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Daffodils in Ruth Clausen's garden

Welcome to
The Womanswork Story Bank

February 20, 2021-- We asked our Womanswork community to tell us about a mistake they have made in their garden, indoors or out, that they learned from, and that could be instructive to others.

Click here to share your story. We will publish new submissions every few days, with the newest ones at the top.

"I felt very pleased with myself for saving the 10 or 12 amaryllis bulbs that bloomed throughout the winter in my house last year. I thought I would get them to rebloom this year, but I discovered that I had done something wrong that caused the bulbs to produce leaves but no blossoms. After consulting with my go to horticulturist, Ruth Rogers Clausen, I learned what my mistakes were. After my amaryllis bloomed I cut back the stems with faded blossoms (OK to do) and left the leaves intact (still good).  But when summer came I stored them in their pots on my screened in porch in a corner and let them sit there all summer. When the weather turned cool I brought them indoors and stored them in the basement.  In November I brought the bulbs in their pots upstairs and put them in the sun and started watering them. I noticed that the bulbs seemed smaller than the previous year.  What had happened, explains, Ruth, is they were not getting enough sunlight during the summer months, which is necessary for photosynthesis to occur.  Nor were they getting needed water. She advised me to put them outdoors in dappled shade when the weather warms up and water them occasionally, or let them get water from rain. Many winter bulbs go dormant earlier in the year, but Amaryllis keep growing until mid to late summer.” --Dorian Winslow, February 20, 2021 

"Garden mistakes abound for both newbies and those who have gardened for years. This miscalculation I will never forget: we were moving from one house to another. My husband and I argued about WHEN to put the old house on the market! I had a hidden agenda: I had nurtured a fine collection of fall-blooming outdoor cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). These die down after a late winter/spring bloom, remaining dormant through summer. I refused to leave a single one behind, but WHERE exactly were they?  In spite of having closed on the new house, I stalled all summer till the cyclamen foliage emerged in late August. Only then would I lift the plants and put the house up for sale. After planting them in my new garden a herd of deer came through and ate every last cyclamen, corms and all! Serves me right!” --Ruth Rogers Clausen, February 18, 2021


March 19, 2020-- We asked our Womanswork community to tell us how they as gardeners are processing and living with the difficult events unfolding around us right now.   Are you getting outside into the garden? Are you starting seeds indoors, or thinking of planting more edible crops? Are you taking your dahlia tubers out of storage like you always do, or giving your children a role in the garden? Tell us how you are planting the seeds of optimism in your life. 

Click here to share your story. We will publish new submissions every couple of days, with the newest ones at the top.

"A Gathering Basket. It’s an object of no significance, a gathering basket, it was once rescued from a dumpster in the driveway of my parents home. Was it that the home was being abandoned for the first time by the children of the family that lived there for over 60 years, or was it the memories that ran between the wicker weave, the missing handle or the history that came before this family even set foot in their home. You see, its a very old flower basket from an unknown time, a flat pan with shallow sides that gracefully pull towards the center where the high arched handle once stood above. it was once painted with a bold floral pattern now faded and bruised. The design was perfect for cutting roses, lilies, irises, lilacs and laying them flat, gathering wild flowers so as not to bruise or damage the petals. Garden memories of the fragrance, rainbows of silken petals, damp morning soils, ripe fruits sweet and tart, the wizz and buzz of the insects as they pass by you to pollenate the rich harvest. As children in that one acre yard we nurtured the land, there were always flowers, fruits and vegetables to pluck, snip, cut and bring in. The vegetables we grew were ordinary beans, peas, asparagus, beets, salad greens, tomatoes of all sizes and shapes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, summer and butternut squash to name a few. There were also plants you could not buy at the A&P Rhubarb, red currents and the Scottish black currents, the inedible bean Squash that invaded the neighbors yard, water cress, hazelnuts, French Radishes and sour cherries. This ordinary flat pan harvest basket was not always ours, it came from Gram, who's yard was one forth the size of ours. She was the one who instilled a love of nurture in my Father her only child. Gram Introduced and led my Mom into a world of gardening a passion that took hold and bound them together for all their days. Its insignificance was at its height during the 5 hot days of the late June estate sale. At the sales end my sibling tossed it through the air. No one had bought it, into the dumpster it landed with two generations of books, and unwanted bric-a-brac broken and mildewed china cabinets, horse hair mattresses and piles of scrap lumber. It lay there with the refuse of life, but It spoke to me softly. I didn’t rescue many things that day nor in all the days that followed or preceded this day. I would rather own one significant object than horde and jam my home. When I saw it I knew where to keep it, where it would go. I had a place for a handleless old gathering basket with so many memories. Its days of service are over. Instead this ancient basket graces the entrance to my Garden from above my kitchen doorway. During Covid19 isolation It reminds me every time I go into my garden to carry on the tradition of nurturing our land, our family and our friends."-- Jessica Leslie, April 25, 2020

