Gardens: Images & Memories

By Jeff Salter

Our weekly topic is gardens — experiences, memories, and mental images.

I should begin with the admission that I’m no gardener. I admire those folks with green thumbs who know their soils and plants and tend them carefully. And I enjoy the beauty of a colorful garden. But I’m not cut out to garden myself because I lack the patience. When I plant something, I want it to grow — right now. And don’t piddle around for weeks or months. Grow now.

My mom grew beautiful camellias and azaleas in part of the yard where I grew up. She was a member of a local garden club and even did some grafting (which fascinated me). Each season, she’d spray for bugs. In another part of the yard, she had some roses and a magnolia tree. Elsewhere we had two or three fig trees. When nature’s weather didn’t provide sufficient moisture, she’d water those plants.

For at least one season (and possibly more) my parents planted a vegetable garden — probably about 30 X 30 feet. We had corn, beans, tomatoes, and likely other things. We kids were required to assist with weeding and picking, but I don’t remember much about it. That plot occupied roughly half of what later served as our “football field” and we made considerable use of it in that athletic capacity. Also softball, as I recall.

My own direct experience deals only with flowers. In kindergarten, I was involved in a smallish flower bed in front of our house. Don’t recall what got me interested, but looking back on it, I have to assume it came from kindergarten itself — you know, like a take-home project. In any case, my portion of that little flower bed had colorful pansies.

Years later (different city), outside my bedroom window was a circular flower bed in which I tended some sort of colorful flower… though I can’t recall what it was. About that same time, originating from a Cub Scout project, I dealt with a certain type of sunflower.

Though I have no green in either thumb, I have certainly noticed how invested some people are with their gardens and plants. They have a peaceful sense of serene harmony about them and the flora they nurture. I admire that and sometimes envy it.

Horrifique garden

Garden Imagery

Of course, the Garden of Eden is a powerful image — both for its initial purity and completeness… and (later) for its spoiled beauty when the human inhabitants ruined everything through disobedience and were banished.

In many movies, gardens are invoked as frightening places with dark, ominous shapes and arrays. When you venture into those gardens, you step into danger! The gardens which feature mazes are particularly excellent at invoking fear. Especially at night.

I have only a vague recollection of it now, but I recall reading a Hawthorne story about a garden with poisonous plants… and the professor’s daughter who was so imbued with that poison that a regular human couldn’t even touch her. Or something like that. Here’s the summary if you’re interested:

Here’s a 2006 movie which combines garden and horror:

Don’t think I’ll watch it though!


Do YOU do much gardening? Do you view gardens as lovely and light? Or scary and dark?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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10 Responses to Gardens: Images & Memories

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I don’t think I’ll watch that movie either! I had enough trouble watching “Little Shop of Horrors” even when my daughter was in a stage production of it! I do remember bringing home a little plant every Mother’s Day – that seemed to be the traditional gift we made in school. Seems like the teachers would tie it in with a botany lesson, and then as an art project we’d decorate an empty milk carton or other container, put a bow on it and bring it home to give to our moms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      yes, that is likely how I ended up raising pansies.
      I saw the musical remake of Little Shop of Horrors — that plant gave me the heebie geebies


  2. jbrayweber says:

    I envy those that can build and maintain gardens. I can’t. I try for low maintenance types with hardy evergreens and splashes of color. But I’m just not that invested in daily caring. Here in SE Texas, if you want pretty gardens in this heat, it is a daily chore. I do manage to keep a nice front and back yard. But beyond that…

    I think large gardens are the perfect place for nefarious settings. They are by nature beautiful, musterious, and wild. Hmmm…I might set a story in a garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think gardens are lovely. Even the ones with mazes.

    I have not heard of that movie but think I might pass on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cindy Ortego says:

    I love working in my yard—well, most of the time. It is a real struggle to garden in hot, humid Louisiana, with clay soil that’s about the consistency of cheese. The garden is never static, so it may be beautiful one week and dull the next. Maybe it’s the unattainability of perfection that makes it so fascinating. I come from a long line of gardeners and was much influenced by the gardens of old people in my family. One great-aunt had a scary formal rose garden with regimnted, violently colored, thorny roses. In the middle was an electric-blue gazing ball that somehow seemed to radiate evil, but it was all very beautiful at the same time. Another aunt had a fish pond where big fat goldfish swam around in the flickering shadows. Don’t know why we are all driven to work so hard at it. Some sort of compulsion to make a beautiful place in the real world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      love that description of your aunt’s scary garden!
      and I agree, it must be some sort of (relatively benign) compulsion to create — or manage — natural beauty.
      I sometimes envy the people who possess it.


  5. Carol Todd says:

    Why do we like to garden (at least many of us do)? Well, it may be because we were originally given a mandate to “tend the garden.” Seriously, I don’t know, but men have been gardening for a long time…women, too…in fact, we were probably tending the gardens before the men were! I love gardening because I love to see things grow – it’s like a small miracle – and because I love to see things “make.” “Make” here refers to fruits and veggies producing a crop, or just growing a big lettuce plant or similar. Something I can eat! My grandfather always had a garden, even though he lived in the city of New Orleans, and later in Metairie. He grew everything – citrus fruits, root vegetables, beans, squash, even grapes on grape vines. I thought he was some kind of gardening wizard, and I still do, because i have no idea how he achieved so much success. My dad didn’t inherit his skills. Daddy always tried to grow things, but his success was very limited. It was only when he reached a ripe old age of mid-eighties that he began to have a good bit of success with tomatoes.

    I got into gardening when my first daughter was young. My darling husband built me a beautiful greenhouse, and we harvested tomatoes and cucumbers and I’m not sure what else. We moved to Houston and took the greenhouse with us, growing more of the same and some peppers and some flowering plants. It was great fun and I miss that greenhouse, which was sort of my refuge where I could go and just be “with” the plants. I’d like to have one again, but I’m not sure the deed restrictions would permit it.

    Now I grow vegetables in raised beds, strawberries in gutter gardens on my fence (and in the raised beds), and have lots of herbs growing in pots. I’m planning to add another raised bed soon. Success? Marginal to moderate. But the joy for me is in the attempt, and in whatever harvest I get. Why do we garden? I think it’s hard-wired into humans to want to foster growth in all its forms. ‘Nuff said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      You seem to genuinely enjoy the process of gardening, as well as the outcome — can I say the “fruits” of your efforts?
      I truly think it’s wonderful that some folks have such a temperament. If not, the rest of us would starve, I guess.
      And, of course, for those non-edibles — history is full of examples of experimental gardeners who’ve come up with new plants or new uses for old plants.


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