I come from a family of plant people. Actually, my relatives on my dad’s side were dairy farmers but I consider corn a plant. Consequently, everybody on that side of the family was indoctrinated into knowledge of fertilizer, pruning, etc. My grandparents’ family sold the farm long ago but I remember riding on a John Deer tractor and playing in a silo when I was a kid. (I liked the smell of hay).
My aunt swore that because she grew up having to garden so much she would never take care of a plant again for the rest of her life. She was good to her promise. BUT she married a consummate horticulturist/landscaper who throughout their marriage recites the latin names of plants, bears the last name “Green” – (I’m not kidding) and they live on Greentree road. (I’m really not kidding).
My father in turn made me take horticulture classes at the San Diego zoo (they are known for their vegetation as well as the animals) and get up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to water the plants that weren’t on the irrigation system. Like my aunt, I swore I would rebel against my father and boycott gardening. Ironically though, I really enjoyed gardening as a teenager and found it hard to curse my father for his botanical tyranny. The soil smelled good and I liked the feel of it in my hands. I also liked the sweat from working in the sun. But more important, I found that flowers soothed me. Observing the cycle of life via foliage taught and nurtured me. Things that were pruned grew back more hearty; blossoms that wilted and dropped to the ground gained new buds in their place.
Sadly, I no longer garden. I don’t have the time, resources or good soil. But I still stop dead in my tracks when I see beautiful flowers. And I still need to be outside daily. And if I paint or draw, I almost always choose flowers as my subject.
Today while walking outside of Henry’s, I noticed a gorgeous azalea in bloom. Vibrant pink petals with a touch of white. I sucked in my breath. And for a minute all my stress and pre-occupations drained away. I had stopped to smell the azaleas (although they don’t smell). And it did me a world of good.