You won’t likely meet a grumpy gardener

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What is it that makes people who like to garden such a likable bunch?

This makes the fourth season that I have been chairperson of the judging committee that chooses the Ironton in Bloom Yard of the Month; and to a person, I can say unequivocally that I have never run into a grumpy flower gardener!

To the contrary, the receivers of this award have been the friendliest, most generous, and modest group of people I have ever encountered.

Email newsletter signup

Having the prettiest yards in town, you’d think there would be a braggart among them occasionally, but they all attribute their garden success to someone else: a neighbor, a relative, or a friend who got them started with gifts of plants, know-how, or a helping hand.

They tell you that anyone can do it, and they seem to have in common an urge to pay these gifts forward.

Since I’m often the one who shows up to present the award and take the winner’s photograph, I have been the recipient of this generosity more than once: a slip of this, a root of that, an invitation to come back and get a few bulbs for planting in the fall, a foolproof tip on how to get rid of garden pests.

One day recently when the temperature was in the humid 90s, a lady who lives on 12th Street showed up at my door, her hair and clothes wringing wet with… well… perspiration (ladies don’t sweat), lugging a big heavy box.

A day earlier, she had caught me as I tried to anonymously slip a door hanger on her front door praising her for her yard’s curb appeal. Of course we had to admire her flowers, including her beautiful sweet pea vine.

I mentioned briefly that this had been my dad’s favorite flower, but that I had never been successful at getting one started.

Consequently, after I left, she had climbed a steep bank behind her house where she knew they grew wild, and brought one to my door encased in about 25 pounds of its native soil so that it would have a sure start in my own back yard.

Shirley down on Fifth Street is responsible for my finally being able to grow the bright red old-fashioned hollyhock like those that used to grow in the yard of the farmhouse where I grew up.

These growers all seem to have a zest for living, a philosophy that says, “Leave the world a little better than you found it,” a generous spirit that leads them to go to extremes to help other gardeners, such as helping put a little bit of one’s childhood in a total stranger’s backyard.

Perhaps this drive to create and spread beauty is innate, passed down from the Ultimate Creator who could have made an all-gray world, but chose instead to make one of rainbows, peacocks, and red hollyhocks.

Whatever it is, it is the main reason why I am looking forward to Sunday’s “Behind the Backyard Fence” Garden Tour.

Its name originated from enthusiastic gardeners who often invite us to stay and share the treasures in their backyards when we stop to express our appreciation for what can be seen from the street.

It’s not just a day for looking at flowers. It’s a day when some of the friendliest people in town graciously open their back gates to others with like interests and say, “Come, look, enjoy. Let’s share ideas for making our part of the world a better place.”

For me, that’s a day of pure pleasure.

Come join us this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Start your tour at the museum at 506 S. Sixth St., where tickets, maps, and refreshments will be available.

Meet some good people who find a quiet joy in doing all they can to keep Ironton in bloom.

Judy Sanders is an Ironton resident and a volunteer with the Ironton In Bloom organization.