Saturday, June 14, 2008

Our Garden of Dreams

When I was ten years old, my family moved from our north-side 2-flat rental unit to a ranch home in the south suburbs, fulfilling our parents' long-time dream of home ownership and a place to plant a vegetable garden. The huge yard, the reasonable price, a low down-payment, and owner-financing were all factors in the decision, following months of house-hunting.

The yard was divided into sections. The flagstone patio was bordered on two sides by the house and garage, on one side by a raised shrub and flower border, and on the other side by a narrow path with a small, rectangular perennial bed on either side. The beds were bordered by miniature picket fencing to protect them from trampling by children and dogs. They were planted with perennials and spring bulbs. I remember roses, peonies, bleeding hearts, hyacinths, and tulips.

I learned you could divide a perennial and make more plants from my mom as she lifted huge clumps of peonies from the cool, dark soil. The apple tree one of my younger brothers planted from a seed was placed in the bed on the right, the sunnier of the two beds. It was planted inside the little fenced bed for protection from trampling feet or a lethal lawnmower attack. Last time I was at the house, after Mom had sold it to my youngest brother, the apple tree was still there.

Following the short path between the perennial beds, you entered the heavily wooded side of our yard where we played and romped with our dogs. Left of the patio there was a privet hedge that ran almost the length of the yard except for two paths, one in the middle and one on the side closest to the patio. The privet hedge divided the wooded section from the sunny, open, treeless section of lawn. The sunny side of the yard was bordered by a bridal wreath and honeysuckle hedge that provided fruit for the birds, privacy for our yard, and a cool, shady, secret spot for daydreaming and play. The wooded side of our yard was already an over-sized lot. The other side was narrower. It was, an open, sunny field where my parents would plant the garden of their dreams.

It was an excellent setup for a family with five young, active children. The garden was sheltered and protected from stray softballs and clumsy puppy paws by one of several privet hedges in our yard. It wouldn't be long before this ten-year-old garden girl geek was asking her parents to please, please let her use those brand new electric hedge trimmers to cut the privets. Legitimately concerned for my safety, they were reluctant. Finally after much begging and promises to be careful, I was given a chance with careful monitoring. Soon buzzing the hedges became one of my favorite hobbies. I loved the challenge of shaping them as evenly and prettily as possible. No one had to tell or ask me to do that job. I was happy to trim the hedges even if they didn't need any trimming. It was here in my childhood home where my lifelong passion for gardening was born.

to be continued . . .


  1. Blogger seems to be having trouble with comments today...this is my second try :)

    I love the descriptions of your childhood garden and really enjoying imagining it all while reading your post. What a wonderful place to grow up. Like you, I also *loved* helping with any gardening chores. We didn't have a privet hedge to trim, but I got very good at pruning my parent's lilacs!

  2. What sweet memories! I too have such fond memories of my days in our or our grandparents gardens both flower and veggies...

    If you ever feel the desire to clip a hedge, Come to GA, say around late July and feel free to clip away at my hedge! LOL....

  3. What a great post garden girl .. I could picture what that garden looked like and certainly how much it meant to you ! I have some memories of a neighbor's garden which made me love the sound of a pea gravel path twining around plants spilling out on the edges .. and dahlias from my great aunt's garden .. dinner plate sized ones .. amazing to a kid !
    Joy : )

  4. Thanks for sharing your gardening roots. Great post.

  5. It sounds like you were destined to be a garden maintainer from the very beginning (see Stuart's post?). Your post helped me reminisce about my early gardening days. Thank you.

  6. What wonderful childhood memories!! And that is great the home is still in the family. It sounds like it was the perfect place to grow up and learn to care for a garden(-: I love prunning my privet hedge too. Something about the good old clippers buzzing along and making the hedge all straight and pretty. It is a back breaker but its a satisfing job! Thanks for sharing your story!!!

  7. You have a way with words that makes me buzz along your footsteps as your stories unveil. I can relate to your wonderful childhood gardening memories, mine took place in this very garden I'm typing from now, which then belonged to my beloved nanna and I am forever grateful for the legacy, both the garden and the 'green thumb' ;-)

  8. Amy, glad you enjoyed the story. I can close my eyes and picture everything as if I was there.

    I used to think I was the only kid who liked helping with yard work.

    Skeeter, it's interesting how so many people have such good memories surrounding family gardens. I also have very fond memories of my grandparents' farm and the good times spent there.

    It's funny how now clipping hedges is not a favorite chore of mine anymore. . .

    Joy, thank you. It surely was a special place, and was instrumental in forming my life-long love of plants and gardening.

    Sights, sounds, and scents are all elements of those memories, sounds like for you as well.

    Aunt Debbi, glad you enjoyed it! Thank you.

    Walk2write, yep, I read that post too, and I'd say I'm definitely the maintainer type!

    Nancy, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed sharing the nostalgia!

    Cindee, My brother rents the house now to his step-daughter and her family. These days it's very different. He sold the garden lot, and it now has a home on it. The house is unrecognizable after his complete inside-and-out rehab.

    I enjoy cutting hedges much more after they're done than while I'm doing it these days. Our hedges and shrubs here are so big, it's an exercise in endurance. I wear anti-vibration gloves, and am usually sore for a few days after buzzing a hedge around here. Some of them require a ladder to trim.

    Violet, aw, thank you for the compliment. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. How lucky you are to be able to care for your grandmother's garden. It must fill you with memories just being out there. My memories are all in my head, as the old family farms and garden spots are now in the hands of people unrelated to us. I think my grandparents' farm is now a tourist resort. I doubt there's anything left of the orchard, the garden, or the house. And the old well we used to draw water from in a wooden bucket, well I'm sure that's gone too. The memories of those special places though, will always be with me, and I'm so grateful for the experiences I had in them.

  9. I have to use a ladder on my hedge too. Its a hard job but I still like to see it all finished(-: Still sore from cutting it last week.

  10. Can't wait for the next installment of this story.

  11. Thanks for sharing these memories; it brings back memories of my own.
    This sounds like a wonderful place to grow up; I look forward to reading the rest of the story.


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