by Henry Lane Hull
In the spring a young man’s fancy turns to………. Well, I might not be a “young man,” but this year I have been delving into the bucket list of items that I have wanted to do for many years, but for whatever reasons have postponed, always thinking to myself that I could find time for them later in life.
Whether this period is “later in life” or not, I am enjoying the catch-up and seeing the bucket, if not yet half empty, at least containing less slips than were in it not that long ago.
I am the third generation of my family to attempt gardening in the Northern Neck. The two apogees of those multigenerational undertakings were my grandfather’s garden at Colonial Beach, which I am told drew admiring compliments from all who saw it, and my own efforts that culminated in our home being open for Historic Garden Week 25 years ago.
At Colonial Beach, the Baptist Church complex has sat on the site of my grandfather’s garden for over a half-century. More immediately, here at home the yard and gardens have declined steadily since that bright April day a quarter of a century past.
I attribute that situation to the beginning of a more radical change a few days after Garden Week, namely, the process of meeting my Good Wife and committing matrimony a year later to be followed by the arrival of the two B.E.s, all of which put other matters before me, leaving little time for sweet potatoes or Floribunda roses.
In those ensuing years soccer, field hockey games, family trips and working with homework, the school kind that is, largely came to replace weeding and pruning. When my contemporaries were going into gardening and similar leisure pursuits, their children having moved along in life, I was embarking on the new vocation of parenthood. With the onset of the B.E.s’ college careers, I have been looking forward to returning to the soil, Mother Earth, to go back into digging, planting and I hope harvesting. Ironically, some of the same contemporaries who began pursuing those recreational interests a generation ago now are contracting out the maintenance of their yards, and have abandoned gardening altogether.
To that end, I am approaching the midpoint of being a student in the Northern Neck Master Gardener class, one of the most intriguing and captivating efforts I have experienced. In the first class I learned that we plant in soil, not dirt, and from thereon each session has opened an ever-wider vista of understanding how to garden correctly.
In those years when domestic duties were front and center, I lapsed in ordering garden catalogs and relied solely on what seeds and plants were available locally. This year I am delving into the heirloom and exotic seed catalogs, the end result some weeks and months from now I hope will be our eating more as locavores than as “importavores,” the latter regimen resting mainly on produce from California.
Last spring outside our kitchen I planted several butterfly bushes and other flowering plants that did their duty and attracted a large bevy of Monarchs, honeybees, bumble bees and at night some beautiful moths. One day seven Monarchs appeared on a single bush, which was but one of the fascinating observations our family made from sitting at the breakfast window.
Another of the longer-term goals in all of this activity is to return to beekeeping as well as gardening. As a family a few years ago we took the beekeeping class and now Lynn Kallus, the Northern Neck resident guru on all matters apian, kindly has offered to guide us in getting back into the process of maintaining an apiary. Can domestic honey be far behind sound gardening?
Bucket lists are goals to be achieved in an ideal world, but at the rate I am going I am hopeful that in this case I soon shall have an empty bucket to use for watering the garden or mixing soil samples to be sent away for lab analysis.