There are different ways enjoy your garden. There is no right way; just the best way for you.

Just about anywhere in the country “Spring is here” by May 1st. Here in the Midwest we can claim to be about average temperature wise. The grass is greening, the birds are singing, and the redbuds are in their full but brief bloom.

How about you? Are you ready to join in the fun of this season of reawakening? By this I mean, have you thought about a garden. How do I define a garden? If you have a small porch patio or even a windowsill that can hold flowers, you can have a garden. It doesn’t take a big spread or extensive beds around the house and scattered in the yard.

All it takes for you to have your own garden is space with some sunlight and a watering can. To get started you should know what colors you like, have a way to get the flowers home, and a project that fits your budget.

Traditionally and by that, I mean fifty or sixty years ago, this venture started at a nursery or garden shop. Today it can still happen there but more likely you will head for a big box like Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, or Costco. There you will find hundreds of healthy plants in near endless varieties. Some will be in flats with individual plants in detachable green plastic containers ready for planting or potting. Others will already be planted in pots six to eight inches in diameter or larger, ready for setting or for hanging. These plantings may be a single variety or a combination. My choice for starters: a purple petunia in a variety that does not require pinching, a Pericallis (never heard of it before) that I selected because of the unusual blue daisy like flower with a white center, and a yellow African daisy. This beauty lasted only two weeks, then all the beautiful yellow flowers died. Since the green looked healthy, I cut back the dead, re-potted the roots, added more soil, and watered the pot well. So far this is my closest attempt at real gardening.

Two of my favorites are a pink mounding Mandevilla I learned about from my daughter and a dusty yellow Aloha Kona Calibrachoa like one I had last year, but now I know the name. I also bought a larger pot of mixed pink and red geraniums with a pinkish green spiked plant in the center that wasn’t named on the label. These flowers were made available from a reputable source for sale in our location, I presume based on their being suited to the climate.

After filling my cart with flowers based on size, color, and condition, but without help or advice, I paid at the checkout. I didn’t expect the person at the register to know much beyond being able to accept payment and provide a receipt. I was right. A few days later I returned, and I asked the nearest person wearing an orange Home Depot vest if the Marigolds had come in. She said, I don’t know and relayed my question to another worker. This person responded, “what do they look like?” That’s all I needed to know!

At the big box store you will receive none of the personal attention or special tips available at the typical garden store. If you want this kind of support, it would be best to head there first. For example; you may want to know if the flowers you purchased require pinching back the dead, or how to water and fertilize. In my garden when it comes to pinching back this is required for the African daisy and the geranium but not the Mandevilla or Pericallis. That’s OK. Doing it makes me feel a bit more like a farmer.

For the minimal effort and modest expense, my garden is an ongoing joy and it would be hard to imagine meeting spring without making this effort.

Next, we’ll hear from Bruce who digs in the dirt, gets his hands dirty and makes his yard beautiful for all to enjoy.

Geranium with marigolds, Mandevilla, Perigallis, Aloha Kona Calibrachoa, petunia, Pansy, Boston Fern


My love of gardening did not totally develop until my wife and I bought our first and only home in 1969 at the age of twenty-nine. But I suspect that the genes for gardening had been growing for quite some time. My Scottish ancestors owned a castle, a garden and were farmers. In 1721 George Hume immigrated to Virginia as an alternative to hanging when his side lost in the first Jacobite Revolution with the English. Pardoned as a bonded servant by then retiring Governor Spotswood, George Hume became a surveyor sponsored by Lord Fairfax. His papers are in the University of Virginia Library. He was also a farmer. For the next two hundred and seventy -nine years or so, the Hume’s, the Snider’s (my grandmother), the Deaton’s, (my grandmother’s family), the Turner’s (my grandfather’s family) either farmed or taught school. One of my great grandparents was a banker but returned to farming.

Much of the same farming history exists for my wife’s German ancestry starting in the 1830’s. Playing, planting and working in the dirt was a way of life.

Fast forward to my mom and dad. They both were teachers and gardeners, but on retirement went back to farming. I not only grew up in the suburbs with flowers and a vegetable garden, but I had to mow and pick vegetables and snap green beans. As I have aged, I have given up vegetable gardening.

Our front yard with varied plantings

My wife and I now concentrate on flowers, shrubs, and trees. Our front garden has a Japanese yew, a full sized boxwood, three columnar boxwoods, a variegated iris, an ornamental Japanese tree, astilbe, ferns, New York asters, New England asters, potted geraniums, purple and beige

Varigated iris

cone flowers, moonbeam coreopsis, blue Midnight May salvia, Lavender, day lilies, and shasta daisies and a blue spruce bush. Our first Christmas at Marquette we were in a small apartment so we ordered a twenty-one inch Alberta Spruce tree from L. L. Bean which became our Christmas tree that year. When we moved to the cottage, Wilson helped us plant that tree in a pot which sits outside by our garage. It is twenty-seven and

Dogwood framing my backside

one/half inches high now. Having Wilson available as an expert is helpful to us.

We also have miniature boxwoods and two evergreen trees on the west side of the cottage. To replace some dead trees, we received a red maple in the front yard, a tulip poplar, a red maple and a dogwood tree in the back yard.

Our back entrance with beds, shrubs, climbers, and a hanging pot

In the backyard we also started a small garden. Currently we have coral bells, shasta daisies, sedge grass and purple bellflowers. We have Virginia Creeper growing up a trellis against the back of the cottage. Three Japanese yews line the sidewalk. A hanging pot on the fence holds creeping Jenny, alyssum, white euphorbia, and dark blue lobelia. A potted red geranium sits in a wrought iron stand.

St. Francis looking over a bed

We have planted mostly native Indiana plants with a color theme of yellow, green, and purple- the Mardi Gras colors (that was by accident). Occasionally we use red or white plants for some variety.

It is all fun as playing in dirt should be.



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2 thoughts on “The Gardener that Could be Any of Us

  1. I like to see all the flowers and plants around your home and other homes when I walk around the cottages in Marquette and I can see that keeping a garden beautiful is an act of love. It is a pleasure to see all the flowers in our Marquette gardens . I take a lot of photos.

  2. About ten years ago, a Purdue Master Gardner helped set up a rack with Grow-light bulbs (the wave-length plants need) in the Craft Room for a new Garden Club. Marquette also had 5 or 6 raised garden beds between the garages and the first cottage. The Garden Club planted seeds, nursed the seedlings, and moved them to the raised beds. We had cut flowers; we had green beans (Ever eaten young beans right from the garden? Reta L shared hers.) We had several brands of Indiana tomato, not the ‘cardboard’ ones shipped from California. Seasons change? We raised marigolds (lots of different shades and sizes) for events in Foundation Hall..
    But the gardens disappeared when construction needed the space. Will there be raised beds again? (We were told that we would get them back. But … ? This space had water spickets) Is there a new generation for the Garden Club? Mary Steppe is carrying on. Contact her.

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