"My garden is a true Eden, (minus the apple trees). It is my yoga, my swimming, my exercise class, in total my lifeline. Being separated from family, and friends, but thank you Zoom, is tougher than stale bread. Seeing the spring flowers push through the ground, revives my spirits. The daffodils are not "wandering lonely" as I'm admiring them everyday. The deer, bless their hungry souls, have not, so far, eaten my tulips to green stumps. They must know that my need is greater than theirs this year. (I hope I don't regret saying that). Some years, I bemoan the squill running amok through the lawn. Not this year. The color perfectly sets off the dandelions! I have about an acre and a half of land. A third is wooded which opens to a small lake. The rest is a mixture of fruit, flower, and vegetable beds interspersed with lawn. I have both sun and shady areas, so plenty of avenues for variety. Each year I plan one big project. Perhaps laying a new path, or digging a new bed. This year I had numerous new projects in mind, and the stay-at-home order is helping me accomplish much more than one. To date, I have demolished a disintegrating raised bed, and built a new one. Built a raised pollinator bed in the middle of four vegetable beds. Compost and fertilizer has been spread and dug in. Peas, radishes, spinach, lettuce and bok choi seeds are in. A new path has been roughed in. As the weather warms up (I live near Boston) my seedlings growing under lights in my basement, will grace the garden and prove that life will be brighter, colors stronger, and, as the saying goes, hope will spring eternal. Life may have irrevocably changed for us, but the garden hasn't. The hellibores have still bloomed, the hydrangeas are still budding, the garlic will produce scapes, and the weeds will still wend their merry (annoying) way into all the corners. I look forward to the fruit and vegetable bounty, not just because of the feelings of accomplishment, but as a means of sharing with family, friends and neighbors. I always over plant (tomatoes in the middle of a flower bed for example) and I will try and plant even more this year. We will all need to be refreshed by a crisp cucumber, spicy pepper or juicy tomato when life returns to the new normal. A little TLC in the garden brings big rewards for the body, mind and soul." --Linda Thomson-Clem, April 22, 2020

"My gardens are beautiful this spring, with time to pay attention to them. Like people, the relationships in my garden flourish with more care!"  --Ursula King, April 14, 2020

"Hi! Though there is a wave of occasional overwhelm, grief, madness, or sadness, I am planning the largest garden to date. Each day I tend to the containers and new vegepod, and if time willing, I rip out some grass and sew some seeds. We have new neighbors on the side of us, and a fence has recently come down, allowing the deer and groundhogs to come and dig in our fresh soil. We're spreading hot pepper flakes and mint to deter the hungry beasts. There is bamboo down the block, a mere 10 min walk away, that we are going to cut to use for trellises and maybe a deer "fence." I want beans and peas climbing up over bamboo caves and walls for the kids to play in. We are sharing seeds with our closest friends, and making closer friends of those that have drifted. It helps me to be a helper, and take care of my heart through sharing healthy magical seeds of potential." --Teresa Brown, April 7, 2020

"A perfect tree, standing alone...Suddenly, a perfect bird flies into the tree, gracing it even more. Together in nature, relationships born through necessity. Each in harmony with the other. One feeds and drops seed, giving what the other needs. And so on into eternities, Earths' will abide." --Ellen Davila, April 7, 2020

"Doing much more gardening!!!"  --Deltima Hernandez-Saldana, April 4, 2020

"Here in California we've been under stay at home advisement for weeks now. And though I was not home but on a book tour on the east coast when the order came, it's been two full weeks since being home. I am very sad that my book tour was sharply abbreviated for now, but I can tell you that my garden doesn't care a whit and is delighted to have me home. The peonies are up, the roses are in bud, the seed potatoes arrived and today - April 1st - I participated in that age old playing in the dirt activity of sieving the compost. From old avocado skins, lawn clippings, carrot ends, seemingly endless egg shells, last fall's leaf biomass came the most delicious bucket of crumbly black soil. It reminded me to 1. be patient, and 2. get dirty, and 3. believe in miracles with time and persistence. Keep gardening - wash your hands - and wear your womanswork gloves! I will send Dorian a photo of the compost with gloves ;) "  --Jennifer Jewell, April 1, 2020

"It is vastly reassuring to see and hear the spring migrants begin to return: Red-Winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, Northern Flickers, American Woodcock. I go out in the early morning or at dusk just to listen to the music of the birds . . . who know nothing about viruses, the Dow, or politics. Nature is the eternal healer."  --Lisle Merriman, March 25, 2020

"Although the restaurant I work with is closed, I continue planting edible flower seedlings, herbs, peppers and tomatoes and have begun cleaning raised beds. Despite the tumult and uncertainty, this too, will pass and we will see restaurants open again, stores will be restocked and my seedlings will thrive--we all will! This hopefully has given the country a reset and we have come to realize there are more important issues than those which our country have grappled with over the past 3-4 years. Health, family and the ability to work and bring in income are the basics of life and what we are as Americans--the rest is superfluous." --Deb Georgitis, March 25, 2020

"I live in Florida and we were beginning to feel and see signs of “spring” It is a time for pruning and planting. But as I spend time in my gardens cursing the weeds I find that I’m listening to the birdsongs, watching my squirrel’s scamper up and down my trees and continue to watch the family of raccoons who are watching me. I smile when the great Egrets stop by to see if there are any fish to eat and I continue to be cautious and grateful that no alligators have shown up in my backyard wetlands. But what I am in awe of the most in my gardens is that non of the wildlife is at all aware that anything is going on differently with the humans that they are sharing the same space and time with. It brings me moments of peace and tranquility to move into their reality and realize that their lives are lived with survival at all times. Suddenly the weeds don’t seem important At all." -- Jerilyn Santiago, March 25, 2020

"I live in the Midwest United States and spring is just getting started here. My garden is mostly about herbs, flowers and sanctuary. When we moved in 12 years ago, it was a bare suburban lot and now I can count on a mature garden to greet me each year, I plant a lot of natives (many lessons learned there!) for butterflies, birds and insects. Each year I count on seeing small frogs (toads?) make homes in the same places and they are all named Elvis so I don't have to try to make a distinction, I have a small garden shed with a tin roof that can occupy me for endless hours. I have been able to spend two very satisfying days in my garden cleaning up and uncovering spring growth--what a solace it was and will continue to be as our current situation plays out, During the full blooming season I create arrangements for my home and to give to friends. I also enjoy drying and using my fresh herbs in my cooking. I am so grateful that this will be available to me very soon. Many thanks to all of you whose stories I enjoyed reading and best wishes for a wonderful season in your own gardens."  --Rhonda Reeves, March 25, 2020

