Thursday, April 9, 2009

Garden memories

Its been a number of years since I had a vegetable garden. The last one we had was in back of our house on Mission Hill. At that time the "back of the hill" was still kind of a wild, wide open place, high above the projects on Heath Street below. Large tracts of land lay abandoned, houses burnt down, or pulled down. The row of houses that still clung to the edge of Fisher Ave. seemed to hunch together along the street, as if to ward off the winds, and the emptiness.

Yet, the place had its own kind of beauty. From the top of the hill, you could see all the way past downtown Boston to the harbor. The wild cherries blossoming in the park across the street and the little league parade were sure signs of spring.

One year we went and foraged beams from one of the abandoned houses on Wensley Street, and built terraced raised beds. The yard was south facing, and everything grew like crazy.

When we moved to Milton we inherited a great perennial garden. I really knew next to nothing about the plants I'd inheritied, and killed off quite a few. I set up a step ladder and tried to map the garden. I identified what I could, and began to anticipate what would come up, and when. I spent hundreds on new plants, most of which got choked out by mid-July. But some things thrived, My clematis, and a succession of irises. Some mallow I transplanted took over large portions of the garden. I got a few herbs to grow. But once the trees fill out, much of the garden is shady, and my attempts to grow vegetables was a disaster.

I got my love of gardening from my Dad and Mom, and from my grandfather, who had grown up on a farm in Maine. I remember him in his garden on Summit Ave. in Wakefield. By that time, he grew nothing but tomatos, and tons of them. He used old frozen orange juice cans filled with kerosene to catch the beetles that plagued the garden. My little brother tried to drink some and had to have his stomach pumped.

My parents had a garden behind their house in Homewood Illinois, where we grew pumpkins, beans, squash, lettuce, carrots, peppers and more. Fruit trees filled the yard, there was a grape arbor and strawberries grew behind the garage. I was given a small stony plot to cultivate on my own. I still remember the thrill of ownership of that small barren plot and also, the size of the pumpkins we grew that year.

When my parents moved to Vancouver, they again had room for a garden, and it was a beauty! I was a young adult when they moved, so I admired it when I visited. I sat in the garden and sketched the cabbages, and feasted on the fresh vegetables at the dinner table. It was a treat to be asked to go pick something to cook that night!

I'm hoping our new garden will flourish, and offer some of the same pleasures I remember from these gardens past.