I'm A Gardener, Too

“While I was only a remote and distracted onlooker of the accomplished work of gardens, I considered gardeners to be beings of a peculiarly poetic and gentle mind, who cultivate perfumes of flowers listening to the birds singing. Now, when I look at the affair more closely, I find that a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers, he is a man who cultivates the soil. He is a creature who digs himself into the earth, and leaves the sight of what is on it to us gaping good-for-nothings. He lives buried in the ground. He builds monument in a heap of compost. If he came into the Garden of Eden he would sniff excitedly and say “Good Lord, what humus!”

from The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek, pg. 23

Do you get excited by “good soil”? I’ll admit that I have compost bins and find the harvest of “black gold” from those bins in the fall nearly as fun as harvesting the first tomato. Not quite as fun, just nearly, because you can’t eat the compost. And when I open a fresh bag of seed starting mix, I like the smell of the peat and take a few minutes to savor it before I start sowing seeds.

I am a gardener by Mr. Capek’s definition.

By other definitions? Here are some of my answers to the questions I posed the other day on What makes a Gardener.

Do you consider yourself a gardener? How did you decide you were a gardener?

I never made it a deliberate choice or felt like I had to make a decision to become a gardener. I actually can’t remember not being a gardener. I started planting at a young age, when my Dad dug up some flower beds and gave me and my brother and sisters some plants to plant. My younger sister, a lovely, wonderful person, can’t even remember this happening! I swear he did this and gave us plants to plant on our own. My sister likes nice flowers and all, but wouldn’t call herself a gardener. She likes me to do her planting for her, and I am happy to do so, because planting is fun for me and she doesn't really like to mess around with soil.

When is the first time you referred to yourself as a gardener? Where and how did you learn to be a gardener?

I can’t remember not being referred to as a gardener. At work, they introduce me as “the gardener” to new employees before they tell them what it is I actually do there (which is not gardening-related).

I first learned how to garden from watching my Dad garden, and then later continued learning by observing many other gardeners. I read a lot about gardening. And, I was formerly educated in Horticulture at Purdue University.

Pause…I’ve been “tagged” several times by other bloggers to post ‘5 things no one knows about you’ or ‘5 weird things about yourself’. Since I haven't done that, I’m counting this post as responding to both because I am revealing more about myself versus my gardens than normal.

By the way, though I have been formerly educated in Horticulture, I have never worked professionally in that field, other than some summer jobs I had in college. And, um, it's been a few, okay several, okay many years since I got that degree in Horticulture.

Has anyone ever introduced you to someone else as a gardener?

All the time.

When someone tells you they are a gardener, what image of them does it bring to mind? What do you expect of them?

I expect that they understand soil and seeds, to know a tulip is planted in the fall, and to not call shrubs ‘bushes’. I look for them to have a few calluses on their hands from digging and hoeing. I can generally also tell if someone occasionally works in their yard and mows the grass or if they are a "real" gardener by how our conversation about gardening goes.

Can a gardener live where there is no place to plant anything, and still remain a gardener?

They most definitely can, though they won’t be very happy for very long. A flower pot with a soil-less mix just won’t be enough.

What about horticulturists? Are they a subset of “gardeners” or a whole different group?

I think it is a subset of gardeners, who maybe took some extra courses and just really are in the whole thing for the growing of plants.

So, I am a gardener, are you?

In a few days, as I find or get comments from others who answer these questions in their own blog post, I'll round up the links to all of them and provide a post with all those links as I did for the seedy answers.


  1. I think we pretty much agree. I answered the questions in detail on my blog.

  2. I'm so glad you quoted Karel Capek's A Gardener's Year. It is one of my favorite books on the obsessions of gardeners. And yes. It's all about the dirt. I love the smell of it. I love digging in it. I love caressing it with my gloveless hands. And I don't mind hauling leaves, manure, and ground up Christmas trees in my sports car to enrich it. I've always felt the flowers were just a bonus.

  3. Well, being the youngest of lots of older brothers and sisters, my "gardnening plot" was at the end of the line, underneath the water facet. As I remember, it was always flooded and the hose was always crushing the plants. It's hard to bond with plants when faced with these obstacles at the tender age of 3 (or was it 4?). Anyway, that is my only vague recollection of what "The Gardening Aunt" swears was a many year, yearly tradition (I think she dreamed that up, personally LOL)

  4. Okay, now I feel better. I thought I was the only one inlove with the smell of compost and seed starting mix :-)

    And, thank you for the Capek quote. Now I have another gardening book on my reading list! Anyone that enamored with soil is worth reading.

  5. As the mother of a couple of gardeners I have to admit I'm NOT a gardener. Dirt (sorry, soil) gets under my nails and a gardener can run into aall kinds of critters & bugs. I just perfer to sit back & enjoy the efforts of the real gardeners

  6. I love good soil. Unfortunately I don't have much of it. Sometimes I dream about those places I have heard about that have mostly sandy loam. :)

  7. Since I was mentioned in this blog (sister who doesn't like to plant my own flowers) I thought I would comment....I've decided after reading Eleanor's comment (my mother) that I very much take after her and didn't get any "green thumb" genes from my Dad like my sisters did. So I guess that means Carol that once again I'll be asking you to plant my flowers for me this spring but we need to come up with some better options...last years didn't do as well as I would have liked? (Do you think the plants know I'm not a gardener?)


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