The Ghost of Gardens Past


Morgan must have been about three in this photograph. Weston would have been going on six. It’s torn up and taped together and generally bent up because Morgan showed it to Weston at some point. The humiliation of having a moment in time recorded in which he pushed a doll carriage through a garden was too much for him to bear. Morgan managed to get the photo away from him and make this effort at recovering it. Then she gave it to me and told me to hide it.

In other words, Weston is going to be really excited about me posting it on the internet!

Based on the early state of the garden, it was probably around March. Spring comes early in Texas. At the time, we lived in a house on the lake. We had two acres and it was very lovely and secluded. Later, a developer bought the land across the lake and it was turned into an expensive subdivision and there went the privacy. But back in the day of this photo, it was very quiet there. That was when I had ducks–I didn’t have to buy them, they came to me. A duck laid a nest in our boat. We adopted the babies and they turned into pets. They were Muscovies, which is a wonderful, fascinating breed. I might get some again one of these days. They are large, heavy ducks that don’t quack, so they are quite an oddity. They can also fly, which has its good and bad points…. The kids had them all named. Morgan named hers Pink Pony, Purple Pony, Blue Pony, Red Pony, and so on. The boys’ ducks were all named after Pokemon or Star Wars characters. Anyway, I was searching for my old photo albums yesterday. I found a lot of other stuff, but not my photo albums, and got sidetracked combing through other old, fun boxes and never did get back to hunting the photo albums. I did find this picture, though.

Notice the “high heel” shoes Morgan is wearing. The dolls in the carriages are American Girl Bitty Baby dolls. She even had a little doll diaper bag. She and Weston were so cute. I love that picture, even with the tape.

In West Virginia, planting time is still just ramping up in March, not much going in the ground besides sugar snap peas and dreams. It’s the season to remember past gardens, think about what you want to plant, mistakes made, successes achieved. Hoeing. Sweating. I had all my big gardens in the past in Texas. It was hot. I reminisce fondly about some gardens–those near-perfect years where everything grows right, I didn’t forget to water, and I weeded. And then there are those other years where everything dried to a crisp or got eaten by bugs or just neglected to a slow, painful death.

The ghost of gardens past wafts around my bare, cold garden and whispers, This will be the best year ever.

Because every year is going to be the best year ever. A garden is nothing if not an active expression of hope.

I had a system set up in that garden in Texas where I watered out of the lake, so there was really never any excuse for me to let my garden dry up back then, though some years I paid more attention to it than others, obsessing over making it perfect. Neat straight rows. Landscaping chips to hold down the weeds. A short, decorative fence to keep critters out, though it wasn’t particularly functional. It didn’t keep much out, but I didn’t have trouble with deer there. I didn’t can or dehydrate back then, so I didn’t preserve much aside from a few things I kept in the freezer. I grew a lot of hot peppers and tomatoes, though I experimented with just about everything else at least once. I was really into making the garden plot look pretty and I spent a lot of time weeding in the early mornings, making sure everything stayed very tidy.

I must have had a lot of time on my hands.

I don’t worry so much about what my garden looks like now. Sometimes I wish it looked a little cuter, though I don’t have time to spend hours manicuring it. Still, as I think back on gardens past and my goals looking ahead, I know that beauty in the garden does hold a meaningful pleasure. Just as with a beautiful bed of flowers, there is a certain aesthetic satisfaction to a beautiful bed of vegetables. Maybe even more so, as the beauty is followed up by the function of putting food on the table. Maybe I will put “cute” on my garden goals list this year–and work on some easy, no-fuss ways to make a garden prettier, without killing yourself working on it. There is a house several miles from here that I drive by every day when I go to the high school and they have one of the most gorgeous, perfect gardens I’ve ever seen. I think the man who lives there is retired. I slow down and admire the garden every time I drive by. And I think, maybe someday my garden will look like that….

Or maybe I could just go take pictures of his garden and pretend it’s mine? THIS IS THE INTERNET!!!!


