OLG -Old Lady Gardener #18 Why do I grow plants?

As winter approaches and my garden here in Minnesota goes to sleep I turn inside to my house plants and those few plants I hope to winter over. Being frugal, really just being cheap, I have taken cuttings from several plants that I believe are easy to grow inside. They are sitting in little pots of water growing roots and waiting to be planted so they can grow on through the snowy days and cold night.

Also in my new sunroom/plant room are some of my house plants. Several of which spend their summers outside and return to the house as the cool weather comes along. (Tropical plants don’t really like our Minnesota winters.) I actually don’t have a lot of house plant.

I have a few pots of Christmas cactus only because when a branch brakes off of my very large old plant I stick the little set of cladodes/leaves in a pot and on it grows.

I have several pots of Peace Lilies, Spathiphyllum. This plant was given to me when I had Breast Cancer over 25 years ago and I just keep growing it. I am a bit superstitious about it continuing to live and be healthy. It has been with me through a lot of health issues. It keeps going and so do I.

Then there are the African Violets. This is a strange plant for me to have. I tend toward easy plants. The ones you stick in any kind of soil, water them and let them grow. I don’t like fussing with plants but here I am with four African violets and sprouting four more leaves. I now have learned they need special soil, must grow in small pots, needs their own fertilizer every week, like temperatures of 70 to 75 and filtered light. Oh come on! Who needs a plant you need to be so careful with? I guess I do!

I have them and increasing my numbers of them.

The only person I knew who really had them growing when I was young was my Aunt and God Mother, Harriet. I was always a big afraid of her. She was a strong woman and had definite ideas about things. I did not want to cross her for sure. She lived on a farm and was not a fussy person but in their dinning room was a fancy metal shelf with many many pots of African Violets. I don’t remember what colors she had. I know there were purple ones but beyond that I have no idea. I don’t remember talking to her about them or knowing how she cared for them. I just remember always looking at them when I was at their house. I remember wanting to know about those flowers and wanted to grow them. I also know my mother thought they were to fussy to be having them at our house and so we did not.

Years later I found myself with two of Harriet’s African violet pots. They are special pots – one pot fitting inside another so you bottom watered them with the moisture being absorbed through the porcelain walls. (thats another thing about these plants you don’t ever want to get water on leaves and then have the sun hit them – bad news for sure)

Somehow this interest in these small fuzzy plants that can take years to flower and months to sprout have take hold of me. They connect me back to my childhood and people who scared me and loved me and some how they become a touchstone of sorts.

This act of gardening and growing plants took hold when I was young. I never had people who acted as mentors to teach me but the family around me were from the farm or were farmers and gardeners. They grew things outside and in. Gardens are what they did but not really what they shared. I know I watched and wanted to be a part of that tradition. For a long time I secretly wanted to be a farmer. The idea of riding the tractor across the fields was thrilling to me and to be honest still is. If I am out driving through the heartland especially in the fall or early spring when the field are being tilled watching those tractors makes my heart sing, just a little bit. My cousins who lived on the farm thought I was crazy. They knew the reality of farm life and the work it entailed. They did it and I dreamed about it.

I grew up living in the city and now live in an even larger city but there is dirt under my finger nails all the time. There is mud on the soles of my boots as I enter the house and now there is a small room dedicated to plants in our house. I can’t really answer that question of why do I grow plants. There is something in me that needs to have my hands in the soil. Something within me that needs to help things grow.

I think it has to do with the family of farmers – the men who told me woman don’t farm, the women who scared me but tenderly gardened – planting flowers and vegetables that fed the family – these people seem to live in my bones. There is Harriet, Inez, Grandma Carlson, Herb and Ester, LaVern and Grandpa Hult, Gen and my Mom. This growing things was not for my brother or sister. So why me? Why did I pick up this need to get down and dirty?

Why do I at 70 still wish I had a field to plough and plant?

I guess there are some things we just don’t find answers to. My eye tracks plants wherever we go. I follow the weather patterns and the sunrise and sunset. I have already ordered the Whole Seed Catalog for this new year. Actually two of them one for me and one for my daughter. I know crazy but nice to have one here at the house all the time in the winter to read about plants from around the world and plan for spring.

I expect all of us have something that pulls us – for some it is music, or visual art, sewing or cooking, woodworking, even reading, and writing can be the pull that holds you and keeps you motivated and happy.

So what is it that makes you happy? What is that thing you do or keep coming back to? It might also drive you a bit crazy like plants and gardens do for me but still you just keep coming back to it.

The question for today is:

Why do I ___________________?

(it is always interesting to ask yourself why or how did this _____ get started)

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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1 Response to OLG -Old Lady Gardener #18 Why do I grow plants?

  1. Ramona says:

    So interesting to read about the people that influenced you to grow plants. I had a family friend who grew African violets. The only plant in my house is a lily I’ve kept alive since my father-in-law died (24 years ago). It doesn’t bloom every year, but I’m delighted when it does. I like your observation, “these people seem to live in my bones.”
    My question would have to be, “Why do I read?”
    And since I’ve already written today’s post, I’ll save that for another day.

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