With apologies to Robert Lewis Stevenson
A Child's Garden of Ladybugs and Happy Giddy Shovels
Like all good Scots, we mark the winter with Bobby Burns and spring with Robert Lewis Stevenson (although the latter not because of his birthdate (November 13, 1850), but because of a grandmother's fondness for his collection of poems, A Child's Garden of Verses, and for her belief in the fairies who lived under the hollyhoks that grew along the fence row at the back of her garden.
Despite the abundance of white stuff on the ground, it is the start of gardening season. Time to start planning what goes where and digging through the garage and the storage buiding for the gardening equipment.
My grandparents were ardent gardeners, who kept seed catalogs in a kitchen drawer and would spend the long Montana winters planning for the growing season, all too often cut short by late spring and early fall snows. In Montana, there is a standing joke that there are two seasons...winter and August, the actual act of gardening was a far shorter pursuit than the art of planning what would be planted where. Tomatoes, with their long growing season, do not grow in Montana, so the vegetable garden was often defined by the neat rows of "winter" and root vegetables (beans and peas, swiss chard and spinach, carrots, beets, parsnips, and so on), vegetables with short growing seasons and a tolerance for late or early season weather.
Flowers made up the majority of plants in their gardens: delphiniums and gladiolas, marigolds and pansies, sweet cicely and English tansy, columbine and hens and chicks and hollihocks. Splashes of color, neatly bordered by river rocks, set against against the brown, cracking grass of the high plains. While my grandmother tried valiently to grow grass and maintain some semblance of green from June through August, it was a losing battle and she knew it. By mid-July, only the flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees (apples) and plants (currents, marionberries, loganberries, gooseberries, strawberries, and rhubarb) were watered; a daily battle with the dryness of the climate.
As a small child, I followed my grandparents around and "helped." Sometimes, my help was less than welcomed, like the time I decided to help weed and pulled up all of the carrots. While my actions produced groans of dismay (grandmother) and gales of laughter (grandfather), it also resulted in my getting my own, small garden plot. I became an expert in parsley and pansies. After the first heavy snow of the fall, the gardens were laid to rest for another year and the seed catalogs became the storybooks of choice for the winter. The cycle continued year to-year.
In celebration of the return of flowers and fresh tomatoes, we have stocked up on all sorts of equipment and toys for outside activities, including trips to the beach and to the local nursery. The snow on this cold February eve only makes spring seem that much closer. In fact, the start of spring is one month away (give or take a few hours), and we are beginning to plan the containers at the rear of the depot (lots of tomatos and other plants that seem to like less than ideal growing conditions).
This also gives us a chance to show off a new line of toys...Sunny Patch. From shovels and rakes, to trowels and bug houses, to hats and sunglasses and gloves, Sunny Patch has all of the toys and tools required for creating a new garden, exploring the world outside, and finding new ways to enjoy the summer.
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