The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Gardening connects us with our past, present and future

On January 2, 1993, my first Homeowner's Column, Selecting Seeds for the New Year, appeared in the News Gazette. Over these 24 years and about 1250 weekly columns I've touched on many topics in the world of gardening. I wrote a column several years ago about the weed purslane, Weed it or Eat it. In one month I got over 20,000 online hits. I guess people are interested in eating weeds, not so much with eating insects. In a recent column, Insects on the Menu, I got the most yuk! comments. My mother-in-law said she wouldn't be joining us for dinner anytime soon and a longtime acquaintance thought I had finally lost my mind. Of course, I later wondered if he always viewed me as teetering on the eventual loss of said mind.

I know I will never lose my love of gardening and how it can connect us to each other and to the world we share. And how gardening connects us to our past, present and future.

Garden author Felder Rushing once related a story about his young daughter during one of our garden day events. The two of them often wandered their Mississippi landscape. From the time she was a mere peanut of a girl every chance he got he gently pulled down a southern magnolia flower as the trees shared their bounty of blooms. He invited her to inhale their aroma, to let her tiny face be engulfed in the voluptuous essence of the flower. He knew for the rest of her life when she inhales the sweet perfume of magnolias she will reflect fondly on her father.

Every time my peonies bloom, I think of my grandmas and my sister who adored the frills and fragrance of peonies. Even though my loved ones are no longer with me on this earth, I feel I am sharing a magic moment with them: when the peonies finally bloom after a long winter nap.

I've written many a column highlighting the "now" of gardening; proclaiming the time to plant the petunias or harvest the tomatoes. Just mention to the person behind you in the grocery store checkout line that you are so excited it's finally time to plant tomato plants. Either they will chime in with their shared excitement or they will look dazed and confused that a stranger would strike up a conversation. With either response, you win. A connection with a fellow gardener or additional personal space as they step back to get away from the crazy garden person.

For our futures to be brighter, I believe we need to get to know each other better. Gardens are the perfect places to stroll with family, friends, old and new neighbors and even people we feel we have nothing in common.

The act of gardening brings us together. It's hard to hold a grudge when you're holding a harvest bucket. Spend an hour harvesting tomatoes or planting marigolds with someone and I guarantee you will know them better when the task is done. Gardening together is like sitting in the hair salon chair or on the barstool. You'll be inclined toward relaxed conversation.

As for my future, I will strive to bring people together and improve their lives through gardening as the Illinois State Master Gardener coordinator. Join me in relaxed conversation with my Get Growing with Sandy Mason blog and the Illinois Master Gardener Facebook page.

I thank you for being so supportive all these years. I hope I've given you a chuckle or two as I've shared research-based gardening information through University of Illinois Extension. And I thank the Champaign Urbana News Gazette for the opportunity. UI Extension has many great horticulture educators to continue a gardening column. As for me "Keep on gardening".

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