By Christina VanGinkel
I was saddened to hear of the passing on of a good friend, who even though she was well into her nineties, was as quick as a person was one quarter her age. She was one of the first persons to give me cuttings from her garden, actually, thinking back, I think she was the very first person to do so, and she continued doing so right up through last summer.
She did this for so many people and as far as I know, the majority of her cuttings always survived. She always passed them on with bits of wisdom as to how to replant them, what size plant it had come from, if it was going to be a good producer, and so on. In addition, once she gave you a cutting or a plant, she remembered it as if she had passed on one of her own children, if she would have had any to pass along, as even though she was a widow, her husband and she had never had any children, none that I ever knew about anyhow. She would ask how the plant was doing, or if the cutting had taken hold, if it was producing , or what had I done to it to make it come to an early passing, because if it died, it was surely something I had done to it, nothing that she or the plant itself were at fault for.
Her garden truly was her child. She never read a single book or article on gardening as far as I know, yet she always had the tallest tomatoes, the biggest ears of corn, the most perfect carrots, and such a wild array of flowers around her complete vegetable garden, that she left the florists around town wondering just how she did it. She truly had what one would call the proverbial green thumb. If she planted it, it grew. If she weeded it, the weeds were afraid to come back, and the produce that came from her garden was always the biggest, tastiest, most colorful produce one could find anywhere. She would tenderly save seeds, almost a lost art, from her plants each year for the following year's garden. These she also shared with a select few. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be on that short list cherished our spots. We even bragged to others that we had been gifted with seeds from such and such a plant that she had grown the previous year and you should see how well its offspring were doing in our own yards and gardens.
With my own skills for gardening lacking, I always knew I could call her up or stop by, and fill up on some advice. I could even bring along an ailing plant to leave in her care until she had nurtured it back to health. Then, she would give it back, all green and healthy, along with a long list of do's and don'ts, and the advice that if it started to look ill again, do not wait so long to bring it back, as one of these times even she would not be able to bring it back to life. She always tried to tell me that I had more of a knack for growing things than I would admit, and even with her passing, I will continue to argue that point with her, as a gardener I might try to be, but a natural at it by no stretch of the imagination.
In the summer, she was so often out in her garden, that if I knew I needed to talk, as long as I was willing to pull a few weeds while I rambled on, she was always willing to tender care to my own self too, the same way she did so with her plants. And so, with spring many months away, I will not be looking forward to it as much as I have in years past, as I will have to rely on my own instincts and those of my husband from here on out for all things garden related. If by chance she can look down on us from her garden, as she must be in a garden somewhere, otherwise, the universe would surely fall apart; I hope that she will help make the sunshine bright. That she will make the rain fall where it is needed, and help the clouds know just when they need to linger, to provide a bit of shade for the long hot summer days of life that lie ahead.