Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Oct. 21, 2020

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Gardening with Allen: Grow plants, bonds in family garden


My husband and I have different viewpoints on our landscape. I like lots of colorful shrubs and flowers. He wants to keep things simple for easier maintenance. I would like to get my children more interested in gardening. What has been your experience in family gardening?

First, let me address your situation. There are ways to have lots of color in the garden and still be relatively low maintenance. There are many flowering and colorful leaf shrubs which are relatively low maintenance. There are also perennial flowers that are permanent and relatively easy to maintain.

I have noticed that in most families it is usually one spouse who does most of the gardening. Sometimes the spouse who has less interest in gardening still has certain gardening jobs, such as mowing the lawn. Children may be more or less involved, depending upon the efforts of the parents.

My experiences with family gardening go back to when I was a child. Some of my fondest memories are working together with my parents, sister and brothers in the garden. I grew up during World War II when “victory gardens” were popular. Our victory vegetable garden was about 50 by 100 feet, which was huge by today’s standards. A neighbor would plow the garden and then we would rake and level it together. I remember as a small child planting seeds in rows prepared by older sister and brothers.

When I was 12 years old I spent a summer with an uncle who grew cut flowers to sell to florists. I learned a lot about gardening from him.

We had about a half acre of landscaping around our home. My brothers were more interested in mechanical activities so most of the regular gardening jobs such as lawn mowing soon gravitated to me. We had extensive hedges on two sides of our property, and the yearly hedge trimming was a joint project for my dad and me.

My sister was given an area where she grew a flower garden. She was eight years older than me, and I started helping her with the flower garden. When she left home, the flower garden became mine. My sister is still an avid gardener and this joint interest has created a strong bond between us.

My wife is also very interested in gardening. That mutual interest has strengthened our relationship. We enjoy visiting public gardens, nurseries and garden stores together.

It works best for us if we each take charge of one section of our landscape. We have agreed that we don’t make changes in the other’s section without asking.

I had mixed success in working with my own five children in the garden. I’m afraid I was too much of a perfectionist with my older children.

Then I remembered my own experience and gave my youngest daughter a section of the vegetable garden to plant any way she wanted. She promptly decided to plant flowers. We went to the nursery together to pick out flowers for her garden. She would ask me questions such as height, planting distance and shade tolerance as she selected her flowers. She has an artist’s sense of color and texture balance, so her garden was always the prettiest area in the landscape.

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist.