Out for an evening walk in my neighborhood, I came upon a young woman tending her plants inside a small fenced enclosure to protect it from deer and rabbits. I soon learned that it was her very first garden, her very first flat of plants, and her very first time to set something out into the ground and begin to watch it grow. She radiated a quiet joy and satisfaction, an almost palpable fascination with the new thing she was doing.
She showed me her four bean plants, her cucumbers, her celery, her variegated lettuce.
She had bought bamboo and made a clever tepee with it for a tomato plant. She described how upsetting it was to find her lettuce plants wilting and how she wasted no time in bringing them water. She wondered if she could plant her ever-bearing strawberries in a hanging pot, and we talked about what strawberries like.
She had one more plant to put into the earth, and as she leaned toward the soil, I noticed that it was a familiar and beloved one for me.
“I see you’re planting Echinacea,” I commented. “It’s such a beautiful summer flower.” She looked a little puzzled, and so I amended, “ Or… purple coneflower.”
She still looked puzzled, but polite, as she searched out the little marker that had come with her plant. Then, happily, she corrected me, explaining: “It’s a perennial!”
I nodded, knowing she would eventually figure out for herself that purple coneflower and lots of other plants share the label perennial.
I almost envied her the discoveries she was setting out to make on her gardening journey, until I remembered how many I am still making every day, and I’ve been gardening all my life. That’s the charm.
The way this young woman had her hands in the dirt, and the grit on them as we shook hands and said goodbye, told me that her flowers and vegetables were going to flourish. As I continue my summer evening walks, I will enjoy the progress of her little fenced garden, watch for the perennial purple coneflower to unfurl, and savor her gardening joy.
Susan Yoder Ackerman is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of over 200 stories and articles for children and adults. Look for her newest story to come out in Cricket Magazine’s September 2013 edition. Among her books are Copper Moons, featuring adventures in a new marriage on the African continent, and The Flying Pie and Other Stories, featuring true stories told in the local Mennonite community, of which Lisa’s flower farm is the geographical center. Susan also works on The Gardener’s Workshop farm. You can email Susan at [email protected].