Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Letter to NZ Gardener - 19 April 2011

dear Jo and Lynda

I guess you can call me a late bloomer. I've always known that plants were my first love, but haven't done all that much about it, until recently. 

My first memories of growing something was when my elder sister (by nine years) started a little "veggie patch" underneath the apricot tree, when I was just a little tot of about 5 years old. I can still recall sitting on my bum between the corn and bean stalks, in awe about what was happening. I was literally mesmerized, watching the seeds germinate and grow into little plants, eventually sprouting things that you could eat! It was amazing. Who knows how many seedlings I may have trampled in my eager attempt to follow their progress, which was, I might add, way to slow for my liking! There may have been other veggies, but I only remember the corn and beans. And a year or two later on, she also helped me decorate a small coffee tin, punch some holes in it, and I planted my first hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum) offspring plant that I personally took care of. Whatever happened in the end, I can't remember.

I also had another passion at that time, which was building fires with my elder brother, much to my mothers frustration. But that's a story for another time.

Shortly after my discovery of plants, my parents divorced, and throughout my school years we stayed in flats or townhouses, with no gardens to provide an outlet for my need to grow stuff. Only in high school did I for the first time have my own room, which I promptly turned it into a hot-house cum amazon forest. One could hardly find the bed between pots upon pots of palms and other houseplants, while loads and loads of hanging baskets filled with ferns and all things green and hanging were suspended from the ceiling (which looked like a war zone, because every time a plant appeared unhappy, I would take the hook out of the ceiling and "plant" it elsewhere). You had to know your way around the room, and it also helped if you were on the short side as I am. 

I guess all the clutter had me fantasizing about the day that I would have my own farm covered with some or other species of plant. At one point I planned an iris farm. Later on it was roses and at yet another stage, I fantasized about fields of tulips! By then I was a full-time art student and discovered stag-horn ferns, which almost immediately became a complete obsession to me - I had to have all the different varieties available. It was a very sad day when they had to stay behind when we moved to NZ last year.

In between collecting ferns, I got married and being a young couple with not much money, we still stayed in flats and my plant-related endeavours remained limited to growing house plants. Every time we had to relocate, it became more of a mission, having to cart around huge pots of plants, because as I grew bigger, so did the size of my potted "plants" (which by this stage included a collection of ficus trees)!

At some point in all this, having dabbled, experimented and fantasized about all kinds of plants, I began to realise that the practical person inside me really enjoyed the idea of edible plants - fruits and veges alike.  More specifically, I realised that olives are my thing. Maybe it's some kind of Biblical connection, but I just somehow knew that what I want more than anything is an olive grove, and pickling my own olives. But life tends to get in the way of ones dreams, so I grew older, got caught up in work and other obligations, and almost abandoned my plans. Until last year that is. My husband and I relocated to NZ and almost immediately found a perfect little lifestyle block outside of Palmerston North. It had to be destiny - we just knew that this was our new home, managed to secure a bank loan and bought the place. And now, about 20 years after my initial olive eureka moment, I have planted and am the proud owner of my first 100 baby olive trees in NZ soil! Over the past 8 months I've already learned quite a lot about real gardens and as this will be a learn-as-you-go process, I will surely make some mistakes. But watch this space ;-).

Which brings me to your magazine. Friends of ours from New Plymouth subscribed for us to a year of Gardener magazines (thanks Deon and Henriette!) as a Christmas gift. And although I've paged through many gardening type magazines in the past (my mom always bought the South African Gardener mag, amongst others), it is only recently that I've started to actually read the articles and take note of what is said, instead of just admiring the pretty pictures. So here's to Gardener magazine and olive trees - long may you both live!


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