from a tiny pot I got at my old theater many years ago, shamrocks from my mother, some unidentifiable beautiful thing from Beth, and others.  I love houseplants.  They’re like a little garden for your home.  I desperately want to go to one of those Plant Nights I’ve heard about.  Jaime and her mother went and made awesome little succulents.

This year, I am blessed.  My friend Carey just moved in downstairs of us, and has graciously offered to me the vegetable patch in the backyard.  Yesterday I planted beans and peppers.  Tomorrow is cukes and squash, and Mark got me these great boxes for growing spinach.  As I sat in the dirt and pulled up the weeds I thought about how gardening has helped me.  For one, it calms me down.  I find relief in pulling the weeds up and peace in putting the seeds in the ground.  Another, it gives me ideas.  I work on stories in my head while I garden, sometimes without even realizing it.  It’s almost a form of meditation for me.

So, I am looking forward to this summer as I get to do veggies in the yard and flowers in the bed out front.  I noticed that the peony (one of my two favorite flowers) that my mother gave me last year has a bud on it, so I am just waiting for that to pop.  I look forward to the seasons through my plants, and they help me find joy in simpler things.  I hope everyone can find a hobby that brings them that kind of fulfillment.

purple flower buds
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on