What I’m Grateful For


This week, Susan took a look at what gardeners around the web are thankful for and was personally thankful for the end of "women's page" journalism, which was where the gardening articles used to reside.  But this mood has not entirely vanished from the gardening world.  I once had an agent tell me about a gardening book proposal that my style was not sufficiently "genteel."

Oh Lord, I hope it's not genteel AT ALL.

Here's what I'm thankful for: Yes, yes, friends and family.  Very much.  And turkey, which is delicious, particularly when the bird has been draped in bacon and said smoky flavor makes it into the gravy.

But in the garden?

1. Good-looking, easy up steel fencing from Lowe's.
 There is an iron worker out in the country near me who does wonderful work at a really affordable price.  When you need a pot rack, he is the guy who will give you something artful.  I've asked him about Victorian-style cast-iron fencing that will last two lifetimes.  He says $100 a running foot.  Ergo, until I win the lottery, I'll be surrounding my gardens with the Lowe's stuff.  My son and I surrounded a new garden with this fencing on Memorial Day weekend in three hours.

2. My neighbor Dr. Greg Dodd, who donated such fencing to our school garden, even though his child is not yet in kindergarten and so not yet enjoying the incredible food we make in Garden Club.

3.  Garden Club at Lake Avenue Elementary.  The school garden is so enjoyable, in part, because it has different goals than my personal garden. Last year, I had a very strict planting plan that I handed out to each child on paper.  This year, planting time was complete chaos.  We offered the kids a huge array of seeds and though I tried to play traffic cop, they just scattered seed everywhere.  Worked better!  The goal of this garden is making an interesting meal in the faculty lounge once a week.  So we need nothing in quantity–just a smattering of this and that so we can do something different each Friday.  Cooking with the Garden Club kids and my partner Carol Maxwell–a really creative super-excellent cook–is one of the great experiences of my life.

4.  Seeds from Italy. The seeds packages are so large, and the seed is packed so beautifully in foil, that the basic quality here puts most American seed companies to shame.  And with the one exception of tomatoes, every variety I order from Seeds from Italy is the best-tasting variety in my garden.  For a few years, this puzzled me.  My upstate climate has so little to do with Bergamo, Italy, the home of the seed company whose wares Seeds from Italy sends.  Then, researching a piece recently for Organic Gardening magazine, I learned how important latitude of origin is because it determines day length, and day length determines how many plants (though NOT tomatoes) behave.  Bergamo and Saratoga Springs? Very close, if you follow a thin black latitude line around the globe.

5. Fruit trees from Fedco.  Huge selection, nice healthy stock, a wonderfully opinionated catalog from big experimenters in the chilly state of Maine.  Every year in June, I kick myself that I didn't buy more from them, especially when I'm reduced to rooting around the awful local nursery in search of a tree.

6. Tulips.  What do I really care about in the garden?  Put a gun to my head, and I'll say dinner and tulips.  Oh, I have some other pets among the ornamentals–lilies, dahlias, roses, nasturtiums.  But none that occassions such obsessive behavior, such as spending hundreds of dollars a year on blooms that will dazzle the town once and never reappear again.  What can I say?  It's a long winter here.  Starting in late April, tulips are the kind of party you'd have if the DNA exonerated you after a long stretch in prison.

7. The basic skepticism of my character.  For that I have to thank my parents, I suppose–just the right genetic mixture of Old World arrogance and wiseguyhood from Queens.  Skepticism is so freeing in the garden!  You ignore all complicated instructions and just get stuff done. 

Happy Thanksgiving!




  1. Okay, I am ordering from Fedco…soon. Thanks for that and as for ‘genteel’ that is for the elite and it is synonymous with ‘pretentious aloofness’ in my book. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  2. Hooray for skepticism, even (especially?) about the conventional wisdom coming from the same side of the political spectrum. Sure, it pisses off some readers but that’s okay.

  3. With the Thanksgiving holiday at hand, I too am reminded to count my blessings within home and out in the yard. So, what I’m most thankful for in the backyard garden is the fact that so many of my bulb are displaying their magnificent blooms is a wide array of eye catching colors.

  4. Great post. Yes, you’re right about skepticism. Last week, I went to my first Town Hall mtg with my skepticism way up. It was just as I expected from the talking heads…not one single original answer to the questions directed at them about local problems, but we, the locals, put some heat on them and I was very proud to be in a room-full of skeptics.
    I am grateful to know my fellow citizens are on the ball.
    Gardening is my refuge. Just now, my cleared little tomato garden looks so tiny & cold; the wonderful continuous source of tomatoes seems a dream.

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