Tending: A daughter’s tale

I plunge my trowel into the moist soil and wrangle out a clump of pansies. These happy yellow-faced flowers are starting to look a little long in the tooth, but still have some life left in them. I can’t bear to throw them out, so they’ll be  getting new life in a pot with other misfit transplants that will be perfect on the shaded patio in back. This is the happiest time of my day – tending the garden. I would gladly neglect inside chores, work, and even writing to spend the rest of my summer, and perhaps the rest of my days, tending flowers. I ponder why this is so, but deep down I already know the answer.

From the time I was old enough to walk I spent my early days following Daddy around the yard. Each summer evening after supper, he’d leave the inside work behind and tend the flowers and garden. Never mind that he’d just spent all day working in someone else’s greenhouse – this was the work he loved. We’d putter in the yard together. I’d follow along while he carried buckets of water, sifted composted soil and scattered pink fertilizer around the stems of young tomato plants. I learned the names of every kind of petunia, marigold and  tomato. Big Boy, Early Girl, beefsteak, and cherry tomatoes, which sadly tasted nothing like cherries, all went into the garden  behind our greenhouse. Tiny tomato sprigs that Daddy had painstakingly started in our cellar from seeds back in March, were now brave little plants that grew into bushes under our care. At the end of our gardening, there would always be time for a wheelbarrow ride, then sitting in Daddy’s lap in the cool darkness of the porch until bedtime.

Today, I no longer grow tomatoes, but I have flowers. Perennial gardens of Black-Eyed Susan, Sedum and Euonymus  edge the house and yard, and pots and boxes of colorful annuals brighten the porch and patio. I have never mastered the art of growing geraniums the way Daddy did, but I’ve learned the art of growing my new favorites.  Bright orange Gerber daisies shade deep blue petunias, and blue lobelia rings delicate Maiden Hair ferns. Yellow tuberous begonias kiss red verbena in a giant coffee cup, while pairs of Purple Fountain Grass reach for the sky in matching pots. My gardens are more varied than Daddy’s were, but just as loved.

Every time I sprinkle handfuls of fertilizer around my plants, and dig into the dark moist soil with my favorite trowel, I remember those days we spent together. Every time I enter a greenhouse and smell the deep sweet smell of moist earth, I feel the hard packed dirt of our greenhouse floor beneath my feet, and once again see the rows of tiny seedlings awaiting our care.

Thanks Daddy, for teaching me to tend.

Daddy and his daughters in our greenhouse. That’s me in the middle.

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