Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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Speed Date Confessions

Before I begin blogging I must take a minute to thank and tip my hat to my predecessor, Karen Geisler, who has put her horticultural heart and soul into The Hortiholic from Day One. Job well done, Karen. Thank you for setting the bar so high.

Somehow, this first blog feels like a speed date. You’ve seen those structured date-athons where women get a seat at a small table, usually in a restaurant, with one empty seat on the opposite side. The starter calls time and the men take a seat. Everyone has three minutes to share their assets before time is called and the men move to the next seat and the next potential match. Ah, romance.

So, here goes. I’m an only child who started gardening when my family moved to Champaign, Ill. One summer day I was bored, and decided to talk to the neighbor lady as I saw her head out to her flower garden, shovel in hand. She promptly told 9-year-old me that I wasn’t going to sit and talk while she was working, so I’d darned well better pick up a hoe and get on those weeds. I didn’t know then how that 30-second conversation would change the course of my life, but did it ever. Maybe the Universe does send us what we need?

Within two weeks, I convinced Dad that sod wasn’t a virtue and commandeered a 7 by 12 foot parcel of lawn. By 16, I was working at a garden center every weekend and summers. During my second semester of freshman year at the University of Illinois, I came to my senses and transferred out of Pre-Vet. That’s when my future came into focus. I graduated seven semesters later with a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture. With the exception of a six month stint at Ball Seed Company as azalea buyer, my last 47 years have been spent learning from my garden center customers, first in central Illinois and now at Chalet, in the Chicago North Shore suburb of Wilmette,Ill.

 I’m fortunate to have six-tenths of an acre that has been mine for 24 years. When you collect “woodies”, you can only plant so much before you have to either remove and replant the newest, rarest cultivar, or live with what you have. My passion is anything beech, especially the cultivars of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). I have 19 as of this minute. Perennials on the other hand are like jello -- there’s always room for more. Since I’d rather be in the garden than in the kitchen, I’ll readily admit to more interest and expertise in ornamentals than edibles.

What do you mean, the time’s up? I haven’t even shared my astrological sign yet.

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