Designed For The Way Women Work.
The Womanswork Story Bank
In February, as winter lingered on, we asked our customers to close their eyes and imagine their garden and tell us what they see and why that makes them happy.
Below, reprinted with permission, are some of the stories we received. We will keep publishing more in the coming months.
If you would like to share your own story, please click here.
“ I’m dreaming of the earliest flowers. I see skunk cabbage pushing up maroon turbans through muck. I see spicebush brightening our woods with small yellow clusters. I see the burgundy haze of red maples in the distance and the pale yellow sugar maple flowers dangling like wind chimes nearby. I’m looking forward to a cloud of shadblow right outside our house with its blizzard of white petals. Can you see me smiling?" ” --Julia Brine
“ We live near a small lake in Michigan. For several years I tried to create a bountiful garden in the lakeside area my loving sweetie had fenced to prevent deer, but the soil was so sandy that the soil was tired after almost any amount of cultivation. We screwed up our courage to ask a neighbor who owned hundreds of acres across the dirt road from us if we could make a small farm on a piece of land that was cleared, but not under rotating agriculture, as was the rest of her land. She readily agreed and even said our “rent” would be a few garden veggies. We planted peaches, cherries, apples, paw-paw, apricots, persimmons, and hearty kiwi. We sheet mulched the south facing side for a vegetable garden, and we were set. That was seven years ago. Every year we fill the freezer with peaches from a Reliance Peach that has outdone itself. We have a garden plot that I refuse to plant in straight lines, instead making crop circles of lettuce, garlic, onions, potatoes, and even beans! Tomatoes are more or less straight lines in a florida weave. Rosemary and Lavender are sprinkled throughout and catnip is eagerly awaited each year by our two felines: Sunny and Charlie Moonlight. My sweetie has finally accepted the non-linearity of the garden and enjoys the surprise of finding carrots in a new spot each year. Before we established the farm, we were idly looking to move from our lovely lake view just because I was a frustrated gardener. Now it would be hard to imagine another life. All on borrowed land. ” --Robyn Burnham
“ I love to garden and raise chickens, I'm always waiting to see signs of spring in the peaking of buds and flowers and the laying of that first egg. I have three large dogs and one is just a year of age, she is pruning and digging so I will be working to fix her mess and this will lead to new looks in my yard. She was busy this morning pulling a rose bush that has a temporary home in a pot now. The joy of gardening with dogs is never ending, but I love to work in the garden. ” --Donna Stone
“ I am dreaming of my maple garden-my sugarbush. I am dreaming of the sun shining, the snow melting, and the trees waking up. I am dreaming of walking through the woods on snowshoes with my portable drill and tapping 800 trees to harvest their sweet sap. I am dreaming of coming home after a long day of boiling to my family’s tradition of a waffle dinner with fresh maple syrup. And after supper I am dreaming of sowing seeds in flats by the wood stove. ” --Karen Moore
“ I have been gardening since I was very young. I always wanted to grow flowers and veggies. This passion has been with me till this day. I love experimenting with my flowers and veggies. They are not always successful but then I just learn from the failure. I live in Michigan and we are currently in the middle of a nasty winter storm. I escape by planning what veggies I'm going to plant. I dream about all the dishes I'm going to make. I love growing tomatoes and can't wait to make bruschetta and pico de gallo, two of my favorites. I was given the a pair of women's Works gloves last year as part of a wonderful Christmas gift. I fell in love with them. I am looking forward to putting those gloves on soon and getting my hands dirty. --Kathy Affholter
“ Last summer for the first time I had regular, consistent gardening help from a professional horticulturist. He helped me identify invasives, which are so prevalent in wetlands, and started a program of removing them. He identified some natives growing on the margins of our property that were surrounded by scrubby, weedy plants and removed the scrubby plants so the natives would have space to flourish. One of the last chores he did before Fall set in was to plant 100+ daffodils on the hill in front of our house overlooking the pond, and 100+ camassia in our wetland meadow garden behind the house. Among many other things, I am anxiously awaiting the emergence of those bulbs!!! Having his help encouraged me to work even more hours and harder in the garden myself. Instead of being overwhelmed by a To Do list, I felt the two of us were really making some headway. I have a long To Do list for this year too, but I feel optimistic we will accomplish a lot! I can't wait for the snow to disappear and the ground to soften. I am always dreaming about my garden. ” --Dorian Winslow
“ I am dreaming about spring and all the glories that season brings. I am living in Minnesota and all is covered in snow. As soon as the snow starts to melt, I am outside looking for the bulbs to poke out of the ground in our front and back yards. We put in a 40 x 40 foot garden area in part of our backyard that is fenced against deer with a wonderful wrought iron arbor entry and wooden gate. Inside the garden we have blueberries, strawberries, grapes, asparagus patch, and rhubarb - all on the sides. Inside that area we have 3 (soon to be 4) 4 x 8 foot raised beds with a central area that will become a sitting area with hopefully a pergola. Last year we started bringing in perennials placed along the sides. My vision of this area is for it to be "total eye candy" of color and deliciousness of all things edible. Last year I also painted a very large mailbox that sits on a post right outside the garden area that holds all my garden tools. Already this space is such a wonderful place to be, only to get better as time goes on. ” --Patricia Jarrett
“ Last fall, I decided to make a "driveway welcoming garden" to enlarge a strip of a garden that was about a foot wide running along the side of the 27 foot garage. It was a boring welcome to my yard, So I dug it out into a curve onto the grassy area. The colorful irises that had been there for several years remain as the background. They can be counted on to be blooming in late May, Then I planted about 50 daffodils and tulips. They will do their welcoming in April and May. Last July, my nature study group visited a blooming daylily farm where decisions were difficult to make. I already had one red lily planted at one end of the garden so for the other end of it, I purchased a tangerine lily and a coral lily. When my bulb plants have had their blooming turn, empty spaces will be filled in with full season annuals of various colors. For fall colors, I will use blooming mums to round out the seasonal change. When visitors come down my driveway next spring, summer and fall, they will be welcomed by various plants and so will my family! ” --Carol Schoonmaker
Below, reprinted with permission, are some of the stories we received when we asked our readers to tell us where their love of gardening came from.
“ I received the 'gift of gardening' from my father. I resisted for a very long time, convincing myself that I didn't have his green thumb. I'm not sure when the turning point was, but I enjoy my failures and successes, and relish the opportunity to learn every single season!.” --Josephine Schiff
“ The oldest daughter, I followed in my father's footsteps. As he learned to garden so did I. We planted vegetables and then flowers together. We weeded and harvested. We were outside together, and he told me stories about his youth. I married a New Yorker who knew nothing about gardening. We moved to the Massachusetts suburbs and I nudged and nagged, and we began a tomato patch. Boy, was he excited with his first crop. From then on we grew more vegetables, fought off the groundhogs, learned about composting, and went on to flowers. Now our daughter is a great gardener....” --Ashley Rooney
“ I grew up in a housing project apartment complex, so when I moved to the suburbs when I was ten, my father, who loved plants and the natural world, taught me the joys of gardening. Although the backyard of our new house was small he allocated a spot where I could grow what I wanted. I loved selecting seeds and planting them in little grow pots that would be transferred to the ground come springtime. The thrill of watching my garden grow has never diminished; I now have five acres of land and a garden that continues to bring me joy.” --Jane Norman
“ The person who influenced me most was my Dad. He worked at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. He was part of the team that grew all of the plants for their extensive gardens, the long stem roses for graduation and the large potted plants that spent their winters in the greenhouse... I'll never forget the first time he took me to the greenhouse. It was huge and filled with so many different plants. The Jade tree was bigger than me. At home, he grew a big vegetable garden each year. He also grew cuttings of lilacs and shrub roses... He died when I was 15, but his impact on my life will always be with me.” --Rita Woodason
“ The gift of gardening came from my mother. When I purchased my house she went and dug up a bunch of hostas from her garden, put them in sealed baggies and padded manila envelopes and dropped them in the nearby mailbox. This was before mail order plants became available. Everything arrived intact with no damage. Those hostas over the 20+ years have multiplied and flourished in my gardens. I get to see a bit of Mom and my childhood home every year when the hostas pop out of the ground and eventually send up their purple flower stalks.” --Joy Makon
“ My mother gave me the gift of gardening. When I was in my mid-20s, I was out of work for several months, and I had to move back home with my parents. I did everything I could think of to find work, but for awhile it felt as though I'd never have a job again. It was really getting me down. So, my mother, who had recently become obsessed with Square Foot Gardening, gave me a couple of squares in her garden to tinker with. It gave me something positive to do during my time of unemployment, but more importantly, it gave me a lifelong love. I'm now in my 50s and my mother has passed away, but I think of her every time I'm in my garden. She would love what she inspired!” --Tracy Wells
