Ken Plum: Garden magic

kenplum2The General Assembly has been in recess since early March when a special session was called by the Governor to pass a biennial budget that had failed to pass in the regular session. The impasse of course is about expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to 400,000 of Virginia’s working poor or turning down five million dollars a day because it is related to Obamacare. We will return from our recess whenever there is a compromise proposed or some solution on which to vote. I have already endorsed a compromise offered by three Republican senators that would establish a program similar to those set up in a number of very conservative states that have expanded Medicaid.

In the meantime, I have had more time to spend in my garden than I have had any spring for many years. I had almost forgotten how relaxing and satisfying working in the soil can be. I live on a postage stamp size lot of maybe a third of an acre. When we moved in more than 20 years ago, I loved our new house but was disappointed that the lot was so small. I now find the lot to be plenty big to maintain.

I grew up in rural Page County, Virginia. We did not have a farm, but we did have enough land that Dad and Mom had a wonderful vegetable garden. Dad raised enough vegetables to feed us all summer, and Mom canned or froze enough to last the rest of the year. The unfinished cellar under our house had large bins that kept potatoes year-round. My parents raised some flowers, but my interest in flowers was piqued by Mr. Johnson who lived in D. C. but had a weekend home on the Shenandoah River near my home. I was paid five dollars a week to mow the lawn but also got to observe him and the multitude of flowers and shrubs he had. He often gave me starts of plants that I could take home for our yard.

I have never lived any place where I could have a vegetable garden like my Dad’s nor was I probably ever willing to do the tremendous amount of work he did to make it successful. I always have had lots of flowers as my Facebook (Kenneth R. Plum) friends can attest with the number of photos I post.

While working in the garden this spring trying to fill in the bare spots in the lawn, putting up new window boxes, pruning and restoring perennials, I remembered a book I used for years as a gardening guide, The Complete Book of Garden Magic by Roy E. Biles (Ferguson: Chicago, 1956). I could not find my original copy, but I was able to purchase a used one through the internet. Though obviously dated in many of its recommendations, it nonetheless reminded me that the magic in gardening comes not only in what you plant and grow but in the soothing effect the process can have on your life.  


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