  1. Julie B says:

    Love the sweet picture of the kids. Yes, that is a great looking garden which leads me to ask ~ WHY are the kids strolling the babies through it?!

  2. Nancy in Iowa says:

    OH, no, Weston is sooooo going to get you!!! :dancingmonster:
    That does look like it was a great garden, though. You’ll have a beautiful one this year, I just know it!

    Good night.

  3. Runningtrails says:

    What a cut epicture! Those kids are so adorable! Poor Weston. He is going to be upset about that!

  4. Diane says:

    I try hard to have a nice garden. Last year my tomatoes did not take, the deer ate my pepper plants, we did get some onions lol. That was about it. I am going to try again this year.

    Love the pictures. So great to look back and remember days gone by.

  5. NorthCountryGirl says:

    My garden usually starts off nice and well kept…until the times slips away with other projects and the next thing I know it’s “jungle garden.” I think this year I will concentrate on container gardening and maybe a few raised beds. Lots of tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salad goodies!

  6. Johanna says:

    My favorite vegetable gardens are the neat and tidy, well organized Amish gardens near Shipshewana Indiana. Often they’re right up in the front yard, between the house and the road (I guess that is better use of the space and allows space for grain crops or animals behind).

    I just love driving down the roads, watchful of the buggies, seeing these lovely gardens. But I could never have one because I am a messy gardener!

    Either way, when your crops come in, Suzanne, it will all be beautiful!

  7. carsek says:

    Gardening is hard work and time consuming. I agree, mine starts out looking pretty good but by the middle of summer things usually get away from me.

  8. CindyP says:

    Weston does not look thrilled in the picture itself, I’m not sure how he could be any more thrilled to have it on the internet! 😆 But he’s a confident young man now, with a beautiful girlfriend…..he can handle it!

    And I am dreaming, too, that this will be the beautiful garden year. Last year, it was pretty, but then the tomatoes got blight…not so pretty or edible :no:

    :purpleflower: :happyflower: :clover: :happybutterfly:

  9. Sharon says:

    What a precious picture. Aren’t those the hairstyles that they are still currently sporting? Funny.

    I’ve just been to my garden and found that I have sprouted lettuce, onions and garlic!

    Still waiting on my peas and carrots to spring up.

  10. Angela P says:

    :chicken: How cute! Suzanne, you’d better get your running shoes on…Weston is really going to get you for this one… :dancingmonster:
    My first gardens were picture perfect but never really produced much and I dont think I ever did much with whatever they did produce???? Funny how time changes everything and luckily this time for the good! We are in for warmer temps and I am so ready to turn some dirt! Happy Gardening to all! :sun: :sun:

  11. Carmen Smith says:

    LOL, what an ADORABLE picture!!!! My son would kill me if I posted that 😉

  12. Melinda says:

    Just thinking how quiet your house is going to be now that Weston isn’t going to be speaking to you for a while 🙂

  13. Ang. says:

    Love that picture!!! I have a few of my kids that are hidden away so that they don’t destroy them. I’ll pull them out at their rehearsal dinner or something.

    You have until tomorrow to buy some Muscovy Ducks. After that, they will be illegal to buy. Check out this thread about it at BYC,

  14. BuckeyeGirl says:

    Yes well, in Texas, it’s important that all little girls get high heel training early. And hair! Hair is oh so important in Texas too.

    Weston will survive, I’m betting he’s got the self confidence now to deal with it. Morgan probably either threatened him with something dire or bribed him by promising to play some game he likes with him next. (both a classic little sister method… I speak from experience!)

    I like to plant flowers at the edges and ends and a few in between. A friend says that’s a waste of space, but I figure a few flowers feed another part of me while the veggies feed my stomach.

  15. ain't for city gals says:

    My favorite cartoon for the Post is of two dogs typing on the computer and one says to the other “On the Internet they don’t know we are dogs”! The one place you can be who you really are or not…

  16. Mary says:

    It took me a long time to convince my husband we needed to do square foot gardening. He swore you have to walk down the rows, but boy, when he finally agreed to Try it he really loved it. You can make everything look so pretty. We have 4 foot squares made of 2 by 4s and gravel in between the squares for walking. It’s beautiful. I love the picture…just so sweet.