"Living in NW Florida perplexes me each year with fluctuating winter temperatures. Daffodils have been planted in a bed that gets filtered sunlight mostly. The greenery came up nicely but only one plant flowered of 3 dozen. The shade is produced by a grand water-oak tree so I know the soil is on the acidic ph side. The hydrangeas are sprouting there new growth, but they had a hard year here for the first year due to excessive daily rain causing leaves to spot & drop and aphid infestation despite treatment with e.oil mist. Normally mulch had been necessary to retain ground moisture, but the opposite occurred last year. I had to remove it & add sand beneath the limbs to enhance drainage. We will see how this year goes." --Judy Atchison, March 25, 2020

"My parents grew up in the ‘20s, the 1920s that is. Scarcity was the norm. They both lived in the country: Dad on a hardscrabble Kentucky farm, Mom in a rural town in central Illinois. Dad’s childhood was tough. On occasion, he would say that in the winter they had “beans and cornbread for lunch, and cornbread and beans for supper.” While this was said for effect—generally when I wouldn’t finish something on my plate—he wasn’t exaggerating. Mom said, “We didn’t feel poor because everyone was poor, and with the chickens and Poppy’s big garden, there was always enough to eat.” Needless to say, nothing in my childhood home went to waste. Now, a hundred years later—COVID. Will it usher in a new period of scarcity? So it seems. An undercurrent of dread has invaded my garden plans. Since last week when everything changed, I have planted potatoes, peas, and salad greens at the community garden, inventoried vegetable seeds, and cleaned off the light stand which morphs into random basement storage zone each winter. Outside I’ve been eyeing sunny areas of my back garden, up till now reserved for ornamentals. Some big raised planter boxes would maximize growing space for edibles. The brick patio could hold pots of dwarf tomatoes, cukes and chard, perhaps, instead of succulents. This week, I’ll start flats of vegetable seeds indoors. Anxiety aside, spring arrived this week along with lockdown. My garden is a balm. Ignorant of case counts and executive orders, the Cornell Pink azalea and Japanese apricot are attired in pink, heavy with the buzz of honeybees. Pale daffodils and bright blue squill have returned on schedule, along with the trillium and bloodroot in the woods. The yellow of the dauntless forsythia is sending out its own wordless lessons. In the garden, I can breathe. If there can be said to be an upside to a pandemic, it has slammed the brakes my somewhat frenetic pace. I can strive to be here. Now. Because there’s nowhere I need to be. Even the sounds have changed. There’s almost no air traffic over my northern New Jersey suburb, and few cars. The chorus of birds in the morning, the chirps of spring peepers from the pond at dusk are now center stage. A blessing. I’m thankful in a new way for my garden, my husband, my family and my parents, may they rest in peace. They scrimped and saved to buy a house and send four kids to college. They had a “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” lifestyle well before Earth Day 1970, and they taught me “a thing or two” along the way. Berry picking this summer anyone?" --Marta McDowell, March 22, 2020

"We are near the finish line of lovingly restoring a circa 1970's Lord and Burnham greenhouse to our property from a site on Cape Cod. It is a dream come true. Every day I take photos to update the progress. I will print those photos for a keepsake book to show all the different people who contributed to the project when I throw a big party to thank them when this crisis abates... and it will. I busy myself with perusing catalogs and online sites for equipment, seeds, how to's, and then pick up one of the five books I have bought on the entire subject, make a cup of tea and curl up to read, learn and plan. I check in daily with close friends and family by text or phone. A few of us are planning a FaceTime 'date' for the day we normally would have joined together for a monthly pot luck dinner. I have a jar which I fill weekly with one slip of paper of what I am grateful for in that moment and I find myself doing that every 2/3 days instead. I limit my exposure to all the news outlets, it is overwhelming. If I really need info I look up the CDC or local information. I end every day stepping into the new garden shed attached to this amazing restored greenhouse and dream of how I will set it up, then I step into the greenhouse, close my eyes and imagine it full of propagated seeds, a lemon tree, African violets, and flowers, flowers, flowers! We/I, am so very blessed."  --Deb Druar, March 20, 2020 

"So how does YOUR garden grow? Mine is not exactly filled with “cockle shells and silver bells”, but there are quite a few plants in bloom as well as assorted daffs and narcissus. I am discovering new growth daily. I live on the Eastern shore of Maryland in Zone 7b so my very small garden is really gearing up. There is plenty of leaf raking to be done left over from fall.  I love my Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’ (fumewort--horrid name!). The flowers and leaves are fleeting but put on a nice show for a couple of weeks.  The foliage disappears very politely not like daffodils.  Hellebores or Lenten roses are past their best at my house, although I still enjoy a few late blooms of ‘Ivory Prince’.  The tepals on the spent flowers turn rosy pink after the petals and stamens drop, and the seed-bearing fruits begin to swell.  These are growing under a huge native beech tree that takes up a lot of water, but the hellebores seem to thrive there.My backyard was all grass when we moved here- at least it was an excuse for grass. It drained poorly and so we had it torn out and replaced it with 8” of gravel and topped it with local stone flagstones. Viola walteri ‘Silver Gem’ seems very happy living between the flagstones and blooms from January well into the summer and then again sometimes when the temperatures drop. I love the strongly veined, pewter leaves against the stone.  My Daphne odorata ‘Aureo-marginata’ has been blooming with wonderfully fragrant flowers since late January. It is still going strong and perfumes the garden. The plant is about 4 years old, maybe 2.5’ tall, but loaded with flowers and more buds to come. It doesn’t seem to have been affected badly by the lack of rain last summer.More raking today and I’ll plan to sow some lettuce seeds. I’ll test the seeds first to see how viable they are. I tend to keep extra seed from year to year and many kinds don’t last well. Greetings and all good wishes. Those of us fortunate enough to be gardeners can find solace and peace in them."  --Ruth Rogers Clausen, March 20, 2020

"SE PA is very warm. Maples are coming out, Forsythia in full bloom. First time ever in 30 years i planted peas March 8, before St. Patricks Day. Lettuce is in too. Both have row cover. Also had a stuck tick on March 10th, a dog tick, not a deer tick. My lyme doc believes the dog ticks are not as dangerous as the deer ticks but the tick spray is on my garden shoes, my kneeler and gardening is a one session time so i can get the clothes right to the washer.No in and out puttering. In the garden i can forget about all of this. If only people would stay home and garden, get off the beaches, off the playgrounds, we could "bend the curve", I was a doubter when this started but now its time to step up, check on the elderly, and do what is asked of us. And the whining lamp is OUT. thanks for letting me vent!"   --Paula K, March 20, 2020

A Poem:

"Feel what is where

Write what you feel

Speak what is there

Do not judge yourself, not at all

Let it flow

Share what is raw

You will not be judged.


