Katie Pelisek: My Aunt Norma gave me a book (Indoor and Outdoor Gardening for Young People) for my 9th birthday, along with a small trowel. I have been fascinated by gardening (and gardening books!) ever since.
Sue Getyina: When I was in grade school, we sold seed packets for five cents a pack. I was six, and my first garden had radishes and portulaca flowers. I've been growing things for over sixty years.
Patti Vickery: I got started gardening when I was about nine or ten years old during World War II. My father and I each had our own Victory Garden of vegetables in our backyard. I remember growing corn, beans, peas, cucumbers, summer squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon. I only remember eating the pitty-pan squash.
Patricia Leon: I’m probably a late bloomer (ha-ha) and didn't get started until adolescence. At 17, I started a garden.
Al Benner: I was about 7 or 8 and my dad had a large garden. They called it a Victory Garden because it was war time and everyone was asked to conserve by growing your own vegetables to have more produce for food for our troops in Europe and the Pacific. We had several relatives serving, and were very aware of the war. My father's garden was well ordered and mixed with flowers. He said that they helped the food to grow, and gardens should be a nice place to walk. My grandfather would water the garden in the morning and come back at evening to get some worms to fish in the lake. I was with him while he dug for worms in the flower garden, where he uncovered a coin. It was a very rare coin from the 1760s and quite a find. I always thought I would find a rare coin, too. So far, no luck.
Ann Hoeppner: My mother got me started when I was 4 or 5 years old. My brother and I grew radishes for my father. I did not like them, but he did, and he extravagantly enjoyed the vegetables of our labors. My next garden memory is as a young teenager, 12 or 13. My mother decided to build our character one summer vacation by having us take over the weeding chores for the landscaping at our Florida home. My brother and I did an hour of weeding early every weekday morning, and by the time we had completed a full circuit around the property, the first areas needed weeding again. We both learned the desirably of a white collar job.
Tammy Schwab: I grew up in New York City, with a summer house on the North Shore of Long Island, and from an early age I was inspired by my mother who passed on the creed "leave it better than you found it". My mother always loved her roses, rhododendrons, day lilies, and dogwoods. We always had a beautiful yard that was constantly being edited. In my early teens we had an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Berglund, who had the most amazing flower and vegetable garden. She taught me all about the plants she grew, how to press flowers, and how to collect seed. These are fond memories, and the ladies that I can point a shovel at for my plant obsession!
Ari Tenenbaum: My dad got me started – I was about 5 years old.
Dale Rekus: It was a pincer movement by my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother (from Lithuania) lived less than a block from the Garfield Park Conservatory (www.garfield-conservatory.org) and she would take me there whenever we went to her house for Sunday dinner. I was probably under five years old when that routine began. She also went mushroom hunting, and canned dozens of jars of them every year. As to my maternal grandmother (American born Polish), as one example of her gardening fervor, at one time she had over a thousand African violet plants in the house! They were on tables under lights in the basement, on shelves in all the windows in the house, and even covered the dining room table. She also grew all the vegetables she ate, canning everything needed for the winter. Guess who was drafted for weeding duty when he went for a vacation at her house? She even canned young spring chickens in glass jars and stored root vegetables in a dirt floor room in the basement. And this apple did not fall far from those two trees.
Catherine Morley: My grandmother had a beautiful yard full of flowers, vegetables, roses, berries, citrus trees, and even some chickens in the back. She had a green thumb, as everything was always thriving. I have fond memories of picking fresh berries for my breakfast. Nana would also can and preserve many of her fruits, berries and tomatoes. I just started making preserves last year. She is my inspiration.
Gayle Olson: My mother got me into gardening when I was still in elementary school on Long Island. She was trying to teach me responsibility and put me in charge of the iris bed.
Linda A. Espino: I was a kid in Chicago when I started gardening pretty young. We had a double lot, and the second lot was all mostly garden. I remember we had lilac trees (not like the ones that hardly have any smell in the Julian area), which would send out their perfume in summer through our open windows. We would have the cut lilacs on the tables in vases. My Grandmother would make rhubarb and strawberry pies with the rhubarb from the garden. I was mostly the weed puller. I liked being out there. Playing in the dirt in the yard/garden was enjoyable. Getting wet with the hoses and watering in the hot summer was fun. I remember how upset my Grandmother was when the relatives on my father's side went out to "weed" while we were on a short vacation and dug up the rhubarb and threw it out in the trash, as they thought it was a weed! No more rhubarb fresh from the garden for the pies! I learned to make the pies and then eat the slice of pie with my hands as my Grandmother said it tasted better that way. Our dog, Dolly, would be out there helping us. We had corn growing. I remember picking that to cook. Might have been six years old. Some guests for dinner were in awe that we grew it in our yard in back of the house. I remember sitting out in the shade of a large tree and my Grandmother, Mother and I were cleaning fish that the men caught. The heads and fish guts were used as fertilizer for the lilacs, as that was what my parents were told to do to feed them. We had morning glories, hollyhocks, and cosmos in the front, and I learned that they came up every year from self seeding.
