I was never a gardener. At one point--perhaps in Junior High--I attempted to plant a vegetable garden, but the rabbits ate my plants and I gave up. Later, I would periodically attempt to beautify my life by planting flowers, but my enthusiasm would last only a day. I would forget to water the plants and they would quickly die. When I was pregnant with my first child, I continually had nightmares that I would forget to feed her once she was born. I'm afraid these nightmares came from my gardening experiences. I'm happy to report that I did not forget to feed my baby.
By the time my oldest daughter, Meg, was 18 months old, I knew gardening would be in my future. She loved flowers. We would walk up our street of high-rise buildings and she would stop at every building's garden and admire each type of flower. Her continual stopping forced me to slow down and, for the first time, see how beautiful each flower was. No longer did I walk down our road at a fast pace attempting to catch the Metro to get to work. Now I followed a slow-moving toddler who would ask me to bend down and sniff the flowers. Stopping to smell the roses became less of a cliche to me and more of a way of life.
My daughter Clare added a new element to gardening adventures. She loves Peter Rabbit and she's absolutely obsessed with Mr. McGregor. She regularly uses a plastic gardening trowel on our carpet and pretends to be Mr. McGregor planting his garden. If she is truly lucky, her big sister will pretend to be Peter and Clare can chase "Peter" around her garden. While other kids build castles and make cakes in sand boxes, Clare plants a garden.
Once Meg was 3 and Clare was 2, we began planting a garden on our balcony. The girls wanted vegetables, so we attempted to grow carrots (a must for Peter Rabbit lovers), radishes (also a Peter Rabbit homage) and tomatoes. We planted pots and pots of flowers that would attract butterflies, though it was unlikely that we could entice many butterflies to join us on our 9th floor balcony. There were lessons to be learned. I was very excited when we planted foxglove in our garden because it seemed like a staple of the English cottage garden. However, my mother informed me that foxglove was poisonous if eaten--something I should have known considering my love of British murder mysteries. With two toddlers who might eat anything, I quickly did a major cleaning of our balcony to remove any presence of foxglove. Even with mishaps, our times in our balcony garden were truly joyful.
In addition to planting our own garden, I began looking for gardens to visit in the area. This led us to trips to Brookside Gardens, Green Spring Gardens, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Butlers Orchard, the Elizabethan Garden at the Folger Shakespeare Library and many other places that will be featured here. Some of these trips have been our most magical adventures. Being in the sunshine in the midst of the flowers can bring joy to even the most difficult day. I have come to believe that most of the anxiety in the world could be solved if everyone had 30 minutes a day to spend walking through gardens. As I will discuss in a later post, Beatrix Potter dealt with her anxious mind by memorizing Shakespeare and focusing on the minutest details of animals, flowers, and even (or especially) fungi. There is a lot of wisdom in that. Flowers are God's way of reminding us that there is suppose to be beauty in our lives. Simply put: "One who plants a garden, plants happiness."