We derail more now in unseen ways

We stumble over the unknown rocks

We get lost in this eerie landscape

We struggle in the new normal

Now more than ever even

We need to embrace all of that.


Embrace the beautiful mistakes, the ugly ones

Embrace the screaming mind

Embrace the punching fist

Embrace the feeling of insanity


Do not judge, not one, not at all

Let us appreciate us as never before

Lost as we are, to discover in awe

To find new beauty in the new core


--Bart Louwagie, March 19, 2020

"My husband and I are hunkering down at home with our dog and cat. I am alternately feeling hopeful and anxious. My small business, Womanswork, is taking some serious body blows from this virus, with large customers canceling any products we haven’t already shipped out to them. I live about 65 miles north of NYC in a semi-rural town that is on a commuter train line into the City. I am looking forward to nurturing seeds that I started last weekend. I tend to pay too much attention to my little seedlings, even in an average year. Being at home now 24/7 I predict that I will be watching them like one watches a pot that never boils. I always find it very satisfying to have a seedling nursery growing in my greenhouse off the back of our house. Once the seeds germinate I will transplant them (known as pricking out) into individual cells within larger trays. I ordered mostly annual flowers such as cosmos, cleome and 3 varieties of zinnia.  I also have nasturtium and black-eyed susan vine. I love growing cucumbers and making cold cucumber soup in the summer, so I started two varieties of cucumber too! Maybe I’ll order more vegetable seeds. Take care and stay well and safe during this challenging time."   --Dorian Winslow, March 19, 2020

"Last Friday all of New York City, my hometown, went into a state of COVID-19 shock. That day I came to my weekend house, thinking I'd be back in town on Sunday. Well, it's Thursday and it looks like I'm here for a while. A long while. I want to make lemonade out of this lemony situation -- I'm going to get out in my garden! For many years I've haphazardly developed small perennial gardens on my 1.4 acre property. When Spring comes I'm always scrambling to cut down last-years growth and get ahead of the weeds. Now I have garden time stretching out ahead of me. This week, as the situation has gotten more scary by the hour, I've hit the dirt. Literally. I've attacked those tiger lilies that have gotten out of control - that's one invader I CAN battle. Next, rampant lily of the valley. And when that's done, I will have many patches where I can plant flowers I've always wanted. More peonies! Definitely more hostas. Maybe even hollyhocks! I promise to maintain social distancing between people, if not plants. Wish me luck!"  --Karen Zukowski, March 19, 2020

"We wanted life to become more simple, perhaps this is a mental shift to get there. We are all good for the moment. My heart breaks for those who are struggling."   --Helga Panrucker, March 18, 2020

"When I heard that the whole SF Bay Area was going into lockdown and self isolation, the first thing I realized was that we were not going to be able to buy any compost or soil for gardening so we dashed out to get a large supply while everyone else was panicking over toilet paper."  --Linda Stiles, March 17, 2020

"I'm in the Bay Area of California and we have been advised to stay home. My gardening chores are now a wonderful way to pass the time and enjoy the plants that are now in bloom. It's probably the only time I look forward to weeding! I hope you all stay safe and healthy and that we are soon going to be back to our normal lives. Take time to enjoy your gardens."   --Carolyn Stratton, March 17, 2020

"We (most of my friends) are retired and staying home, except for food and doctor appointments. I voted today! I have been sending silly jokes to lighten the load. For more serious folks a direct site for a meditation candle from Mayo Clinic. Most of us are concerned that folks are not being tested, so we do not have a real view about how many folks do have the virus. Here in Arizona my orange tree is full of blossoms with baby navel oranges. My roses are blooming (45 plants) and my butterfly garden is getting ready for the season. Great idea to record what is happening! Thanks."  --Virginia Woolf, March 17, 2020

"I buy organic at my local co-op, the board of which I chaired in the past. And, I follow advice of Nobel Winning author Linus Pauling who wrote the book "Vitamin C and the Common Cold." This means I take 2 Vit. C capsules every morning with breakfast, AND, if "something" is coming over me I take up to 8 more such 1000mg pills an hour apart, with a bit of food, during the day. And, of course, stay away from people, breath outdoors a lot, wash hands, shower daily. So far so good."  --Bob Heltman, March 17, 2020

“Hi. We just got back from two months in Europe. This is day 6 of self imposed isolation-neither one of us has any symptoms of the Coronavirus. We are so anxious to get started on our garden. Right now it’s cleanup time. In one more week we can go to the nursery-hopefully we won’t close them all. All we have are nasturtium seeds ready to plant. Weather is beautiful on the Oregon coast." -- Lisa Myers, March 17, 2020

"Hello from Tucson AZ!! Actually, I'm a bit north of Tucson and sometimes have a more mild climate. It is gorgeous here this time of year! I am lucky to have a covered courtyard so I am able to grow agapanthus and bird of paradise. The birds are beautiful this year! The agapanthus doesn't bloom as large or as plentiful as it does in England or CA, but I love it! Today, I was out in my yard and courtyard looking at all the weeds we have since we had an unusual amout of rain this winter! I even have a great deal of volunteer lupine in the front! The wildflower seeds were starting to come up, but we have bunnies here that love that new growth and my yard can also become a salad bar for javelinas who will destroy flowers and gentle plants... needless to say, wildflowers were chewed to the ground. I have better luck in the back yard since we have a wall around our yard. In the back, I have a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree, grapefruit, orange, and kumquat.... there is large pot that has basil, rosemary and cilantro that is doing well in this climate right now. Doubt if it will be doing very well in the months of June, July Aug & Sept!! I've always loved working in the yard... it brings me peace of mind! With this unknown villain virus, I will be outside puttering quite a lot." --MaryPat Straw, March 17, 2020

