By Claudia Costa-Jacobson

Make no mistake; I am not the outstanding gardener who regularly writes for the Gazette, Phyllis Galowitz. I am yearning to garden again. I have to learn to garden again. A yearning novice with memories.

It started with dreams. Sitting in a flowerbed weeding the flowers near the blueberry bushes and getting dived at by little angry hummingbirds unnecessarily protecting their bee balm. It was a sight and sound I haven’t forgotten. Hummers zooming down, across my face creating a breeze. Trying to intimidate me into leaving when I was in my glory. I love to weed in the evening. The house work, barn chores done and supper made and eaten while the dishwasher hummed. No homework called to me as either a parent or as a college student! Just me, my fingers, flowers, berries, weeds and pissed-off hummers. Recently I remembered. The memory returned in dreams.

The second inspirations came via my friend the ‘laptop’. Container gardening articles on the web making gardening sound feasible, convenient and practical, too, hooked me. Anything can be used as a container they mention repeatedly. Well, at our home, and John’s parents’ home, we don’t have containers lying around waiting for a second life. Home Depot, however, had a sale on some ordinary plastic pots. We got potting soil and excellent garden soil which makes my heart sing, because it has round balls of genuine horse manure aged to perfection. We also stopped at the nursery in Davenport.

My third inspiration came from our friends and family. One blue day, Wilma called and said she was going to Davenport to get plants and did I need anything? My mind spat out “two tomato plants, please”. Of course Wilma brought two potted tomatoes. Tomatoes need basil right? And a salad, please.

Jean, who comes to help me, is always talking about her garden. I saw it and her garden is lovely. She loaned us plain black second hand containers deep enough for single plants like tomato or peppers.

Rhubarb and green onions taste incredible after winter. I’ve grown accustomed to them coming to me straight from the Tremperskill Jacobsons’ garden. I can’t put them on a grocery list.

Sandy, who is here frequently, says she’s ‘letting go’ of her vegetable garden this year. Instead we talk about her flowers as if they’re children. Which one has problems, those doing nicely and who’s needing help. Does she have bee balm, I asked one morning. Confused at my persistence, I told her about hummers, angry, adorable and zooming while I was weeding in the evening. Sandy told me she’s planning to thin out a bed of Calla Lilies and will share them with me. Planning a garden allowed me back into an ancient conversation.

Many years ago I built my first bed, designed and then planted it using only blue flowers. Made with heavy railroad logs, black plant bed liner, stones for drainage and a combination of peat moss and potting soils. I never saw the bed when it came up the following spring because I had left for a new, much better life. The work and the joy I put in the bed came back very recently, inspiring me to get out and plant again.

We bought herbs, including basil and more tomato plants, and flowers for the old planter hanging on the fence in the backyard. We had a great time over the next days planting our container garden and talking garden talk.

Our trip to Boston to see another doctor was made better by talking about our garden. This doctor, fierce, brilliant, fast speaking, faster at reading, softened when John volunteered I had helped plant our garden. She told us regretfully her tomatoes weren’t planted yet. I took her hand to shake and said, “You need to plant those plants. You’ll feel so much better.” For the first time she looked at me, smiled and answered, “I know.” Her countenance gentled as did the way she talked to me. All because of gardening.

Before we left for the MS Specialists we had accomplished much. So, we returned home to a small garden of containers. Our tomato plants, peppers, pumpkins, basil and other herbs, a row of mesclun mix, a row of carrots and two hanging baskets of flowers. My brother-in-law, Walt to some, Wally to many of his customers and Big Guy to me, built a 3 x 4 foot raised bed frame. This time we lined it with newspapers and filled it with a mix of peat moss, potting soils and some of the good stuff with the horse manure.

Our motley crew of containers and our bed are full of good looking plants. But there’s a problem. We stopped at two places on the way home from Boston. We couldn’t help it. Tomatoes need oregano. And there’s a new package of beans with red flowers on my table. Sandy brought the lilies she dug out when I was gone. You get the picture. Maybe the Big Guy will build just one more raised bed? ~