You can be a young gardener

Gardening is a family project at our house. It all began 33 years ago when we bought a lot and built a house.
We loved the house immediately, but there was one problem. We had bought a lot in a wheat field on the prairie and we wanted to live in a forest.
My husband tried to rectify that situation immediately and planted dozens of trees that first fall. Birch, cottonwood, oak, green ash, walnut, cedar, pine, shade master locust, sycamore, poplar, and maple.
We were on the way to our forest—we thought. But unfortunately, the very next year our lot was battered by a brutal hailstorm. All of our trees either died or were badly stunted.
So we had to begin planting again.
Over the years, our trees grew and we bought the lot next door to grow flowers and vegetables. Much later, our daughter moved into a neighboring house and planted her own forest filled with shade-loving flowers.
We found that when gardening gets in your blood, you’re hooked for good. And we want to continue gardening into our 80s and 90s.
It makes me think of what Thomas Jefferson said in his later years when he retired to Monticello, “Though an old man, I am a young gardener.”
Another old man who also was a young gardener was Graham Stuart Thomas, who died last month at the age of 94. He was a celebrated British gardener whose career spanned eight decades.
As a boy, Thomas was so fascinated by flowers that he did poorly in school and his teachers and peers considered him a little “daft.” He would rush home from school to gaze at the blossoms in the garden he had planted.
He wrote, “I can distinctly remember delight in the fragrance” of a special rose at the age of eight and it was his “constant companion” until the day he died.
At 16, Thomas was apprenticed to the Cambridge Botanic Garden. There, he kept a diary of his daily activities and listed every plant growing outdoors as well as those in the greenhouses.
From that beginning, he became one of the world’s most distinguished authorities on plants.
Credited with restoring many old English gardens for stately homes and castles, Thomas won the most prestigious world-wide awards for horticulture. He was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1975.
Thomas authored books on every conceivable garden topic—from “Gardening with Roses” to “Trees in the Landscape” to “Rock Garden and Its Plants.” He also was a photographer, a botanical artist, and a musician.
“I think that music and gardening make good companions,” wrote Thomas. “They bring into use different senses and abilities, and together make for happy days.”
When he died last month at 94, Thomas had enjoyed many happy days. His life as a “young gardener” was rich, full, and accomplished until the end. In fact, his highly-acclaimed last book, “The Garden Through the Year,” was published only six months before his death.
So how about you? Will you be a young gardener when you are old in years?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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