, Port Arthur, Texas


September 19, 2012

Seeding the love of gardening

My grandmother could grow anything.

When she’d visit family or friends, she’d walk through their yards and, like most women of her day, pinch off shoots or branches to take home to root. She was incapable of walking past a flower gone to seed without dislodging the tiny prizes and catching them mid-fall.

When permission wasn’t easily attainable, whether a deserted homestead or an unattended garden, she took matters into both capable hands.

In my grandmother’s Arkansas world, a woman who couldn’t drive and who couldn’t afford a nursery even if one was available had to be resourceful. Her beautiful garden was a tribute to women who might not have much, but even on the darkest days had brightly-colored blooms in their yard.

When my Uncle Herschel was serving in the military during WWII, the homesick sailor wrote my grandmother and asked her to send him a photo. She chose to uncoil her long braids and pose in the garden with plants taller than she. It is one of my favorite photos of the woman who raised me.

When my grandmother died in 1968, two people sent gloxinias to her funeral. The lovely gesture of respect and affection was a bittersweet moment for those of us who knew how long she had coveted one of the exotic plants.

How blessed I was that she shared her love of growing flowers, fruit and vegetables with me — and how fortunate I am today to have access to many plants she would have loved.  I can trade with friends, take cuttings, collect seeds and share experiences with fellow Jefferson County Master Gardeners. Oh, how my grandmother would have loved this group!

At some point in your life, whether at the feet of a grandmother with a passion for plants, on a tractor with a dad, or watching a neighbor’s rose spill across a common fence to grace your yard with its heady fragrance, something sparked an interest in your gardener’s heart.

We Master Gardeners are sharing our passion with you each week in this space, continuing what others have done for us. We hope it encourages you to do the same. The impact you have when you teach a child to plant a seed or share flowers and fresh vegetables from your garden with neighbors is immeasurable.

If you enjoy thumbing through gardening magazines, using fresh herbs in recipes, or simply love sitting on the front porch and catching the scent of a gardenia in bloom, this column is for you.  

Late this afternoon, find a chair in a cool spot that offers a good view of your garden and join me in lifting a glass of iced tea to the Ruby Johnson Nowlin in your life, who taught you to love digging in the dirt.

Jane McBride is a Jefferson County Master Gardener. Reach her at or call the Texas Agrilife Extension office at 409-835-8461.

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