 "I have an edible garden in southern New Mexico. My fruit and nut trees provided enough for me to freeze, dehydrate and make jam. All of which I am using now. My greens are big enough to make small salads. The herbs are seasoning dishes. My son lives in an apartment. He has a mini greenhouse on his coffee table and herbs in containers on his balcony. My daughter just finished planting 40 fruit trees on her southern California property. She has raised planters for vegetables. We urge everyone to become more sustainable. It's good for us and the environment." --Anne Rivera, March 17, 2020

"Greetings from a London in lockdown. Life is very strange here at the moment. What awful times. I have to stay at home now for weeks maybe months but I am so grateful to have my roof garden. I'm growing as many vegetables and fruits as possible. I find that very comforting -- us gardeners are optimists."  --Catherine Horwood, March 17, 2020


February, 2019-- Below, reprinted with permission, are stories we received when we asked our customers to close their eyes and imagine their garden and tell us what they see and why that makes them happy. 

“ We live smack dab in the city of Atlanta, and our backyard of 2 years has basically been a long rectangle of grass since we arrived. My father lives in Florida - when he gifted us about 11 (!!) camellia plants last year, it kickstarted my brain and I haven't been able to stop dreaming about gardening ever since. I've been dabbling and tinkering out in the garden for about half of a year now, literally starting from scratch with my skillset and the garden itself. I wish I could send pictures of the progress my husband and I have made (with the "help" of our 1.5 year old, too!). Still, I read something once that stuck with me and makes me think of the question posed about what we see when we close our eyes in our garden -- it was that when you're in your garden, you don't necessarily see what is there, you see the possibility and the dream of what's coming, mixed with what's right in front of you. In my mind, I see layers of natives and greens, hints of blues, textures, Ryan Gainey, the woodlands of Highlands, NC. In reality, there is patchy grass and new beds of perennials, camellias, and ferns. So much to anticipate in 2018, and a lot of work to be done! ” --Katherine C
“ We bought a farm last early summer. We missed the spring blooming season and summer proved wet and all of our seeds rotted. This year we are ready to dig in our dirt and see what gifts mother nature has as the woods and fields wake from their cold gray slumber. Can't wait to break in my new gloves! The perfect gift from my grandmother! I don't have to wear my husband's old bulky gloves any more. ” --Heather Killeen

“ I’m dreaming about restoring my historic home’s gardens to their former glory! We bought our home in the summer of last year, unfortunately, the gardens were a wreck and many of the plants weren’t salvageable. I can’t wait for spring so I can dive right back into work! ” --Cielo Ibarra

“ Tiny green shoots of daffodils trying to bask in the sun, the fresh smell of turned dirt full of wriggling worms, buds on the lilacs on the verge of bursting and dreaming of a hot shower easing the muscle aches from early gardening! Bring it on, bring it on!!!! ” --Beverly Breeding

“ I think about all the many plants I planted last year and how beautiful my yard would/will be if all my hard work in planting comes to fruition. It will be Sooooo exciting to see all the color and plants. ” --Linda Price

“ I see the beginnings of my Lenten Rose blooming in dark Purplish red. It gives me hope of more flowers and greens for eating, red tomatoes, and dark sweet dirt smelling like it did the first time I smelled it as my Dad slowly turned over dirt preparing a garden for his wife, my mother. ” --Susan Ring

“ From my window I can gaze upon a gathering. It is late winter now, so I can see strong limbs reaching, and bejeweled buds pinned deftly on arms and sleeves. The silhouettes seem to dance in a formation that is ancient and one that calls to me. I go to them, and as I enter the orchard I notice a nest in the crook of a graceful arm, a sign of the season budding upon us. As they reach toward the soft grey sky, snowflakes fall upon my cheeks and I look to the side, to the slow curving slope of sleeping canes. Their ruby hearts mere dreams, and their bee burgeoning blossoms, seem to echo in the soft stillness as a faint melody to faint to hear clearly, but one felt deep in the shadows of my heart. The window blows a branch and as dusk grows closer, a screech owl comes to roost in the nut clan, near the perimeter. The grandfathers and grandmothers murmur amongst themselves about days rich in harvest, when their fruit rolled about like tide, and animals told legends about it. Just beyond the rise, lay an open field; a grand pause and an expectant breath. Under the swath of snow, green tips poked through as the grass rose in small increments to stand for the sun. The rye grass was an extensive green gift to the earth beneath it; a present meant to nourish and feed, in preparation for the breadth of glorious color and variety that would resound in full chorus in a transformed July expanse. Flowers of many variety and herbs for smelling, tasting, drying and saving would flock here at my call and invitation. For now I am making plans, ordering seeds, and resting my feet, until the day when I can turn over the dreamy black soil, and in earnest begin again. ” --Stephanie Kirkbride

“ I’m inspired by new garden and landscaping ideas every season. Two years ago I planted my whole community garden plot with heirloom pepper varieties, zinnias, and marigolds. The next year I tried more traditional fare, like melons, tomatoes, and squash. This year, I am focusing on landscaping and my potted plants. I haven't decided what to do with my community garden plot yet, but I love the thought of getting back out there and digging in soil. And while I believe exposure to soil and plants has many health benefits, I love knowing my different Womanswork gloves will protect my hands. I do a lot of work with my hands, but I still enjoy trying to keep them tender and soft. I have long-cuffed cloth Womanswork gloves with a leather palm for most gardening tasks, and all leather ones for the rougher landscaping and brushwork tasks. Where I live, most native plants have stickers, spines, and pointy leaves, so digging in the soil with gloved hands is essential - or I would risk getting poked by all the residual stickers! We're having a cold spell as I write this, but just thinking about how wonderful gardening is fills me with energy! I think it's time to plan my community garden plot! Thanks for your great products! I've been a regular customer for years, and the fit and style keeps me coming back for myself and for gifts. ” --Shawna Graves

