The generosity of gardeners, comrades of the spade
A gardener finds that her favorite activity is filled with generous acts of communication and sharing.
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“No one can garden alone,” Elizabeth Lawrence observed. Her "Gardening for Love" celebrates the connections made by “hard-working farm women who are never too tired … to gather seeds, to dig and pack plants, and to send them off with friendly letters.” Similarly, her "The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens" is more than a book about the minor bulbs of spring. It also is an account of the 10-year correspondence between two gardeners, Lawrence in North Carolina and Mr. Krippendorf in Ohio.Skip to next paragraph
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Another verse to their horticultural anthem was composed by Sydney Eddison, who, without our having met, mailed me a clump of Carl Krippendorf snowdrops after she learned that I admired Lawrence’s book. The bulbs’ route was appropriately circuitous: from Krippendorf, who had dug his start from an old cemetery, to his granddaughter Mary Ley to Eddison to me.
Not surprisingly, Eddison affirms that “every garden is a record of the life and times not only of its creator but a host of ‘significant others’ who have contributed to it” in her book "A Patchwork Garden."
Plants from friends and strangers, letters from gardeners unknown and known, advice and experiences imparted, books and articles and blogs written and read — all are testaments to the pleasure of sharing our gardens. Albeit individual and idiosyncratic, gardening ultimately is communal.
George Park’s telephone call — made to answer my bush beans questions — affirmed this mutuality of gardeners. Park Seed is the oldest family-owned, mail-order seed company in the country, yet Park was helpful and modest, interested in how my small Vermont garden was doing.
His grandfather began the company in 1868, selling seeds he had grown in his backyard and insisting, “Your success and pleasure are more to Park than your money.” Today, Park’s offers thousands of different seeds and plants, shipped from a maze of climate-controlled rooms and greenhouses. Grandfather George wouldn’t recognize the place, but he’d recognize his grandson’s telephone call. Any gardener would.
Karan Davis Cutler, a former magazine editor and newspaper columnist, is the author of scores of garden articles and more than a dozen books, including “Burpee - The Complete Flower Gardener” and “Herb Gardening for Dummies.” She now struggles to garden in the unyieldingly dense clay of Addison County, Vt., on the shore of Lake Champlain, where she is working on a book about gardening to attract birds and other wildlife. She blogs regularly for Diggin’ It.
Editor’s note: To read more by Karan Davis Cutler, see our blog archive. The Monitor’s main gardening page offers articles on many gardening topics. See also our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our next contest.