Linda Bresler: I had a 4-H annual flower garden when I was about 8 years old, and entered the prettiest flowers for the end of summer display at the annual grange fair. My son was an infant in a stroller when he first kept me company while gardening. At 2 years old, he announced that when he grew up, he was going to teach people how to pick grass. Now, at 32 years old, he enjoys gardening.
Wayne Froboese: It was a natural interest for me.
J.B. Riekstins: I am sure it was my mother who got me started in gardening. She had a large organic garden and she grew everything. Very large: I did not eat a commercially prepared canned food item until I was about 10-11. She allowed the children who wanted to use some portion for their own projects to have a corner here or there. I remember growing Hubbard squash, huge warty monsters, and green bean when I was about 5 years old. I was already helping her plant and weed, and it was something I was good at and enjoyed. I also planted any flower seed I could get my hands on, then and now.
Vivian Blackstone: I was raised in New York City, the city of cement and monumental buildings. In1989, when I was 45 years old, I moved into my first house and became interested in a garden. I had a lot of ideas and wanted to try them out, and became friendly with many Rudolf Steiner people, like Peter Dukich, master compost maker, and Jack McAndrew, Peter's disciple. So, I started making soil. Then I made four 17'x3' raised beds with biodynamic soil, growing large quantities of vegetables. In 1994, I made a trip to Vladivostok, Russia, where I was a filmmaker on a James Hubbell park structure; the motto was “Beauty can save the World,” by Tolstoy. I came home and looked at my backyard, my raised beds and said, 'I can do better than this; this is not beautiful.” I gave away three of my raised beds and saved one, and redesigned my entire home garden area. That's when I designed the home that I have now, with 37 fruit trees and 15-gallon pots with vegetable and flowers. It is bird friendly and biodynamicly fruitful.
Nancy Woodard: As far back as I can remember, my Father always had a large vegetable garden and I loved to sit on the grass in the summer and eat warm tomatoes. My Grandmother on my Mother’s side lived next door and also had a large garden, which she tended by herself and kept her vegetables for herself. She canned all of the extras. She also canned the peaches from my Father’s peach tree. And in the winter, it was my Grandmother who taught me how to propagate violets, ivy, and pothos from a cutting when I was about ten years old. Now, I can’t seem to be able to get the violets to successfully start.
Bobbi Hirschkoff: As a child I spent many hours with my Sicilian grandmother, who baked bread, made wine from her own grapes, and grew fruit trees and vegetables, but no flowers. I was maybe 5 years when this all got started. Don't see any chance of it going away soon!
Dave Ericson: My dad got me started when I was 10 years old. He gave me the rose garden to care for and I observed how astoundingly a tiny bud turns into a beautiful flower with amazing colors, fragrance, feel and even taste.
Candace Kohl: I have always liked plants and gardens from my childhood. I remember helping my mother in the garden in St Louis, planting tulip bulbs and staking the peonies from the time I was 9 years old or so. My mother's mother had a large garden (with full time gardener!) and greenhouses where she grew the cattleya orchids that she always wore as a trademark. There was a night blooming cereus in one of these that I would be allowed to stay up late and watch bloom. The sight and fragrance is something I will always remember. That plant now sits in one of my cousin's houses, and cuttings from it are growing in my garden in Del Mar.
Yves Brancheau: My kids, Bella (5) & Beau (3) got me started. I became a stay at home Dad just over 1-1/2 years ago, and at the beginning the fear of keeping them educated, entertained and healthy kept me up late nights. One night (or early morning), around 3 a.m., I was on the computer searching for some educational things we might be able to do together, when I came across The Children's Garden at Sunshine Care with Farmer Roy Wilburn (www.sunshinecare.com). He has an extensive history as a horticulturist, practices organic farming, and is dedicated to spreading his wealth of knowledge. Everything really clicked for me when I saw my son snap off a stem of broccoli and my daughter harvest some strawberries, then chow down straight from the garden. I feel such a sense of empowerment and confidence as we propagate, plant, and harvest together, it's so natural. I have been a fan and grower since, which has led me to the SDHS to help develop my newly acquired skills.
Tena Navarrete:I started when I was in the second grade and I grew my first pinto bean plant. I loved the excitement of watching this tiny bean sprout, and a springing green shoot pushing through into the light! Simply amazing!
