Any gardener, whether expert or less so, feels the pull of spring. Matthew White loves beautiful gardens, but falls into the “less so’ category. In his latest National Public Radio short story he recalls the excitement, even as a small child, when seed catalogs preceded seed packets arriving in the mail. What soon followed was most lovely season of them all.
To listen to the podcast, click here. Prefer to read the script? Simply scroll down.
Matthew White’s series of radio short stories, is called The Shape of Things, and is produced by Robinhood Radio in nearby Sharon, Connecticut.
All the serious gardeners I know hold their breath during winter, only to come out of their shells as spring approaches. It’s almost as if they themselves are seeds, waiting to germinate. I think even non-gardeners can relate to this deep desire to see growing things around them, and we all go into a sort of hibernation in cold climates. Especially during this last brutal winter in the North East.
Gardening is above all an exercise in optimism and patience. But those emotional aspects of gardening must be backed up by hard work if it’s going to succeed. Even when winter is at its harshest the dreams of a gardener live on. They will pour over seed catalogs as they ponder and plan. Hours of sketching and scheming during the dead of winter keep them going, and while the vision in their minds is of lush gardens in their full summer glory, each and every growing thing comes from an unlikely looking dried seed.
I remember as a small child when the seed catalogs would arrive at our house. Outside the wind howled and snow and ice made springtime feel an ice age away, but inside, we nearly wore out the seed catalog with repeated viewings. It was the colorful images of impossibly bright flowers and enormous fruits and vegetables that got us through the winter.
We carefully selected our seeds and the order was placed, then, a few weeks later the packets arrived in the mail. The illustrations on the seed packets promised horticultural glories, and yet, as a child it seemed impossible.
Those little flat paper envelopes could not contain an entire garden, could they? As we carefully read the information on the back and shook the packet to hear the sleeping seeds rattle inside, we continued to dream until it was planting time.
It was the colorful illustration on the front of the seed packet that pulled us through. It always seemed to be an illustration instead of a photograph, so perhaps it was exaggerated just a tad. But illustrations always work better for daydreaming. Photographs may show a certain moment of truth, but they don’t allow any room for interpretation. Those fabulous botanical illustrations of flowers and fruits on the other hand, allow us to fill in the blanks with our own imaginations.
That’s the best part of seeing what does not currently exist. Using our minds eye to flesh out the image is the activity that drives any creative person, and it certainly drives the gardener as the cold months drag on and on.
But even the most visual gardener needs a little inspiration and those rectangular shaped packets have sown many a dream – a dream that the snow-covered garden outside our window will once again bud, flourish and grow.