Much of my work is inspired by my observances of the natural world surrounding me in on the farm. As an avid gardener and long time Garden History and Design Chair of my garden club in Somerset Hills, and a 2020-22 Zone Representative for the state of New Jersey, joining a garden club was a natural part of my love of nature and the many informal gardens on my property.
Below is a writing project I initiated which I hoped would put into words the unique memories of some of our members love of gardening.Although some were afraid to try this because they said they had “never written before,” the responses were overwhelmingly beautiful and touching.
What’s your Garden History?
The Memoir Project
To know yourself is to know the place that grounds you, the place you call home. For all of us who connect with our home-place through gardening in all of its many disciplines and pleasures—plantings, conservation, landscape architecture, photography, horticulture—our practice is how we define ourselves through years of accumulated history in a place that sustains us. It is where we spend our days and where we raise and gather our family, where we feel most safe and at peace. Standing on terrain we truly know and understand is how we build a sense of place and create a familiar foundation and footing. It is what defines us as nature lovers, as gardeners.
We are perennial beings. We live and die, and rise again. As stewards of the soil, we come to realize the concept of everlasting life through our planting practice. I am always in awe each spring to see the return of decades-old day lilies my great-grandmother planted on our farm in the 1940’s; or the arrival of the Bearded-Iris—the dozen or so bulbs her mother entrusted to her, packed in a valise, when she left Coburg, Germany for Hoboken, New York.
The story of these perennials is a part of my garden history—a legacy where my roots have been allowed to spread wide, deep, and long. It travels in time through my childhood canoeing in Canada with my parents and picking wild blueberries by the hat full; and into my teenage years helping my parents tend their rock gardens of pink Mountain Laurel and ground pine on the granite outcroppings that surround their property in southern Connecticut; it extends through forty years spent walking the moors of Nantucket, breathing in the scent of Rosa Rugose of the ocean breeze, gathering buckets of beach plums for jelly, tending violet, pink, and blue hydrangea around our summer house.
My love of nature is persistent, and when I look back, I realize care for what grows in nature is at the center of it all–a practice that has grounded me most of my life.
Do you remember the first time you ran barefoot through the grass as a child? Probably not, but your body remembers. It remembers your young and carefree days of tag on the lawn, the smell of it freshly cut, its bright color in May. That distant memory started you on your long journey creating your unique natural history– one that passes from generation to generation.