Kathleen S. Closson:I was so lucky to have a grandmother and mother that were way ahead of their time as far as nutrition, raising vegetables and kids simultaneously, and growing beautiful flowers. I started learning from these two incredible ladies at about age four, from wandering through my grandmother’s garden of beauty and edibles in Oklahoma, where no meal was complete without at least ten homegrown vegetables. My mother designated me as the #1 garden weeder and deadheader at age five, and she guided my learning of the value of composting, how to collect Japanese beetles, and how to make super pickles from zucchini, cucumbers, and okra. As we grew older, my sister and I would plan our visits home as to the progress of her asparagus patch, which was larger than my current home! Hats off to my dad, who bought me my treasured horse, Cleo, with a truckload of home-grown hay, and who subsequently supplied us with top quality manure (along with the 75 head of cattle). I paid my dad back in full by being his #1 grass cutter of 16 acres on a riding mower every week in Clifton, Virginia, where I was well recognized by our neighbors as driving the mower way too fast, in my orange Virginia Tech sweatshirt, with my blonde hair flying. Oh, how I loved those corners! Those 8 hours would literally fly by! My earliest memories are all about gardening, farming, animal husbandry, and the sheer joy of growing up on a farm with animals, plus enjoying apple orchards for their cider and fruit. I can think of no better way to spend one’s childhood. I was truly blessed!
Barb Huntington:My late mother, Ruth Looney Weeks Jackson, grew roses, and we had an orange tree, avocado tree, and lots of other plants in Altadena, so I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to garden. After my pet ducks were killed by raccoons, I planted a vegetable garden where their wading pool had been and the extra nutrients made the vegetables grow beautifully. When I became a teacher in the Miller Elementary School in Escondido, our secretary, Pat, was a member of the American Rose Society, (ARS) and brought in beautiful roses. She got me involved with the ARS. I later convinced my mother and then her husband to become judges and consulting rosarians, and they went on to grow a thousand roses in Ramona. When the national ARS convention was in San Diego they offered a bus trip to see her garden, and it was pictured in a national annual. I became particularly enamored of heritage roses, and grew them in my backyard, where it wasn’t an avocado orchard. I went on to be a rose judge and president of the North County Rose Society, and then a consulting rosarian, until I became too concerned about pesticides and tendered my resignation. (The ARS has since become more favorable to organic growing.) I am now concerned about water usage and am gradually moving away from roses to succulents and California natives, but still need to convert the front lawn. (My hands can attest to my converting every backyard sprinkler to drip.) I now have a rock and succulent labyrinth, raised vegetable beds, bird and butterfly plants, am certified with National Wildlife Fund, and hope to build a venue for folk music concerts in my backyard.
Marilyn Guidroz:When I was in 6th grade we moved to Tucson, AZ, and bought a house with a front and back yard. Up until that time, we moved a lot and lived in Base Housing, as we were in the military. My mother planted African daisy seeds in a tree well in our front yard. These daisies were a blend of colors and came up every year after that, gradually reverting back to the original yellow. They were so inspiring; I never forgot them. When I was in college I got a summer job working in a green house disbudding chrysanthemums for Mother's Day. My fingers turned green, as you must do this carefully without gloves on. You remove all the side buds so the top bloom gets large. It was such fun. I learned all about the forcing of Christmas Poinsettias and Easter Lilies at the same place. They supplied the local vendors seasonally. It was fascinating and I never forgot these experiences.
Claude Gigoux:I started in France at six years old, with my mother's guidance.
Jackie Blank:My grandfather got me started when I was four or five years old. I helped him in his Victory Garden. But, I also had an additional incentive: the fact that his life's work was photographing roses and other plants for many annual floral catalogues of the period, which were published by his employer, J. Horace McFarland and Co.
Gerald D. Stewart:When I was three my babysitter took me on a walk. We went into a nursery. I can still see the flowers on a porch of the sales cottage at Diablo View Gardens. Humpey (her last name was Humphrey, and that was as close as I could get; she died a couple of years ago and the family called her Humpey to the very end) bought me a black-flowered Martha Washington Geranium (now I’d call it a black-flowered regal pelargonium). I planted in the back yard. A couple of years ago I found a snapshot of the backyard that included the plant. It was likely ‘Brown’s Butterfly’, which had been introduced a couple of years before by the Brown family, whose nursery was nearby in San Leandro. Other snapshots of about the same time show me with a watering can, watering plants. While New Leaf was started as a houseplant nursery, it makes sense with this history that it became a geranium specialty nursery.
Sue Ann Scheck:Bill and I joined SDHS in our mid sixties and a new life adventure began. We replaced our lawn with succulents and began a never-ending love affair with plants! New adventures abound. Our greatest joy happens when we are working in nature. Watching the ever changing landscape and imbuing our sweet darlings with love has enhanced our lifespace! Neighbors come by and we give them cuttings, and they, too, are finding new resources to replace hothouse plants with a variety of succulents and natives. Together, we are recreating our community, saving precious natural resources, and beautifying our community. Thank you SDHS for changing our lives.