“ My Mom was the flower gardener while my Dad tended his vegetable garden. We also had fruit baring trees and bushes; apple, cherry, plum, apricot, gooseberry, raspberry and more. I remember making marigold pies made of flower petals and mud. Stringing flowers from the Catalpa tree to make necklaces. I would help my Mom harvest Four O'clock seeds at the end of the season for planting in the coming year. Loved helping my Dad pick fresh veggies for meals and freezing. It was a wonderful yard to plant and play in. No wonder I too have a love for gardening. I am now, once again, living in my childhood home. The fruit trees and vegetable gardens are gone, but I still take care of my Dad's raspberry patch, which yields crops of berries for dozens of mufﬁns. My Mom's ﬂower gardens have been replaced with my own, but her rose garden still ﬂowers with the bushes I grew up with. My gardens fill me with joy and give me peace. My Mom and Dad are always with me when I'm in my gardens.” --Ann-Marie Rutkowski
“ Every Easter, when l was a little girl growing up in a New Jersey neighborhood, I would go to a lovely little greenhouse on the corner of my block. It was attached to an old house where a sweet old woman lived by herself. I would enter the greenhouse and walk up and down the rows of sweet smelling ﬂowers which I could barely see above the rows. After a while, the nice old women would appear and say take your time. After another while, she would say, take your time, I'll be right back, l have to stir my soup. Finally, I would choose what I thought was the best looking ﬂower I could afford with my allowance. She would then smile, take the flower and say, “we will now make it pretty for your Mom." After pulling some dead leaves off and putting some pretty wrapping paper around the pot, l was sure I picked the right ﬂower. Hoping I had enough allowance money, I'd hold up my hand with my two quarters. She would take one and say this will do it.
Years later, after buying my first house in the country, a nice young person brought me over a tiny pot with some kind of plant in it. She said, "Let it grow."
I now live in Canada on 265 acres and have many gardens. Forty-five years later, I am still passing on cuttings from that plant, and saying, “Let it grow ” --Alice Hatﬁeld
“ The scent of garden phlox, roses and sweet alyssum in my mother's garden during my childhood years... picking all the next door mertensia for mayday baskets...sneaking big armfuls of naturalized daffodils from a neighboring property near my boarding school....driving past any farm anywhere. It was all very sensual, the smells, the feeling, the pictures in my head, my imagination of what life would be like if... I must admit gardening and farming were an escape for me from all the "shoulds" in life. I feel lucky that I was able to guide my working life along a horticultural path. I spent over twenty five years as a landscape gardener. Inspired by one of my clients, a wise and particular soul, Mrs. Challman had an heirloom shell pink waterlily variety that I grew for her in the back of the perennial border. That variety, 'Gerrie Hoek', formed the foundation for my dahlia business. Dahlias hold a feeling of bygone times... granny's tubers saved over every year or those old estates with large dahlia cutting gardens, the state fair blue ribbon winners bigger than my draft horses' huge hooves, the goofy names some varieties have, like Kari Fruit Salad or Valley Rustbucket.” --Lisa Ringer
“ My maternal grandfather introduced me to what a joy a garden can be...even in the concrete environs of Brooklyn, NY. He was an immigrant farm boy from Poland who came to the USA in 1951. He grew old roses, gladiolas, tulips, geraniums, daffodils and... in the smaller space there were tomatoes, cucumbers for pickles, cabbage and string beans. A cherry tree stood in one corner and in June rivaled those in Washington, DC. On the other side of the garden was an old lilac bush that had vined it's way up the fence behind it; to stand between those sensory rivals,each throwing out in full force a scent that even Chanel couldn't imagine, was sheer heaven and something I looked forward to,because my birthday fell in late spring and I thought it was nature's gift to me all alone. The memory of that garden stays with me all the time .. it also spurs me on...Grandpa cheated a bit: he had a steady supply of horse manure from the stables in Prospect Park because he was willing to muck them out - that family skill seems to have skipped a generation.” --Cindy Johnson
“ My grandparents lived within walking distance, so as a child I often went on surprise visits where I was greeted with hugs and kisses. My grandfather loved gardening, he had the magic touch... Now I am an organic gardener, growing all my own veggie plants from seed. I love landscaping with native plants, and watching how they bring in varieties of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other insects... I now know the secrets my grandfather discovered, and how his gardening sustained him throughout his life. When I am on my knees in my garden, I feel him kneeling beside me.” --Donna Brouillard
