Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Gardener's Legacy

By Christina VanGinkel

Some people garden because they like the bounty of vegetables that their efforts provide, some like the fresh flowers that color their yard or house when cut, some garden because they love the plants they care for. Most garden for all of these reasons, and it is often most evident when that gardener has reached the end of his or her life, and those still here carry on taking care of the inheritance left behind, their plants!

People who garden with the intent to share their love of all things green and growing often leave a lasting legacy when they pass away. Take my mother for example, who grew plants year round, even in her later years when she had moved from the large house we grew up in, complete with a room just for her plants, to a small apartment that had two big windows facing south. She could have chosen a slightly larger apartment on the other side of the building, but instead chose the one she lived the last ten years of her life because of its southerly position. She happily gardened away in that small apartment, sharing plants, and their offings such as cherry tomatoes right up until her last days. Her plants were distributed to family and friends, each of us knowing which plant to bring home, and how to care for it, because she had made sure of this early on in her illness, as if she were assuring herself that all her little green children would be taken care of and not left to wither away. She had lived a long, fruitful life and so would her plants!

My brother was another green thumb. Any plant he chose to grow did. He was forever starting clippings of this plant and that plant, for whoever would ask. Years after his passing, my sister-in-law continues to care for one of his personal favorites that he had asked her to take when he knew that he would not be with us much longer as he valiantly lost a long battle with a brain tumor. To this day, I cannot walk through a greenhouse in early spring, without sprouting a big smile, as I am reminded of his tender ways with plants as I wander amongst the new green babies waiting for homes.

This was all brought back into focus when I received an email from a dear friend yesterday. His life long partner passed away this past summer and to be sure that their two young granddaughters, and all of their friends, will remember how much both life and gardening meant to this person, he has decided to plant two trees in the local park, with permission from the city, for all to enjoy for many years to come.

Gardening is often so much more than just planting, pulling the occasional weed, and temporarily enjoying the bounty when it flowers or grows an edible plant. Gardening is an ingrained part of the person who participates in it. If you are looking for a hobby that will bring you joy, even define who you are, then gardening may be just the pastime you are in search of. Try it, as you never know, you may have a hidden green thumb just waiting for a plant to care for.

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