Writers, gardeners, and gardener wannabe’s lost a good friend last week. So did I.
Many retirees think that they have paid their dues and earned their place in the sun. Not Margot Rochester. She retired from teaching High School English after 28 years. She then embarked on her second careers, becoming a Master Gardener, a Master Naturalist, a newspaper columnist, a speaker, and free-lance magazine writer.
Her first book, Earthly Delights, Gardening by the Seasons the Easy Way was published in 2004. She traveled nationally to speak about the joy a garden can bring. Her writing was just like her speaking; she was a friend giving advice and admonishment, always with a twinkle in her eye and good humor in her voice. Her second book, Down to Earth, Practical Thoughts for Passionate Gardeners is due out in January 2009.
To me, and to many others, she was a stalwart friend, a mentor, and a cheerleader. "September is the month that separates optimists from pessimists when it comes to gardening… I am in league with the optimists of the world, in the garden and anywhere else I happen to be."
Cold nights bring thoughts of next year’s garden. "Ah, spring, the season that keeps a gardener young and hopeful as she gets out her checkbook and picks up a bulb catalog."
Her love of wildlife led her to plant a special garden space near her window where she could sit and contemplate the comings and goings of hummingbirds, birds, and butterflies. Or, so she said. I cannot picture Margot sitting.
"Remember to keep feeders and birdbaths full for migrants and residents," she admonished. "Enjoy your garden and share your bounty with those who share this earth." And, "This border is crowded…Whatever effort this small garden takes is meager compared to the pleasure given by the creatures who linger here."
She was frugal. She purchased gallon size plants and then cut them up into at least three pieces, getting three for the price of one. She was a sharer, too, of her garden bounty with new and old gardeners alike. Her garden was cluttered with cuttings rooting in pots, ready for any visitor or gardener’s sale that came along.
She talked of doing garden chores easily. Her garden was left unkempt in the fall. Seeds were allowed to mature on the plants so she could harvest them later after the birds had munched.
She was a tireless worker for local Master Gardener programs and committees. And, she was a ruthless recruiter, talking me into serving when I’d rather have stayed at home. I was always glad she had prodded and poked and pushed me forward.
Plants that spread were not banished from her garden. She said of Japanese anemones tendency, "…those are the folks who complain about everything that wanders from its assigned place, so do not let their whining discourage you."
She philosophized about what draws us to gardening, "We grow gardens but we also grow ourselves, so a gardener’s life is full, not of just risk but of discovery and delight."
Some of my favorite Margotisms:
She devotes a chapter to pruning (or not) hydrangeas. "Once again we are reminded why we garden. No matter what mistakes we make, hydrangeas regrow, new shrubs are just a garden center away, and another cultivar is out there, calling our name."
Margot didn’t much care for the concept of planting drifts of one color, "…unless they own motels or gas stations..." "But I cannot help feeling pity for these folks who are missing the excitement of planting a little of this, a little of that, making every garden stroll an adventure."
Her own garden is a joyful jumble. "The herbs…tone down the color palette, which is a good thing since I am not going to do it myself."
Always, she was a gardener, a nurturer of plants and friends. "And to yourself, give a pat on the back for the care you give this earth, for sharing with others, and for finding happiness in simply growing good things."
---Posted by Anne K Moore, November 3 2008---
NASA Seeds in Space
"Now why do you think a plant would look like this? That’s how I’d always get caught up in this stuff. Botany by imagination," Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief