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My Gardening Fertilizer

Is it okay to refer to people as fertilizer? I hope so because these three people are the reason I grew to love gardening — and it takes fertilizer to grow anything.

My Granny Pitts, my mother’s mother, was born on a plantation in Georgia. She learned how to grow in the red clay but transitioned to the sands of Florida. That is where I met her. She was well into her 60’s when I was born but was still a gardener. Her yard was thrilling to a child. Orange groves surrounded the house. There was a round goldfish pond with an island made into the shape of Florida. We could jump to the island if we didn’t land on any plants that were growing there. My brothers and cousins dug the pond and poured the concrete. She also had a windmill to pump water in the cistern. Where the cistern overflowed, all manner of plants grew; a virtual jungle. She would meet us outside when we arrived and take us on a tour of her yard before we were ever able to step foot into the house.

That same procedure was followed by anyone that came to visit my mother. She lived on about an acre of land in a town (if you could call it that) named Lacoochee, Florida. She was 45 years old when I was born; I the last of nine children. You’d think she would have been too tired to garden but she wasn’t. She had flowers and trees, grapevines and vegetables. And, of course, a cat that followed her wherever she went. Her excitement over a new plant or a pretty blossom was contagious. She knew where each plant came from, either from a friend or as a gift; rarely from a purchase. To her, the best plants were ones that were acquired from friends. She never made me work in the garden but her steady influence and her joy in growing is the reason that I garden. The summer of her 80th year, she told me she had grown the most beautiful tomatoes of her life. She died before growing another.

My Uncle Clinton lived next door to my mom. Our yards adjoined and boundaries existed — but that joy of gardening flowed freely between the two properties. He had mulberry trees. She had pecans. He focused on vegetables; her focus was flowers. How could I not be a gardener?

As a child, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want a plant or a bag of manure for a present. Now I receive such items because I ask for them. My husband says that I don’t need a house — just a tent in the yard since that is where I love to be.

Thank you, Mom, for your influence. (September 20, 1910 to May 1, 1981)

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