Why, when you receive an award, do you stop and wonder how you got to that point? Is the surprise because of winning or the fact that you won, in spite of your past? I recently got that surprise at the Anne Arundel County Fair.
You have to know something about my past before you can appreciate the situation. I was born in Philadelphia. Our first house had a 6 x 6 foot patch of lawn in the front with about 4 rose bushes that grew so large and fat, they became a hedge. And they also became a source of allergy pain during the spring. Our back yard was concrete. Visiting my extended family did not get me any more access to dirt or flowers. The most some family members had were houseplants or window boxes outside their houses. No lawn, no dirt, no “yard work”. In fact, yard work consisted of hosing down the driveway and steps.
When I was 10 we moved to the ‘burbs in New Jersey. To some extended family members, we might as well have moved to a foreign country. New Yorkers joke about how no one wants to go to the Jersey side of the Hudson. It’s the same in Philly. Poor New Jersey has no identity of its own. It’s either West New York, East Philadelphia, or the oil-and-petrochemical-refinery-state. Atlantic City doesn’t count. Jersey is the jungle you have to go through to get to the Jersey shore.
Our Jersey house had a big yard. Lots of dirt and lawn - foreign items to a city kid. My dad planted a bunch of trees in our back yard when we moved in. Of course, they looked more like sticks, which he occasionally mowed over by accident. They eventually grew to shade the house and provide all 6 of us kids another opportunity to do yard work as we raked leaves in the fall.
My dad grew up in a part of Philly that wasn’t totally built up and still had some open field areas. He remembered the fresh taste of veggies from the garden from his childhood. Each year he planned a veggie bed and some years got lucky with his harvest. He never planted food near the house, so I was allowed to try my hand at flowers. I got lucky too. With absolutely know idea what I was doing, I managed to plant marigolds, snapdragons and zinnias and have them come up and look good too. Maybe this was the seed planted for my love of gardening now.
Fast forward to today. This city-bred kid now lives in a forest area. Our neighborhood is one of the environmentally protected areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. I’ve got more leaves to clean up than I can ever remember. And now, I’ve got a chance to do some design work on my own yard. Life comes with all kinds of surprises. Go figure.
I’ve always almost enjoyed yard work. Heck, for years the yard work saved me bundles on gym memberships. I managed to reactivate and re-injure dormant muscle groups on a regular basis raking, mowing, and mulching. It also preserved my sanity while I was teaching middle school age kids. I only had to choose between dead-heading flowers or dead-heading kids…which one would NOT land me in jail? Oh, so choose the flowers. Yard work relieved my stress and gave me a sense of accomplishment that teaching to standardized test scores never could.
As a devotee of landscape TV shows on HGTV and DIY network, I always envisioned my yard as a lush area with lots of curb appeal. I’ve tried to landscape the yard with hidden treasures, or little surprises in various corners of the yard. This year, however, was the absolute weirdest weather/ gardening year I’ve ever lived through. All gardeners got lots of surprises from Ma Nature. The mid-Atlantic region started out wet in the spring. Ok, that’s not so bad for the new seeds. Then it got brutally hot and dry through the high points of summer. Not good since you have to water plus some of the more tender plants will burn up in the super heat. Then came the late summer series of deluges. Lots of rain storms with high winds and driving rain hit close to every other day. Add in an earthquake, Hurricane Irene and the remnants (yeah, right!) of Hurricane Lee and we now have the overgrown garden, and heavy mold and mosquito situation that takes all the fun out of being outside.
Yo, wait a minute! Didn’t this piece start with an award? Sure did. With all of this background information, I got the surprise of my life on September 17, when I picked up my trophy for Best in Show at the County Fair for my entry in the Flowers Division! I went nuts this year entering in different divisions and managed to collect a bunch of prizes. Cut flowers, plants in containers, even some of my herbs, all were entered and most won some type of prize money. I also entered some sewing projects in the Sewing division and some crocheted items in the Needle Arts division. Took home some prize money there too. But the cherry on the top of that Sunday was the Best in Show trophy for my potted caladium. Way to go, Self!!!! Not bad for someone who grew up in a city environment!
Just goes to show that you never know what treasures life has in store for you. New discoveries around every corner.
Carpe` deim! Or in my case, carpe` dirt!
[Did this author just do a character analysis? Can I work this "fish out of water" idea into a storybook character?]