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PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Part 1 of a 2-part series

By C. David Gordon

I keep asking myself, why do I still want to be a gardener — just an amateur one working around the house?

After all, I got a rocky start as a kid, and as an adult my gardening performance record for years has been spotty at best.

My ambition to be a gardener came early in life, yet it was not nurtured by plant-growing experiments at school, or by my parents, who were most certainly not inclined.

Dad was too busy running his small business in Boston. He was born and grew up a “city slicker.” By the time I remember him he had established a suburban home in West Newton.

As a homeowner he confined his gardening to a single chore: using a hose to water the lawn and the border gardens on hot summer evenings, a practice which, I suspect, he found helped him relax after a long, busy day at his office in the days before air-conditioning.

Although she always thought of herself as a country girl, Mom was too busy keeping up with housekeeping chores and attending various club meetings to do gardening. Actually, I don’t think I ever saw her mess with garden soil.

On the other hand, we were undoubtedly among the first in our neighborhood — way ahead of our time — to hire a professional gardener to take care of what was actually a modest-sized area of lawn and a few border gardens. I sense Dad didn’t trust himself to nurture plants, just as he never aimed to be a Mr. Fix-it around the house, and he set the tone for the household.

The gardener, Tony Conti, and one or two helpers, usually older than Tony, came on a regular basis to keep our landscape shipshape.

Having a pro attend to such matters precluded my being allowed to take on any gardening chores of my own around our house — except to relieve Dad at the hose occasionally. If Dad and Mom felt inadequate to the task of sustaining plant life, then by extension my sister, Jean, and I would also be expected to be lacking in any such capacity. Jean, by the way, proved to have excellent gardening skills, becoming active in her local garden club and even holding state office in the Washington State Leagues of Garden Clubs.

I suspect that my gardening urge came about from watching this activity being carried out weekly just beyond our doors. I loved to eat lunch with Tony and his crew, enjoying a bite or two of their salami sandwiches and listening to them converse in Italian.

They were good to me. Beyond accepting me into their company, they occasionally allowed me to try my hand at several of their activities. Tony let me push the hand-powered lawnmower or tug the water-filled roller over newly loamed and seeded lawn.

I was fascinated by the care with which they did their work. I remember Tony pulling out a pocket knife to remove a smidgen of crabgrass which had somehow crept into our (his?) lawn.

They all seemed happy to be performing the many skills involved in gardening. There was pride. And all their work was done with hand tools…

To be continued next week.

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Gardener to the end
Gardener to the end
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Part 1 of a 2-part series

By C. David Gordon

I keep asking myself, why do I still want to be a gardener — just an amateur one working around the house?

After all, I got a rocky start as a kid, and as an adult my gardening performance record for years has been spotty at best.

My ambition to be a gardener came early in life, yet it was not nurtured by plant-growing experiments at school, or by my parents, who were most certainly not inclined.

Dad was too busy running his small business in Boston. He was born and grew up a “city slicker.” By the time I remember him he had established a suburban home in West Newton.

As a homeowner he confined his gardening to a single chore: using a hose to water the lawn and the border gardens on hot summer evenings, a practice which, I suspect, he found helped him relax after a long, busy day at his office in the days before air-conditioning.

Although she always thought of herself as a country girl, Mom was too busy keeping up with housekeeping chores and attending various club meetings to do gardening. Actually, I don’t think I ever saw her mess with garden soil.

On the other hand, we were undoubtedly among the first in our neighborhood — way ahead of our time — to hire a professional gardener to take care of what was actually a modest-sized area of lawn and a few border gardens. I sense Dad didn’t trust himself to nurture plants, just as he never aimed to be a Mr. Fix-it around the house, and he set the tone for the household.

The gardener, Tony Conti, and one or two helpers, usually older than Tony, came on a regular basis to keep our landscape shipshape.

Having a pro attend to such matters precluded my being allowed to take on any gardening chores of my own around our house — except to relieve Dad at the hose occasionally. If Dad and Mom felt inadequate to the task of sustaining plant life, then by extension my sister, Jean, and I would also be expected to be lacking in any such capacity. Jean, by the way, proved to have excellent gardening skills, becoming active in her local garden club and even holding state office in the Washington State Leagues of Garden Clubs.

I suspect that my gardening urge came about from watching this activity being carried out weekly just beyond our doors. I loved to eat lunch with Tony and his crew, enjoying a bite or two of their salami sandwiches and listening to them converse in Italian.

They were good to me. Beyond accepting me into their company, they occasionally allowed me to try my hand at several of their activities. Tony let me push the hand-powered lawnmower or tug the water-filled roller over newly loamed and seeded lawn.

I was fascinated by the care with which they did their work. I remember Tony pulling out a pocket knife to remove a smidgen of crabgrass which had somehow crept into our (his?) lawn.

They all seemed happy to be performing the many skills involved in gardening. There was pride. And all their work was done with hand tools…

To be continued next week.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.