By Jan Tanner, Mobile County Master Gardener / CoastalAlabamaGardening@gmail.com
I experienced my first quarantine 50 years ago, spending days alone for months behind the chain-link fence of my childhood home. Hours were passed nestled under a honeysuckle thicket with my rag doll, Becky. There, we made lifelong friends with bees, lizards and toads, all while imbibing honeysuckle nectar. Time passed slowly, but the memories are sweet.
The parallel to today cannot be ignored. Quarantined … hiding from COVID-19.
For weeks now, hours are passed finding solace in the garden, alone. My same old friends share the time and bring a sense of connection. The toad wishe
s I would leave the broken clay pot where I found him napping; the lizard darts up the stem hoping I won’t follow; and the honeysuckle continues to grow where it does not belong. The connection from 50 years ago brings a knowing — knowing that it is going to be OK. Seasons change, but then they stay the same.
Gardens — the space where things grow — offer connection, even if we are alone.
Sneaking out of hiding because I just had to get a new plant during this COVID-19 crisis, I learned that here I am indeed not alone. Plant stores are busy and quickly selling out as people are forced into more time at home. I smiled at the prospect of a busy world finding the joy of dirt and stems and petals in their backyards.
Gardening success or failure never resulted from my lack of effort or funding. Stealing every minute I could with a shovel was the delight of my day. Dirty and sweaty were my comfort zones, much to the dismay of my mother. However, the effort was no guarantee of success. Plants continued to die, weeds grew and often the design was not appealing. Promises from the sales people in the plant stores were not realized.
With hope yet in my heart, gardens were established anywhere space could be found in schools, churches and friends’ and neighbors’ yards. During one such endeavor, a kind soul offered to assist in the installation of a butterfly garden for children. I had the motivation and energy. I know now that some knowledge was lacking. That garden, with her assistance, was a huge success and she said to me, “You
need to become a Master Gardener.” I smiled and thought to myself, “I am not smart enough to take that class. I’ve seen those Master Gardeners. I cannot do that.” But I tucked that advice away for future consideration.
It took some courage to walk through the doors at the Mobile County Cooperative Extension office to sign up for the Master Gardener class. I feared the people, the instructors and the coursework. What I found was a group of truly kind people, happy to help. This group of gardeners was young and old, from Ph.D.s to dropouts. They were quite a mixed bag of humanity who had one thing in common: a love of gardening in many forms.
Turns out, the tests were simple and the classes were fun and informative, included many field trips and were taught by highly educated instructors who appreciated our desire to learn. Now I know why many of those early plants died and why the weeds persisted. My garden time is now more productive and I find such joy in knowing garden friends who share my passion.
Since taking the Master Gardener class, I bring a science-based understanding to my garden time and my efforts are rewarded. Sharing my knowledge with others so their efforts are rewarded as well brings me more satisfaction. The toads and lizards remain my garden friends, but now I can include a vast array of human friends who share my gardening passion. They also share plants, hard times and good times.
Some years I have spent 20 hours a week doing Master Gardener projects; some years I have spent merely three hours. As a volunteer, I find great freedom and satisfaction in participating with the Mobile County Master Gardeners. I rank this group as one of the best things that I have had the privilege of belonging to.
Gardens grow. They grow more than plants. They grow people and relationships. Gardens connect us to time and place, nature an
d people. Consider connecting with us.
How To Join:
What: Sign up for the 2020 Mobile County Master Gardener class
When: Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., August 12 to November 11
Where: Mobile County Cooperative Extension Office, 1070 Schillinger Road N., Mobile
For more information: Call 251-574-8445, email email@example.com or visit mobilecountymastergardeners.org
Solace of the Garden During COVID 19:
What: Plantasia Spring Plant Sale 2020
Where: Mobile Botanical Gardens, 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile
How: There’s a change this season, so you can still buy the best plants while practicing social distancing. Go to MBGrebloomshop.com and browse the wide selection of available plants. Place your order. The best plants will be chosen for you. And then stop by MBG to pick them up curbside!
What: Walking the trails of the Longleaf Forest at MBG
When: Dawn to dusk daily, no fee
Where: Mobile Botanical Gardens; as you drive into the MBG grounds, the Longleaf Forest is on your left.
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