“ My earliest memory of my Grandparents home in central Pa., includes a backyard filled with rows of flowers. When I got older, I realized I had been looking at rows and rows of tall dahlias, delphinium and gladiolai... My grandfather planted in me the idea that a garden is an ever-changing, vibrant living thing, in which hard work was repaid with visual beauty. As I work in my garden, I think of him and his patience and love for the garden he created and nurtured all those years ago.” --Cynthia Farris
“ My mama gave me the gift of gardening. She always gardened my entire life. I was allergic to much in Spring and Fall but would go out sit and dig in the gardens with her. Sometimes I would play right beside her and then other times just sit and watch her garden. Mama has gone on and somehow I have a feeling that she is up in Heaven gardening away. I know things are blooming non stop!” --Dolly
“ I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Mary who lived next door to us. Her home was filled with plants. We used to joke she could pick up a stick, put it in a pot of dirt and grow something... I currently live in a Philadelphia row home. The children next door enjoy helping me water my plants and do some supervised digging in the pots. They've learned they can't pick my flowers but can run their hands over the lavender plants to make them smell good. People stop to admire the plants. I give them lavender sprigs and we talk about flowers and gardening. Sometimes they don't speak English so we smile and nod. Plants give us the opportunity to relate to people, teach children about caring for living things and indulge our senses” --Karen Jantzi
“ I took the required college aptitude test before entering college. This test was meant to help students find a career that suits them. One of the profession results that came up that best suited me was farmer. At the time I scoffed at the idea of being a farmer but over the years I've come to love growing things and I realized that yes, I probably would love to be a farmer! These days I am a graphic designer and am content with my "yard farm" where I grow all sorts of vegetables and I have found that I have a very green thumb! I guess those college aptitude tests are accurate!” --Nikki
“ I can remember when I was 5 years old my Daddy's aunt (Auntie) showed me how to grow Morning Glories. We started the seed, and strung the string up the stone porch columns of our farm house and I remember her saying a little prayer for each seed we put in the ground. Then she told me that they were magic because at night they went to sleep. And would wake with the first light every day until winter came. I couldn't hardly stand waiting till they came up and I was so excited when they started to climb. And when I saw my first Hummingbird come take a sip from flowers I grew, I was hooked. Every year since then I have planted Morning Glories. I have shown both my sons how to garden, and I always started with Morning Glories.” --Maureen Koehl
“ Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin with a large family, having an abundant garden was merely a survival tactic. After a long day of toiling in the fields and tending to his herd, my father would work in his large garden in the evening. He even found time for a small orchard. My mother would can and preserve all of the fruits and vegetables to sustain us through the long Wisconsin winter. The first thing I did when I bought my own home was to start digging in the dirt ... Despite sorely needing a new roof, I felt hydrangea bushes were more important. My gift of gardening came from my parents. My father granted me the love of soil and my mother the gift of preserving the harvest. So as with many of my fellow gardeners, when the daily stresses of life surround me, I turn to my therapist, the garden. Thank you for allowing me to share.” --Leslie Weber
“ One of my earliest memories is of the Victory Garden my father had in the backyard of our house. He grew vegetables, which I knew was going to help us win the war. Tomatoes were his favorite..., He also grew flowers, especially snapdragons, which were tall and beautiful. When I was married, we lived in New York City, where there was no place for a garden. But then we moved to the suburbs...and all of a sudden, I had a chance to grow things... With my father's advice, and my own experimenting, I began to be a gardener... Not surprisingly, I plant rows of tomatoes. I always put in some snapdragons, too, in memory of my father. My children have followed in my footsteps. My daughter has a rooftop garden, in pots, in Brooklyn. She, too, grows tomatoes and snapdragons, following the family tradition. And my son,who lives in Austin, Texas, is able to garden almost year-round. He has a six-year-old daughter, who likes to plant flower seeds around the house. Will she become a gardener too? How can she not? I'll be waiting to see.” --Jean Gavril
If you would like to write your own story, please click here.