Gardening is like falling in love
Head over heels stuff. Remember?

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


Tom Hanks' "Power of Four" solution

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Love letter from Scotland organic gardener"Gardening is a lot like falling in love. You start slowly and then you fall head over heels in love."

This is how keynote speaker Marianne Binetti set the tone for 300 master gardeners at a recent Master Gardener Advanced Training conference in Port Townsend, Washington.

gardening, like falling in love

Binetti, a well-known Pacific Northwest garden guru, author, and radio and TV host was among friends and familiar faces as she laughed and filled us with hope (which all gardeners crave) by sharing her how-to tips during her slide presentation.

"To grow bananas in a cool climate," she teased us, "you have to cut the top leaves after the first frost and then put a plastic garbage can over the stump to keep the moisture out." To prove it could be done, she flashed a slide showing a tall banana tree growing in the middle of a lawn in Michigan.

"Well, hmmm," I thought, newly inspired like the rest of the audience. "If I can grow artichokes in Kodiak, Alaska then why not bananas?" I dumped that fantasy when Marianne fired off a salvo of more down-to-earth truisms.

"Beautiful vegetable gardens are the latest thing."

"There is no such thing as a garden mistake--it's just a compost opportunity."

"September is the best month of the year. Don't leave Washington State in September." Many heads nodded in agreement, since the past decade has blessed gardeners with an enviable, Mediterranean-like climate. It also showed me how a group of gardeners is like a tossed salad: Mix them together and you'll come up with something good.

"Use ground covers instead of grass," Marianne continued, explaining that it's a lot less work to tend perennials and shrubs than to maintain the perfect lawn.

Speaking of shrubs, Marianne, who calls herself a lazy gardener, says flowering shrubs are the backbone of the lazy gardener. She followed with slides of flowering chrysanthemums--giant mounds of color that require no deadheading. "My favorite mum is called My Favorite Mum."

garden tools

She shared a variety of tool tips, which included placing pruning shears in strategic spots around your garden. "Slip them inside old mailboxes, newspaper tubes and buckets turned on their sides so you always have a pair handy. And don't fall for the ads that say ‘buy the most expensive tool you can afford,'" she warned the audience, now at the edge of their seats, "Just get some cheap, brightly colored tools that you can place all around your garden."

More truisms followed. "Grow what likes your climate," and "Rocks are great in your garden because you can't kill rocks!"

Though I needed to finish preparing for two presentations of my own coming up the next day, I hung around for the entire keynote address. Afterwards, I found Marianne autographing books in the lobby of the old theater. We exchanged hugs and promised to touch bases in a couple weeks.

Port Townsend itself is nestled on the northeast corner of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Victorian homes dot the downtown area and bluffs overlooking Puget Sound. Known for its festivals, including the annual Wooden Boat Show, mild climate and a rainfall that's less than half of Seattle's, it's no wonder that many Alaskans flock to this community.

Port Townsend, Washington
View of Puget Sound from Fort Worden State Park

After the keynote address, I strolled around the spacious grounds of Fort Worden, where the conference was being held. Fort Worden, once the centerpiece in the Puget Sound harbor defense system during WWI and WWII, was completed in 1902. Today, the 434-acre park is a major visitor destination in the Port Townsend area that includes lodging in restored Victorian officers' houses, barracks and campgrounds, a theater, and museums. I followed old concrete roads and gravel paths. Leaves swirled around my ankles. The air was warm and fall-like and to my delight I discovered a clump of ripe blackberries. I picked several juicy ones and savored them as I stolled back to the conference buildings.

Approaching the wooden steps of one of the barracks, I flashed on a comment Marianne made toward the end of her presentation. "If you have a green thumb, you can change the world." Yes, gardening, whether you're pruning roses or eating a blackberry that takes you back to childhood memories of cereal bowls filled with hot, blackberry cobbler, is like falling in love.

Thanks for visiting and please stop by again. I'll put the coffee on!

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