“ We have just down sized to a different home. I am in the process of landscaping the entire yard. Hoping to do a natural , healthy approach to gardening. Yes, SPRING is on the way. Happy planning. ” --Cathie

“ My garden brings me much joy and peace. Trying this year to preserve as much as I can. Usually we have enough for fresh eating and would like to improve on our yield ”

“ I’m dreaming of the earliest flowers. I see skunk cabbage pushing up maroon turbans through muck. I see spicebush brightening our woods with small yellow clusters. I see the burgundy haze of red maples in the distance and the pale yellow sugar maple flowers dangling like wind chimes nearby. I’m looking forward to a cloud of shadblow right outside our house with its blizzard of white petals. Can you see me smiling?" ” --Julia Brine

“ We live near a small lake in Michigan. For several years I tried to create a bountiful garden in the lakeside area my loving sweetie had fenced to prevent deer, but the soil was so sandy that the soil was tired after almost any amount of cultivation. We screwed up our courage to ask a neighbor who owned hundreds of acres across the dirt road from us if we could make a small farm on a piece of land that was cleared, but not under rotating agriculture, as was the rest of her land. She readily agreed and even said our “rent” would be a few garden veggies. We planted peaches, cherries, apples, paw-paw, apricots, persimmons, and hearty kiwi. We sheet mulched the south facing side for a vegetable garden, and we were set. That was seven years ago. Every year we fill the freezer with peaches from a Reliance Peach that has outdone itself. We have a garden plot that I refuse to plant in straight lines, instead making crop circles of lettuce, garlic, onions, potatoes, and even beans! Tomatoes are more or less straight lines in a florida weave. Rosemary and Lavender are sprinkled throughout and catnip is eagerly awaited each year by our two felines: Sunny and Charlie Moonlight. My sweetie has finally accepted the non-linearity of the garden and enjoys the surprise of finding carrots in a new spot each year. Before we established the farm, we were idly looking to move from our lovely lake view just because I was a frustrated gardener. Now it would be hard to imagine another life. All on borrowed land. ” --Robyn Burnham

“ I love to garden and raise chickens, I'm always waiting to see signs of spring in the peaking of buds and flowers and the laying of that first egg. I have three large dogs and one is just a year of age, she is pruning and digging so I will be working to fix her mess and this will lead to new looks in my yard. She was busy this morning pulling a rose bush that has a temporary home in a pot now. The joy of gardening with dogs is never ending, but I love to work in the garden. ” --Donna Stone

“ am dreaming of my maple garden-my sugarbush. I am dreaming of the sun shining, the snow melting, and the trees waking up. I am dreaming of walking through the woods on snowshoes with my portable drill and tapping 800 trees to harvest their sweet sap. I am dreaming of coming home after a long day of boiling to my family’s tradition of a waffle dinner with fresh maple syrup. And after supper I am dreaming of sowing seeds in flats by the wood stove. ” --Karen Moore

“ I have been gardening since I was very young. I always wanted to grow flowers and veggies. This passion has been with me till this day. I love experimenting with my flowers and veggies. They are not always successful but then I just learn from the failure. I live in Michigan and we are currently in the middle of a nasty winter storm. I escape by planning what veggies I'm going to plant. I dream about all the dishes I'm going to make. I love growing tomatoes and can't wait to make bruschetta and pico de gallo, two of my favorites. I was given the a pair of women's Works gloves last year as part of a wonderful Christmas gift. I fell in love with them. I am looking forward to putting those gloves on soon and getting my hands dirty. --Kathy Affholter

“ Last summer for the first time I had regular, consistent gardening help from a professional horticulturist. He helped me identify invasives, which are so prevalent in wetlands, and started a program of removing them. He identified some natives growing on the margins of our property that were surrounded by scrubby, weedy plants and removed the scrubby plants so the natives would have space to flourish. One of the last chores he did before Fall set in was to plant 100+ daffodils on the hill in front of our house overlooking the pond, and 100+ camassia in our wetland meadow garden behind the house. Among many other things, I am anxiously awaiting the emergence of those bulbs!!! Having his help encouraged me to work even more hours and harder in the garden myself. Instead of being overwhelmed by a To Do list, I felt the two of us were really making some headway. I have a long To Do list for this year too, but I feel optimistic we will accomplish a lot! I can't wait for the snow to disappear and the ground to soften. I am always dreaming about my garden. ” --Dorian Winslow

“ I am dreaming about spring and all the glories that season brings. I am living in Minnesota and all is covered in snow. As soon as the snow starts to melt, I am outside looking for the bulbs to poke out of the ground in our front and back yards. We put in a 40 x 40 foot garden area in part of our backyard that is fenced against deer with a wonderful wrought iron arbor entry and wooden gate. Inside the garden we have blueberries, strawberries, grapes, asparagus patch, and rhubarb - all on the sides. Inside that area we have 3 (soon to be 4) 4 x 8 foot raised beds with a central area that will become a sitting area with hopefully a pergola. Last year we started bringing in perennials placed along the sides. My vision of this area is for it to be "total eye candy" of color and deliciousness of all things edible. Last year I also painted a very large mailbox that sits on a post right outside the garden area that holds all my garden tools. Already this space is such a wonderful place to be, only to get better as time goes on. ” --Patricia Jarrett

“ Last fall, I decided to make a "driveway welcoming garden" to enlarge a strip of a garden that was about a foot wide running along the side of the 27 foot garage. It was a boring welcome to my yard, So I dug it out into a curve onto the grassy area. The colorful irises that had been there for several years remain as the background. They can be counted on to be blooming in late May, Then I planted about 50 daffodils and tulips. They will do their welcoming in April and May. Last July, my nature study group visited a blooming daylily farm where decisions were difficult to make. I already had one red lily planted at one end of the garden so for the other end of it, I purchased a tangerine lily and a coral lily. When my bulb plants have had their blooming turn, empty spaces will be filled in with full season annuals of various colors. For fall colors, I will use blooming mums to round out the seasonal change. When visitors come down my driveway next spring, summer and fall, they will be welcomed by various plants and so will my family! ” --Carol Schoonmaker


February 2018 -- Below, reprinted with permission, are stories we received when we asked our readers to tell us where their love of gardening came from.

“ I received the 'gift of gardening' from my father. I resisted for a very long time, convincing myself that I didn't have his green thumb. I'm not sure when the turning point was, but I enjoy my failures and successes, and relish the opportunity to learn every single season!.” --Josephine Schiff

“ The oldest daughter, I followed in my father's footsteps. As he learned to garden so did I. We planted vegetables and then flowers together. We weeded and harvested. We were outside together, and he told me stories about his youth. I married a New Yorker who knew nothing about gardening. We moved to the Massachusetts suburbs and I nudged and nagged, and we began a tomato patch. Boy, was he excited with his first crop. From then on we grew more vegetables, fought off the groundhogs, learned about composting, and went on to flowers. Now our daughter is a great gardener....” --Ashley Rooney

“ I grew up in a housing project apartment complex, so when I moved to the suburbs when I was ten, my father, who loved plants and the natural world, taught me the joys of gardening. Although the backyard of our new house was small he allocated a spot where I could grow what I wanted. I loved selecting seeds and planting them in little grow pots that would be transferred to the ground come springtime. The thrill of watching my garden grow has never diminished; I now have five acres of land and a garden that continues to bring me joy.” --Jane Norman

“ The person who influenced me most was my Dad. He worked at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. He was part of the team that grew all of the plants for their extensive gardens, the long stem roses for graduation and the large potted plants that spent their winters in the greenhouse... I'll never forget the first time he took me to the greenhouse. It was huge and filled with so many different plants. The Jade tree was bigger than me. At home, he grew a big vegetable garden each year. He also grew cuttings of lilacs and shrub roses... He died when I was 15, but his impact on my life will always be with me.” --Rita Woodason

“ The gift of gardening came from my mother. When I purchased my house she went and dug up a bunch of hostas from her garden, put them in sealed baggies and padded manila envelopes and dropped them in the nearby mailbox. This was before mail order plants became available. Everything arrived intact with no damage. Those hostas over the 20+ years have multiplied and flourished in my gardens. I get to see a bit of Mom and my childhood home every year when the hostas pop out of the ground and eventually send up their purple flower stalks.” --Joy Makon

“ My mother gave me the gift of gardening. When I was in my mid-20s, I was out of work for several months, and I had to move back home with my parents. I did everything I could think of to find work, but for awhile it felt as though I'd never have a job again. It was really getting me down. So, my mother, who had recently become obsessed with Square Foot Gardening, gave me a couple of squares in her garden to tinker with. It gave me something positive to do during my time of unemployment, but more importantly, it gave me a lifelong love. I'm now in my 50s and my mother has passed away, but I think of her every time I'm in my garden. She would love what she inspired!” --Tracy Wells

“ My Mom was the flower gardener while my Dad tended his vegetable garden. We also had fruit baring trees and bushes; apple, cherry, plum, apricot, gooseberry, raspberry and more. I remember making marigold pies made of flower petals and mud. Stringing flowers from the Catalpa tree to make necklaces. I would help my Mom harvest Four O'clock seeds at the end of the season for planting in the coming year. Loved helping my Dad pick fresh veggies for meals and freezing. It was a wonderful yard to plant and play in. No wonder I too have a love for gardening. I am now, once again, living in my childhood home. The fruit trees and vegetable gardens are gone, but I still take care of my Dad's raspberry patch, which yields crops of berries for dozens of muffins. My Mom's flower gardens have been replaced with my own, but her rose garden still flowers with the bushes I grew up with. My gardens fill me with joy and give me peace. My Mom and Dad are always with me when I'm in my gardens.” --Ann-Marie Rutkowski

“ Every Easter, when l was a little girl growing up in a New Jersey neighborhood, I would go to a lovely little greenhouse on the corner of my block. It was attached to an old house where a sweet old woman lived by herself. I would enter the greenhouse and walk up and down the rows of sweet smelling flowers which I could barely see above the rows. After a while, the nice old women would appear and say take your time. After another while, she would say, take your time, I'll be right back, l have to stir my soup. Finally, I would choose what I thought was the best looking flower I could afford with my allowance. She would then smile, take the flower and say, “we will now make it pretty for your Mom." After pulling some dead leaves off and putting some pretty wrapping paper around the pot, l was sure I picked the right flower. Hoping I had enough allowance money, I'd hold up my hand with my two quarters. She would take one and say this will do it.
Years later, after buying my first house in the country, a nice young person brought me over a tiny pot with some kind of plant in it. She said, "Let it grow."
I now live in Canada on 265 acres and have many gardens. Forty-five years later, I am still passing on cuttings from that plant, and saying, “Let it grow ” --Alice Hatfield

“ The scent of garden phlox, roses and sweet alyssum in my mother's garden during my childhood years... picking all the next door mertensia for mayday baskets...sneaking big armfuls of naturalized daffodils from a neighboring property near my boarding school....driving past any farm anywhere. It was all very sensual, the smells, the feeling, the pictures in my head, my imagination of what life would be like if... I must admit gardening and farming were an escape for me from all the "shoulds" in life. I feel lucky that I was able to guide my working life along a horticultural path. I spent over twenty five years as a landscape gardener. Inspired by one of my clients, a wise and particular soul, Mrs. Challman had an heirloom shell pink waterlily variety that I grew for her in the back of the perennial border. That variety, 'Gerrie Hoek', formed the foundation for my dahlia business. Dahlias hold a feeling of bygone times... granny's tubers saved over every year or those old estates with large dahlia cutting gardens, the state fair blue ribbon winners bigger than my draft horses' huge hooves, the goofy names some varieties have, like Kari Fruit Salad or Valley Rustbucket.” --Lisa Ringer

“ My maternal grandfather introduced me to what a joy a garden can be...even in the concrete environs of Brooklyn, NY. He was an immigrant farm boy from Poland who came to the USA in 1951. He grew old roses, gladiolas, tulips, geraniums, daffodils and... in the smaller space there were tomatoes, cucumbers for pickles, cabbage and string beans. A cherry tree stood in one corner and in June rivaled those in Washington, DC. On the other side of the garden was an old lilac bush that had vined it's way up the fence behind it; to stand between those sensory rivals,each throwing out in full force a scent that even Chanel couldn't imagine, was sheer heaven and something I looked forward to,because my birthday fell in late spring and I thought it was nature's gift to me all alone. The memory of that garden stays with me all the time .. it also spurs me on...Grandpa cheated a bit: he had a steady supply of horse manure from the stables in Prospect Park because he was willing to muck them out - that family skill seems to have skipped a generation.” --Cindy Johnson

“ My grandparents lived within walking distance, so as a child I often went on surprise visits where I was greeted with hugs and kisses. My grandfather loved gardening, he had the magic touch... Now I am an organic gardener, growing all my own veggie plants from seed. I love landscaping with native plants, and watching how they bring in varieties of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other insects... I now know the secrets my grandfather discovered, and how his gardening sustained him throughout his life. When I am on my knees in my garden, I feel him kneeling beside me.” --Donna Brouillard

“ My earliest memory of my Grandparents home in central Pa., includes a backyard filled with rows of flowers. When I got older, I realized I had been looking at rows and rows of tall dahlias, delphinium and gladiolai... My grandfather planted in me the idea that a garden is an ever-changing, vibrant living thing, in which hard work was repaid with visual beauty. As I work in my garden, I think of him and his patience and love for the garden he created and nurtured all those years ago.” --Cynthia Farris

“ My mama gave me the gift of gardening. She always gardened my entire life. I was allergic to much in Spring and Fall but would go out sit and dig in the gardens with her. Sometimes I would play right beside her and then other times just sit and watch her garden. Mama has gone on and somehow I have a feeling that she is up in Heaven gardening away. I know things are blooming non stop!” --Dolly

“ I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Mary who lived next door to us. Her home was filled with plants. We used to joke she could pick up a stick, put it in a pot of dirt and grow something... I currently live in a Philadelphia row home. The children next door enjoy helping me water my plants and do some supervised digging in the pots. They've learned they can't pick my flowers but can run their hands over the lavender plants to make them smell good. People stop to admire the plants. I give them lavender sprigs and we talk about flowers and gardening. Sometimes they don't speak English so we smile and nod. Plants give us the opportunity to relate to people, teach children about caring for living things and indulge our senses” --Karen Jantzi

“ I took the required college aptitude test before entering college. This test was meant to help students find a career that suits them. One of the profession results that came up that best suited me was farmer. At the time I scoffed at the idea of being a farmer but over the years I've come to love growing things and I realized that yes, I probably would love to be a farmer! These days I am a graphic designer and am content with my "yard farm" where I grow all sorts of vegetables and I have found that I have a very green thumb! I guess those college aptitude tests are accurate!” --Nikki

“ I can remember when I was 5 years old my Daddy's aunt (Auntie) showed me how to grow Morning Glories. We started the seed, and strung the string up the stone porch columns of our farm house and I remember her saying a little prayer for each seed we put in the ground. Then she told me that they were magic because at night they went to sleep. And would wake with the first light every day until winter came. I couldn't hardly stand waiting till they came up and I was so excited when they started to climb. And when I saw my first Hummingbird come take a sip from flowers I grew, I was hooked. Every year since then I have planted Morning Glories. I have shown both my sons how to garden, and I always started with Morning Glories.” --Maureen Koehl

“ Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin with a large family, having an abundant garden was merely a survival tactic. After a long day of toiling in the fields and tending to his herd, my father would work in his large garden in the evening. He even found time for a small orchard. My mother would can and preserve all of the fruits and vegetables to sustain us through the long Wisconsin winter. The first thing I did when I bought my own home was to start digging in the dirt ... Despite sorely needing a new roof, I felt hydrangea bushes were more important. My gift of gardening came from my parents. My father granted me the love of soil and my mother the gift of preserving the harvest. So as with many of my fellow gardeners, when the daily stresses of life surround me, I turn to my therapist, the garden. Thank you for allowing me to share.” --Leslie Weber

“ One of my earliest memories is of the Victory Garden my father had in the backyard of our house. He grew vegetables, which I knew was going to help us win the war. Tomatoes were his favorite..., He also grew flowers, especially snapdragons, which were tall and beautiful. When I was married, we lived in New York City, where there was no place for a garden. But then we moved to the suburbs...and all of a sudden, I had a chance to grow things... With my father's advice, and my own experimenting, I began to be a gardener... Not surprisingly, I plant rows of tomatoes. I always put in some snapdragons, too, in memory of my father. My children have followed in my footsteps. My daughter has a rooftop garden, in pots, in Brooklyn. She, too, grows tomatoes and snapdragons, following the family tradition. And my son,who lives in Austin, Texas, is able to garden almost year-round. He has a six-year-old daughter, who likes to plant flower seeds around the house. Will she become a gardener too? How can she not? I'll be waiting to see.” --Jean Gavril


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