  17. Carol says:

    My garden is out there waiting for me to clean out the old to make way for the new, something I should have done last fall. Just waiting for a warm day to pull out sunflowers and tomato vines.
    I like a bit of color in my vegetable garden as well, but Japanese beetles have a heyday with flowers I plant. I do plant marigolds throughout the garden as they are supposed to deter some pests. These add color, and the beetles aren’t quite so fond of them.

  18. Shirley Corwin says:

    My garden always starts out very neat and tidy. I have straw in the walkways to keep the weeds down and my rows are real straight. This lasts until it gets hot and I hate to go and hoe the weeds under. (I don’t like to sweat!) My mom always said ladies don’t sweat, we “glow”. Well, I don’t like to glow either! I had enough glowing during menopause!!!
    The kids picture is really cute. I especially like the high heels : )) I have some photos of my son that he’d strangle me if I showed them on the internet!

  19. mamawolf says:

    Too cute. Weston is going to either hold his head up high, grin and bear it or ……. Good luck with your beautiful garden. Do you ever sleep? :snuggle:

  20. Beth R. says:

    We enlarged our garden last year, and I found out how fun it is to be the only person out there doing all the work. So this year I am trying square foot gardening, with the hope that I won’t have to do much weeding.

  21. Klabmom says:

    I dream of a pretty garden too. But with four girls under the age od five, it just is not going to happen right now. I just keep telling myself that getting the food for their tummies out of the garden is much more important than how it looks!

  22. Barbee' says:

    Well, at my first glance my mouth fell open at the cuteness. Then when I read that Morgan told you to hide it, I laughed out loud! Your scarecrow looks like the ghost of gardens past. With one arm sticking out he looks as if he is saying, “They went that ‘a way!”, or, he is directing traffic. I can’t do warm/hot, wish I could. I figured out last year: I like to plan and plant, but I do not like to harvest and cook. I figured out why… hot weather moves in.

  23. Marymac says:

    Yep….. YOU are in T R O U B L E Suzanne, but thanks so much for that adorable pic, I love it!!!

  24. lavenderblue says:

    Too, too cute. I have pictures of my kids hidden away, too. But they are older now, they could probably handle all that icky cuteness. Weston will too.

  25. AA says:

    I just came in from watering my garden! I planted last weekend. It is small – just a corner of the yard that used to have shrubs (they died in the two year drought last summer). I got a little carried away away and now I have 15 tomato plants- different varieties. I haven’t had a garden in years. I usually just plant a few tomatoes in a flower bed by the pool.I am hoping for a good garden year. Last year everything died- way too hot and dry in south Texas last summer.

  26. Arlene says:

    Awwwwww…..what memories! My garden is ready to go and so am I ! My cold frame is full and ready to be in the ground but I do not plant a whole lot until May. I also sell a lot of the plants so I can buy more!! :snuggle:

  27. Darlene in North Georgia says:

    Suzanne I have 3 life changing words for you. SQUARE.FOOT.GARDENING.
    It would be nice to use “Mel’s Mix”, but if you’ve been growing stuff in that soil, it will work. The premise is that you have a square of soil or Mel’s mix that you plant intensively in. You will never walk on it. Because things are planted where you want them, you never have to “thin” plants. Because things are planted close together, it tends to shade weeds out. Because it’s contained as well as intensively planted with FOOD (or flowers), you’re not water a weed crop that creeps over into your food crop. You can make the squares any size you want, but most people use his suggested 4’x4′ square. (I have several 3’x3′ squares, a 3’x4’square and a 4’x6′ square. I also have several barrels and some potting containers).

