Every Mother’s Day, I arrange a bouquet of flowers for my grandmother. I always include at least a few roses because the first exposure I ever had to caring for flowers was with her and her roses that grew along the fence line of my childhood home. It was the home she had raised my mother and aunt in. There were seven rose bushes, some pink, some white, red, yellow. They were so pretty and smelled delightful and she would guide me through pruning, watering, and fertilizing them. I had a Polaroid instant camera and I took pictures of the roses and made her a Mother’s Day card one year with the images. I loved helping care for those roses, but when we moved from that house when I was 9, I fell out of touch with gardening. Other than a few herb growing experiences, I spent the rest of my youth and into my early twenties garden-less. I loved the outdoors, hiked and camped often but it wasn’t until I moved to Florida and met Terri Pinder that I connected with gardening again. You know if you’ve met her that Terri’s passion for gardening is more than contagious. If my grandmother planted the seed that became my love for gardening, my best friend Terri was the sun and water to that little seed.
The first time I visited Terri and Marvin’s Palm City home and received the tour of their property I quickly realized I would not be able to resist planting something of my own. I remember all the stops we made along the tour that involved stories about their children, all the while their late Brittany Spaniel, Carmie, raced around my ankles trampling begonias and caladiums as she hunted for lizards. Carmie was by far the most hyper-vigilant animal I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and man was she fast back then.
For me, Mother’s Day is an invitation to these early gardening memories, and in preparing to write about this, I reached out to Terri and Marvin’s children to talk about what they remember about their childhood gardening adventures. The longer we talked, the more memories were stirred up. It was pretty wonderful to hear how my best friend’s garden came together. Pretty much every abundant corner of their property is marked by something funny or curious, something that all 5 Pinders remember. There’s the tree fort they took down and repurposed into a trellis complete with their much smaller hand prints, and the avocado tree that Ian started from a seed as a science project, that’s now 30′ tall. There are the houseplants Terri thought she had killed that she heaved out into the yard, terra cotta pots and all, that have climbed to the height of a palm tree. There are plates and pots and pans and silverware that the kids would get in big trouble for bringing outside that still are uncovered whenever new plants are added to the landscape. Kenleigh has helped plant a fairy garden and Ian has helped plant a white moonlight garden with angel trumpets and white candles. All three built Terri a labyrinth in the garden where she could do walking meditations. There’s a palm collection and a fruit grove and vines that spread over the entire roof of the garage and a pet cemetery and a pond with water lilies that shimmer in the sun. There’s an entire collection of bromeliads somewhere and there is a very rare palm tree covered with offensive black needles that Marvin has learned not to walk barefoot around. It’s a truly remarkable place, alive and replete with family stories. I know the kids are grateful for it and I am so grateful for that first tour and for the desire it sparked in me to plant a little container garden of my own and to plant and nurture so much since.
Last year on Mother’s Day, my daughter and I planted a garden with a spinning flower in the center. As soon as it was done, we took a picture to send to Aunt Terri and Uncle Marvin. Me and my family are in New England now so there’s little overwintering of begonias or anything else that reminds me of South Florida. Each Spring we start anew so our experience will be different and that’s special to me because like everything that grows, it’s rooted. My love for gardening, and now my daughter’s love for gardening is rooted in my incredible closeness with Terri, Marvin, Hilary, Kenleigh and Ian who reminded me during that first tour how boundless the love that gets tangled up in a garden is.