|My first garden success, Lilium longiflorum.|
The first person to inspire me was my mother. Eight years before I was born, Mom decided to plant a garden in a vacant lot next to her first apartment on the northside of Chicago, just after my parents married. She recalls that she grew zinnias there. My grandfather, who owned the 6-flat building was not pleased. I don't know what got a bee in his bonnet over it; it was just a vacant lot, and my mom was a pioneer urban guerrilla gardener. When she and Dad moved out to Crystal Lake, Illinois, in the late 1950s, they moved into a new house, in a new subdivision, where there was abundant sunshine for the full-sun flowers that my mom loves. That's the house where I was born. I remember the plum tree, the tulips, and my first friend Andy, who ate dirt. We moved when I was three.
Unfortunately, for Mom, the new house was in a former burr oak savanna, which meant shade, shade, shade and more shade. She struggled against it, planting her beloved flowers on the south side of the house. When I was 10, she let me plant a scale from an Easter lily on the east side of the house. I was thrilled when it bloomed. Sadly, it didn't like the less than ideal light conditions. From my mom, I learned not to fight the conditions, but I also acquired her optimism about trying to grow full sun plants in less than full sun conditions. Some times, it pays off.
I remember trying to grow bachelor buttons from seed, and being disappointed when nothing sprouted. I still have rotten luck with seeds, but the little violets we brought home from school on May Day thrived in the woodsy soil.
Mom tried to grow vegetables there, but eventually gave in to reality. One summer, when I was about 13, she rented a plot from a farmer and
Mom never liked living in McHenry, and she finally convinced my dad to move to a suburb closer to Chicago when I was a junior in high school. Once again, it was a new house, in a new subdivision with no trees.
|Mom had her rock moved to the new house in 1983.|
My second garden inspiration was my sister Diane, who died 20 years ago today. I still miss her. She was my original garden center hopping buddy. She moved in with me when I bought a townhouse, after I finished law school. Diane loved beautiful things, and she had aspirations of being a floral arranger and opening a flower shop.
|Taken in my mom's sunny back garden, 3 years before Diane's death: Diane with her Maltese, Primo, and yours truly with my little mutt, Coco.|
Diane was so talented at everything artistic, and her touch inspired me to view a garden as a big floral arrangement.
|Phlox paniculata 'Red Riding Hood'|
My new garden center hopping buddy is my daughter. Two years in a row, we've stopped at The Flower Factory in Stoughton, Wisconsin, on the way home from Madison, and I've come home with things she insisted that I buy. It's because of her that I have a rose here at Squirrelhaven.
|'Carefree Beauty' rose|