    I’ve been using his method since the mid 80’s. I love this method because all the water goes to the plants I want rather than 3 feet of walk space that then needs weeding and then a foot of planted area, so there are few if any weeds. I don’t waste seed by over planting only to go remove every other plant or two. The close spacing lets me use the space I do have more effectively and I get more from the same area of garden space than I would if I used traditional rows.

    You can go hi-tech and buy “garden squares”, you can go medium tech and buy lumber and make your squares (he tells you how in his books. You only need one of the books.) Or you can do what I’ve done. My first garden was made by bringing home pallets from work (with permission). I broke them apart and stuck the slats on their sides into the dirt that I had. It worked. Another time, my now ex husband worked across the street from a concrete block maker. There was a pile of unusable-to-them blocks. He asked if he could go through the culls and take them home. The owner said yes. So every day after work, he would pick up some blocks to bring home. We ended up with 9 4’x4′ squares that we filled with some topsoil/mushroom compost that, at the time cost us about $15 for a dump truck load. We took the blocks, laid them so that the open “holes” were face up, on block on top of a second block. We were able to make a 4′ square with them. I don’t remember exactly how we positioned them, but we cut nothing, just shoved them together and filled them with the compost/soil and they stayed together. I would use the “holes” as a planting space.

    So if you want a full garden with less work, spend some time acquiring materials and making squares. If money is a problem, use the soil you now have with some of your compost (with all those animals, you should have all the compost you need.) and then next year, do Mel’s mix in them. Vermiculite, at least here, is about $13 for a huge feed-sack sized bag. Peat was about $12 for a HUGE, HEAVY feed-sack length, triple feed-sack width bag. My biggest expense this year was the compost. It doesn’t go very far and was more expensive. I only used 1 1/8 bags of vermiculite and 1 bag of peat for the 3 3’x3′ squares while using about 7 bags of compost – at $5 a bag to go with the other components.

    It’s FUN! And I got his new book (bought the old one YEARS ago!) for $5 at Dollar General. It’s a paperback but it works.

  28. Darlene in North Georgia says:

    OH, I forgot to mention – you will never have to rototill again. You won’t need a rake, shovel or hoe either. All you’ll need is a water bucket or hose, a pair of scissors and a pencil. You water from the bucket or hose; use the scissors to thin a plant that grows where you don’t want it or to prune back plants; and the pencil to poke a hole to plant in. Any weeds can be cut with scissors or just pulled out using thumb and forefinger (pincer grasp! lol) Now how hard is THAT???? And here’s his link:

    (I have nothing to do with Mel. I’ve never met the guy and don’t have any financial connection with him. I’m just a fan of his method – because it saves me time and effort first in the HOT, HUMID FL and then later, more of the same in the GA outdoors!)

    And remember, once theses squares are set up, you don’t have to redo them every year. And he tells you how to do cold frams with them. How cool is THAT?

  29. Sandra in SC says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Darlene! We built two 4×8 raised beds last year and filled them with Mel’s mix….I grew more tomatoes than I ever have in my life!!! I made sauce, salsa, canned tomatoes, we ate tomatoes and gave them away. Plus squash, zucchini, beans, green beans, peas, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, herbs. That dirt is fabulous!!! My darling husband has built me two more 4×8 boxes and two 4×4 boxes. We’re mixing more dirt tomorrow….can’t wait to plant stuff!! It is a bit expensive to get started, but once you have the boxes built and filled, you only need to add a little compost each season. We also have a compost bin and I’m hoping that by next summer we’ll have enough compost so that we won’t have to purchase any.

  30. princessvanessa says:

    I am sure that the ONLY reason Weston would acquiesce to pushing a baby buggy, anywhere, is because the young Morgan pleaded, batted her innocent little sister eyelashes, and flashed her “I’ll love you forever, big brother” smile at him. Who could possibly resist the beseeching charms of a sweet little sister like Morgan?

  31. Marsha in Granbury says:

    Hey Suzanne, I saw you on facebook and followed the link here. It is good to read about you and your family now. Mike and I are good, still in Granbury, and now grandparents to 10 whose ages area 8 and under!!! Hope all is well with you.

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