For the Love of Gardening

By Ann Ipock

For the Love of Gardening

There are many tired gardeners but I’ve seldom met old gardeners. I know many elderly gardeners but the majority are young at heart. Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized. The one absolute of gardeners is faith. Regardless of how bad past gardens have been, every gardener believes that next year’s will be better. It is easy to age when there is nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for; gardeners, however, simply refuse to grow up. – Allan Armitage

Of all the hobbies I enjoy, gardening is my favorite. I’ve always suspected it keeps folks young or at least engaged, and Allan Armitage – a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia – hits the mark with his quote.

Concerning plants, those closest to my heart are inside my home (though I also love gardening outdoors). I think that’s because every one of them tell a story.

The grand old Christmas cactus next to our fireplace was given to me some fifteen or so years ago by a dear friend who edited my first books. I’m sure Susan had no idea – nor did I – how much that plant would come to mean to me. I’ve repotted it twice and it needs it again now. This cactus is wide and sturdy, lush and green. She reminds me of Medusa with her messy hair/segmented joints.

We were led us to our present church six years ago by the ladies’ annual garden sale. I read about it in the local paper, which touted “many plants featured are grown in members’ yards or homes.” Heirlooms? I wondered. I imagined a sisterhood of gardeners, and I was right! What I bought there – a hoya plant from Rosalie and a kalanchoe from Sarah – have proven to be as rich and rewarding as the friendships themself.

My hairdresser gave me a carrion cactus that’s shot up new babies from time to time but it’s prickly; so I don’t get too close to that one. However, it’s easy to care for and I imagine, impossible to kill.

Our daughter, Katie’s father-in-law, Nick, owner of a local Greek restaurant, gave me rosemary branches that I rooted (and a lemon tree and loquat). I keep the rosemary growing under a lamp in my kitchen, the heavenly aroma so warm and earthy.

Separate night-blooming cereus plants were given to me by two other church friends, Virginia and Mary. These root quite easily, and I’ve potted a half dozen and given them away. Their rare, enormous and exotic flowers – which always bloom after midnight – emit a fragrance both heady and hypnotic; and they grow indoors or out.

Another one, this one outdoors, is the hens-and-chicks that Elizabeth gave me over twelve years ago. I root a new one often for gifts, embracing that benevolent and indescribable connection between friends who share, nurture and grow plants.

House plants have other benefits. They purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. That peace lily you received or sent as a gesture of sympathy? It turns out it’s one of the most therapeutic houseplants of all in that it purifies five dangerous chemicals in your home (though the plant is mildly toxic to cats and dogs, so be careful).

Finally, my sister, Cathy and her husband, Paul, retired here a few months ago from Virginia Beach. She’s given me pots full of different plants, outdoor varieties, which will bloom in the spring. How exciting! In fact, all of my siblings love plants and gardening, to one degree or the other.

But because life is not perfect, I find that neither is gardening. Sadly, I lost one of my most prized plants last week due to a hard freeze. A gift from my long-lost (but now found) high school friend, Carol: a huge, aloe vera plant that grew from a single leaf cutting. Apparently, the former safe haven of my brick back porch wasn’t effective this time. I was heartsick! The limp leaves, fat from swelling, oozed juice and showed a sad, odd greenish hue. But I’m also reminded that life holds promise; just as Carol promised me another cutting. I agree with Armitage’s quote: faith and hope abound in gardening.

Last year for my birthday, our daughters gave me a consult with a landscape gardener for our front yard. Our brick bungalow lends to an absolutely fabulous English cottage garden, though my past attempts haven’t succeeded. Sarah and I’ve met twice, and we’ll the complete process next month. It will involve new topsoil, Southern flowering bushes and popular perennials – camellias, hydrangeas, black eyed Susan’s and coneflowers, to name a few. But best of all, loving plants the way I do, she insisted we replant/recycle and use whatever’s already in the ground. I absolutely agree! This present will probably be my most favorite one ever! It’s like a Caribbean cruise, a trip to Disneyworld and a diamond ring all rolled into one. Come mid-summer, I’ll post some pictures!

About this writer

  • Ann Ipock Ann Ipock, the first Sasee hat recipient, is the author of the “Life is Short” humor trilogy. She currently writes for four publications and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband, Russell.

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2 Responses to “For the Love of Gardening”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Loved the idea that all your plants have a backstory. Made me think about what my plants would say–if only they could talk!

    • Ann Ipock says:

      Mary Ann,

      Thank you so much for your kind and exciting comment on my column, “For the Love of Gardening” in the March issue of Sasee. I feel the same way that you do–if only plants could talk! Please keep your eyes/ears peeled for more columns from me this fall. I appreciate readers like you!

      Thanks again!

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