February 5, 2011

Where Did Your Green Thumb Come From?

I recently read a post on Slow Family Living Blog about who you learned gardening from. It got me to thinking about my own gardening heritage. Similar to my Redneck post, I began reminiscing about all the gardeners who have influenced me and led me to pursue my passion for gardens.

As I have said before, there are gardeners as far back on our family tree as I can see. My grandmothers were as different as day and night but they both had a hand in my garden journey. My maternal Grandmother, Nannie White, could barely write her name but she could grow a flower on a rock -literally. She taught me that Squash blossoms are delicious battered and fried, that you can eat many "weeds" in salad, that chicken poop is good fertilizer. I watched her make sauerkraut on the back porch as well as hominy from corn that she grew in the field and so many more things.

My Grandma Meadows lived next door to us until I was six. She had the most beautiful flowers in her little yard. Blue Morning Glories climbing up the front porch, Hollyhocks near the foundation, a little vegetable garden out back. She made cornbread in a skillet on top of the stove that was delicious and to this day, try as hard as I may, I can't do it. Before she moved next door to us, she lived in a house with a fireplace where we popped corn on a popper made to shake over the flames. popcorn has never tasted as good since!

My Great Grand Parents (pictured above) were farmers who lived off the land. They had cows, pigs, chickens and hound dogs. I got my first puppy from them. He was christened "happy" by my Dad because we got him on New Year's Day. I loved going to their house because there were always cousins to play with in the creek, chickens to feed, peaches to pick in summer and eggs to gather. I learned how to shell dried corn for the chickens and how to carefully hold a baby chick. I also learned that snakes liked eggs and was warned to be careful when reaching under a sitting hen or I might get pecked. I still love chickens and have grown my own when I lived in the country and had space for them.

Both my parents were dirt diggers too. My first garden memory is our fig tree that my dad planted in our back yard. Those figs were wonderful! We also had a Mulberry tree but I never remember that we ate the berries. Daddy always had a garden, I remember sitting on the ground in a row of ripening corn and making corn shuck dolls and trying to figure out how to make their hair from the pretty yellow corn silks. Mother was the flower gardener. I saw my first Humming bird on one of her flowering shrubs when I was 5 years old. My neighborhood friends and I played "flower shop' and used blooms from her gardens to make our bouquets. I remember when we moved back to Northern Alabama from a year in Florida, My Mom dug up and moved her beautiful Camilla bush and kept it in our utility room all winter. It was covered in big fat blooms that spring. I've loved Camellias ever since.

I've had so many older garden friends who have helped me along the road. One in particular was Ms Lillian Lowe, of Goodlettsville, TN. She was an avid wildflower collector. Her wildflower garden was a nature lesson right there in the middle of town. She was in her early 70's when I first met her and she and her friend still made yearly pilgrimages to the East Tennessee Mountains to collect wildflowers . I told her once that we were going to find her dead on some lonely mountain path with a big grin on her face. What a way to go! I still collect wild flowers and try to preserve plants that might otherwise be bulldozed by urban sprawl. Thank You , Miss Lillian, one day we will again walk together among the wild flowers in God's garden.

I hope I have passed on my green thumb to my sons. One called last night to ask my opinion of square foot gardening. The other is planning a veggie garden this year for he and grandson Tad. Tad and I cleaned out the little pond yesterday. His favorite thing to do in the yard is dig with the shovel that is "just his size'.

Please comment and tell me about where your green thumb came from. It might bring back fond memories to you as this post did for me.


  1. As a kid I would always hang out with my grandfather in his orange ochard and learn from him as he tended the trees and his small pond garden he had. And my mothers mother had taught me gardening as I helped her change the flowen beds in her yard. To this day I always rember thoes good times with my grandparents.................Julian

  2. An Orange Orchard - how wonderful! I lived in North Florida for a short time when I was a kid. My Dad loved it! He planted some sort of tree seed in our back yard and it grew 6 feet in one year. He was amazed! If I didn't have so many family ties here in TN, I'd move to Gluf Shores Alabama in a New york Minute!