The Consummate Gardner

From a very young age, I watched my dad fuss around with house plants.  He always had a selection of house plants that he tended to, and it was obvious, he enjoyed tending to his many plants.  These were a variety of plants that were available to him in India, where I grew up.  He had a big garden in some of the homes we lived in during his time in India.  He supervised the gardener and had beautiful flowers and a lush lawn.

We moved to Fairbanks, Alaska and his love for plants and gardening continued.  He had many house plants in our home here and in summer months loved planting flowers everywhere.  We had hanging baskets with geraniums, Martha Washington only please, lobelia, petunias, and fuchsia’s. He took pride in having the outside of the house look beautiful and inviting.  Later, he started growing vegetables, which included tomatoes, cauliflower, herbs, potatoes, beans and eggplants.  He was always going to the greenhouses to buy starter 2” plants, or he purchased six packs as he was frugal and wanted to “save” some of the nearly dying plants that needed to be planted and give a chance to survive.  Of Course, he got these for deep discount which suited him just fine.  Majority of the times, he was able to revive these nearly dead plants.

He had every gardening tool imaginable in the garage, all kinds of pots, fertilizers, potting soil and made his annual trip the College Utilities to get the good compost for free.  Free being the operative word, but the compost was what he claimed helped his vegetables grow so well. He was quite disappointed the year he could not get the compost because College Utilities had some issue with it and advised against its usage. So, we had to go get “good soil” from the greenhouses. 

We all went with him to get plants at Risse’s greenhouse.  It was on my calendar to take him there for the free planting day.  Oh boy!  We carried his six planters so he can purchase plants and have them plant those for him for free.  It was a great way to spend time with him as he wandered around looking at everything that he could get.  Of course, we had to stop for coffee or lunch afterwards.  It was tradition.

His love for gardening deepened and he started spending his time in retirement growing vegetables.  He would bring these in for my mom to cook and have extras that he gave to me and to friends.  Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Eggplants, Zucchini, cauliflower, beans were his favorites.  One time he and I went to several greenhouses in search for purple basil. We never did find any that year.  Since then, I made it a point to find a purple basil for him every year, so we don’t have to wait till mid-season to go looking.

He loved going to farmers market here in Fairbanks and would always come home with a new plant to add to his garden.  Often, he would be out by his garden for so long that mom would have to call him to come in as he probably needed a respite from full on sun that we get in Alaska. All the farmers at the Farmers market knew my parents as they would buy their vegetables from them every week.  He also loved bringing home perennials from the market or from the greenhouses.  He had established a perennial garden in front of the house that showcased his Lily, Delphinium, Trollius, Shasta daisy and Columbine plants.  He enjoyed puttering around and being in the garden every day in summer.  It was tough for him to take the garden down.  We would have to help him do it as it was not what he liked to do.  Probably signified end of his gardening for the year. Of course, it’s sad for all of us gardeners, right?  Suddenly it all looks so bare and boring.

My Dad transferred his joy in gardening to his kids as well.  My sister is engaged in gardening as am I.  My brother and sister-in-law have gardens and make time to enjoy and cultivate those. We often send pictures to each other on our various plants, shrubs and flowers. Every time he came to visit me, he walked around the to the back of my home to look at my vegetable garden and loved the flowers I had planted everywhere.  After he passed away, I just didn’t want to do anything at my own home, but decided that this was a way to honor him and his memory, so we planted flowers and vegetables with great enthusiasm.  Perhaps, I overdid it! We also planted flowers at his home in his memory. I know he was watching and smiling.