How Does Your Garden Grow?

No, seriously. My strawberry plants need your advice.

When I was a kid, one of the most dreaded things my mom could say to me was, “Come on, Kate, we’re going to the garden store.”

Nooooooo! I dragged my feet and whined. (My mom does a pretty good impression of the routine.) It was hot. It smelled like dirt. Who cared about all those dumb flowers anyway?

When I grew up and moved into my St. Paul loft though, I began buying cut flowers at the farmers’ market every weekend—I was dazzled by peonies, dahlias, cockscomb, and Asiatic lilies. I even learned their names.

At the end of last summer, my husband and I bought a house that has a decent-sized yard. But it was too late in the year to do much. We didn’t even have to cut the grass before the snow flew, which was good since we didn’t have a lawnmower. I felt relieved.

This spring, two things happened. One: we added a puppy, Ernie, to our family, and he needs to go outside a lot, especially painfully early in the morning. Two: I realized these outings were not quite so painful the day some tulips and daffodils started pushing through the earth in the backyard. Then it was the buds on the hyacinth and leaves on the raspberry bushes. Every morning, I began checking their progress as Ernie meandered around with his “brother,” Murray, and the cardinals sang their hearts out.

The turning point may well have been the peony bushes. I did a dance as I realized they were growing behind the garage. Then columbine, spirea, day lilies, chives, hostas, and some gorgeous purple flowers no one has been able to identify. Every day has been a beautiful surprise.

And I must confess that every weekend, after Ernie and Murray’s morning walk, I’ve hit the St. Paul Farmers’ Market to buy plants. I’ve got two herb gardens, which are holding steady with about 12 herbs (but not growing like mad, either). I’ve got three strawberry plants (which miraculously haven’t died! But are about the same size as when I planted them). Then there are the begonias, New Guinea impatiens, morning glories…and I plan to be back this weekend. And I’m going to take on vegetables, too! It’s calming, it’s beautiful, it’s free aromatherapy—it’s addicting!

So here you go, Mom, now it’s in print: you were right, I was wrong. Oh, how I love the garden store. 

Garden Goods

Scent Shield

Organic, knee-weaking perfume that doubles as bug repellent? Yes, please. Spray, $28; serum, $26 @ Intelligent Nutrients,

Scent Sheild

Hand in Hand

I gotta wear something to protect all that nail polish. Smith & Hawken gloves, $10 @ Target,

Gardening Gloves

Take Flight

Love how these birds pretty up my garden and stake out which seeds went where. Smith & Hawken bird stakes, $20 @ Target.

Birds Stakes

Carry on

A cute, modern basket to keep me organized. Hod, $40 @ Duluth Trading Co.,

Gardening Tool Basket


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