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Womanswork Story Bank

Welcome to
The Womanswork Story Bank

Recently we asked our customers where their love of gardening came from. The responses were thoughtful and heartfelt, and we decided to share them with others.

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 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.