Sandy Parish:I started myself in gardening at age 55 because I admired the yards and gardens of a few of my friends and wanted to know how they did it. I am still on the learning curve, but I have planted my first vegetable garden with my 11-year old granddaughter in hopes that her interest in gardening will have lots of years to grow and expand.
Steve Brigham:That's an easy question for me! I grew up on a 1-acre semi-rural suburban homestead that my Mom had planted as both an arboretum and garden. Mom never met a plant she didn't like, and if she saw a plant in a nursery that she didn't have already, she bought it and planted it. When I was first consciously alive yet not yet even born, she spent that summer (like every summer) watering and caring for her many plants. And so I got used to gardening (and watering) before I ever saw the light of day, at a very impressionable age! That was sixty years ago, but it still seems like yesterday to me. Thanks, Mom!
Chuck Ades:My parents divorced when I was one. My brother and I lived with guardians in Covina, CA for four years. When I was five or six years old, their son, Bobbie, and I were sitting on the front steps of the house. There were some geraniums growing on either side of the steps. Bobbie asked if I knew that if you broke off a stem of the geranium and stuck it in the ground that it would grow. I showed an interest, so he dug up a small plot of ground in the shade and told me to break off some stems of the geranium plants by the front steps. I did, and stuck them and promptly forgot them. Some time later, he asked me if I had looked at the geraniums lately. I hadn't, so I quickly ran to see them. To my surprise, they were twice as big as when I planted them (I'm sure that he had watered them for me). I asked what other plants I could "stick" into the ground. They had several Aeonium plants in a flower bed. They gave me a small plot of land and I started planting Aeoniums. I was hooked. Interestingly, my brother had also mentioned that he wanted to be in the military. The father of the family suggested that they look in the Encyclopedia. They then concluded that he should go to Annapolis or West Point. He graduated from West Point and had a lifetime as an officer in the Army. If our parents hadn't divorced and we hadn't lived for four years with guardians, our lives probably would been completely different. I had found my future occupation at the age of five or six, and my brother found his at the age of nine or ten. I thought this was normal. When my children were ready to go to college, I was surprised that they didn't know what they wanted to do. When I mentioned this to a friend, he pointed out to me that they were normal. My brother and I were not normal!
Joan Braunstein:When I think of my grandmother, I think of roses. Memories of my mother include her transforming our small patch of grass in front of our Philadelphia row house into a rock garden. My parents rented a small plot of land at the end of the street, where we tried our hands at vegetable gardening. We didn't have much to show in the way of vegetables, but I grew my first zinnias there.
Tandy Pfost:While in college in Tucson AZ, my husband and I had the idea of growing corn and zucchini. We thought it was really cool to grow a zucchini the size of a log and be able to eat it. That was my first real interest. Growing food and plants became a life-long passion. I also remember visiting my grandparents’ farm in Iowa, where they had a huge garden. I remember the rhubarb and the multitude of jars in the basement of preserved foods from that garden.
Hilda King: I grew up in an apartment in New York City, and the only live plant in our home was a croton in the living room that my mother regularly killed. When I met my first husband, his mother was an avid gardener and the vice president of the Garden Clubs of America. She had a beautiful home in the countryside, with a greenhouse, and in my early twenties I developed an interest in gardening from her. She always said her introduction to gardening was when she was a very little girl and her neighbor gave her some seeds to plant. I've tried to do the same with my youngest granddaughter, and we planted some lettuce seeds last week for her to take home and tend.
Carol Donald:When I was widowed at 27 years old, overwhelmed and dazed with a newborn, an acquaintance who owned a nursery took me under his wing. He and my husband's best friend had decided that a garden would be a lifesaver. Luckily for me, my Santa Barbara yard had rich, loamy soil and everything grew beautifully no matter what mistakes I made. Later, I taught many students in an urban school how to grow things in whatever space they had.
Stella Ramos:My love of gardening must have come from my grandmother. As I recall, she had her garden surrounded by a picket fence, and it was the only planted area within a largely cemented space. I remember the beautiful gladiolas and herbs. She used yerba buena to make tea. I was grammar school age.
Susi Torre-Bueno:In third grade our class had a vegetable plot and I planted radishes. I recall pulling those tiny plants up each day to check their progress and tucking them back in the soil again. Finally, when the first radish was the size of a cherry tomato I ran to the water fountain to wash it off and took a big bite. Ugh! I spat it out, and I still don’t care for radishes, but I was hooked on gardening and started growing flowers from seed at our house, purchasing marigold and zinnia seeds at school for two cents a seed pack (this was around 1955). My family had lived in apartments in New York City for several generations (my parents were the first home owners in at least a hundred years), and so there were no helpful relatives to guide me. I’ll always be grateful to my teacher for getting me started!