There’s hope

Lila and Gail taking cuttingsGail and I were joined last week by an adorably snarky representative from Generation Y who maybe just might definitely be a gardener. Lila is a senior at Barrington High School. Her parents have a vegetable garden that keeps the family out of the produce aisle and she volunteered (of her own volition) with the Deadheads last summer. Gail and I got such a kick out of Lila that we encouraged her to come up with a senior project that would bring her back to the greenhouse this winter. Lila’s thesis goes like this: “The genetic modification of plants presents hazards to ecology and human health that outweigh the benefits of agricultural biotechnology.” teeny Arabidopsis seedsFor her field work, she brought in Arabidopsis seeds to test Mendel’s Laws – which in turn test my memory of high school and college biology. (Mendel is the one who said – in a nutshell – we carry dominant and recessive traits in our genes and pass a set of those traits to offspring in a ratio of 3:1) And Lila learned “old fashioned” plant propagation techniques from her project mentor, Gail.

One thing that I (as project photographer and nosey parker) noticed while working with Lila was that here was a teenager who, although she plans on studying environmental biology (or something else smart sounding) rather than horticulture, had some serious opinions about gardens and plants. (Seriously wacky opinions but I’ll get to that in a minute.) For all I’ve heard about gardening being a dying trend, I wonder – what about all the children of gardeners? Don’t you credit a parent or grandparent for teaching you -probably by example- to love gardening? My mother took over in our garden where my great-grandfather left off. As a kid, I was pretty disinterested in that garden aside from jumping in leaf piles and climbing Grampy’s trees but I have clear memories of my Mom planting flats of annuals and chewing parsley as she weeded. It wasn’t until college that I realized I inherited their gardening gene. (Maybe the love-to-garden allele is dominant and follows Mendel’s First Law)

Lila and her Arabidopsis - into the cold house for germinationWhile Lila worked on her project, Gail and I finalized the seed orders and discussed the gardens. And Lila chimed in. We may have to thank her for a new a new accent color on the cobalt chair and bench and she thinks we should have orange zinnias in the garden again and is dead-against ornamental vegetables (like our favorites Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets) in a mixed garden. “Vegetables are for eating – not looking at!”, she said with conviction. Apparently it’s ok for a few flowers to prettify the vegetable garden though… Gail and I are secretly proud of her opinions and have no intention of following some of her advice.

11 thoughts on “There’s hope

  1. It’s great that young people get involved at Blithewold. I enjoyed reading about Lila. Like you, I didn’t have a great interest in gardening until I had my first apartment – the main floor of an old house – and a big garden that we all shared. I didn’t realise how much I knew about gardening, just by watching my parents.

    I’m glad you have no intention of following some of Lila’s advice!!

  2. I agree, it is a good sign to have younger people like Lila show an interest in gardening and she’s fortunate to have you and Gail to help her nurture that love of gardening.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  3. I really enjoyed this post too. Thanks for writing about your experience with a young gardener. But I’m glad you won’t be following her advice against the chard. It’s beautiful, whether you eat it or not!

    And you are right that an interest in gardening is often passed down from parent (or grandparent) to child. I’m pretty certain that my daughter will be a gardener when she grows up—well, she’s one now—and I encourage her to get her hands in the dirt whenever possible.

  4. Kate, When it comes to gardening a lot of us have learned by osmosis.

    Carol, I think we are the lucky ones (I can see Lila rolling her eyes)

    Pam, Thank you for your yea chard vote! It’s cool that your daughter gardens with you – does she have strong opinions too?

  5. Kris: Nice to meet Lila and there is hope! I was surprised to learn in that Garden Blogger survey that most bloggers are under 40. I hate being one of the oldest but I love the company! I have been meaning to do a post on my gardening genes and you have reminded me that it might be time! Also, I always mean to put the ‘Bright Lights’ chard in the perennial border but somehow they always get planted in the vegetable garden! LOL

  6. I had to laugh. Teens and old geezers like me have similiar traits when it comes to opinions. We both seem to know it all. I like to say if you’re going to plant annuals – they should be vegetables. They can look great in a perennial garden and you get to eat them too.

  7. LOL, there’s nothing wrong with a few veggies in the ornamental garden or the other way round. Fun post Kris and before I forget; sow and plant more chard!!. :-) Have you tried the yellow one? I’m going to give that a try this year, the red ones I absolutely adore both in the garden and on my plate. Can’t wait to see how the yellow chard will turn out.

  8. Layanee, I’m looking forward to your garden genes post and I think swiss chard probably looks pretty good in the vegetable garden too!

    Pretty funny, Wiseacre – I hope you at least include some edible flowers in your selection of annuals for the perennial garden. Nasties are pretty yummy…

    YE, Gail actually forgot to order the chard so we’re sending out another order. We have had the yellow and it’s spectacular when the sun shines through it – though (this won’t be a big surprise) the orange one is my favorite!

  9. Nice to read about some youngster interested in gardening. I think the popularity of it swings up and down. With the interest in environmental concerns I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge of younger people taking up gardening.

    Kris as an 40+ blogger I have to say the size of this type is very difficult to read! Other than that I love this site.

  10. How fun for you–and for Lila! But I’m another who is glad that you have not subscribed to her theories about vegetables. I’m actually planting MORE veggies in the regular garden this year. :)

    And I vote for ‘Rhubarb’ chard, btw. What a lovely color when backlit:

    Especially when the leaves hit their peak of winter color last December:

  11. DF, I’m with you – I think gardening comes and goes a little but you can’t get much “greener” these days! Also, thanks for your comment about the font size. Even as an under 40 I think it’s a bit too wee to see and if I held the actual controls to this page I’d change it in a jiffy. I’ll put it on the list for our website guy.

    Kim, I think Lila’s main objection was that the veggies might not get eaten if they’re busy beautifying. But that’s the cool thing about having a mixed garden especially in a small space – there can be food and beauty. That chard is a stunner… We still haven’t put our order in – maybe I can add to it…

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