Atmosphere

Planting the Seed

How digging in the dirt went from being a chore to a multigenerational hobby.
May 2011

As a kid in Aspen, I dreaded down-valley trips to Planted Earth, a garden nursery in the Roaring Fork Valley. I didn’t understand my parents’ springtime pilgrimage: hours spent trolling humid, musty greenhouses pondering overflowing tables of foliage. They’d meticulously select and then line flatbed carts with neophyte plants: “Johnny Jump-Ups are a sure sign of spring,” my giddy mother would crow. I tried not to breathe in the fertilizer-rich air, and lagged behind with a wrinkled nose and “I’m bored” plastered on my face.

I didn’t think much about gardening in the decades that followed, until I bought my first house, a bungalow in Highland, in 2001. In the back lay a strip of dirt next to the chain-link fence. Within weeks of moving in, that pile of untended earth became an albatross around my neck—it was desperate for life. Come spring, I nearly ran to the nearest nursery to remedy the situation.

I wandered the aisles and huddled over the plastic sticks denoting each plant’s growing habits. I called my parents for advice on plant selection. The humidity and mustiness that once repelled me now smelled of new beginnings and bucolic promise. Quite suddenly, I fell in love with gardening. I loaded up on Johnny Jump-Ups and took a day off work to plant my treasures.

After that, I’d wake up early most mornings. With the rising sun warming my back, I’d deadhead and water my growing plants before heading into the office. My garden, as rudimentary as it was, instilled a sense of pride and ownership I’d never before known.

Now, 10 years later, I make an annual springtime trip to a nursery—with my four-year-old in tow. She sits in the cart and points to flowers she likes: impatiens, cosmos, and petunias. I buy a few, and help her plant them—along with seeds for carrots, kale, lettuce, and cucumbers. She waters them with her kid-size purple watering can, and she’s euphoric when a plant pushes its way to the surface. She isn’t bored yet, but I assume one day I’ll turn to find a wrinkled nose and a look of disinterest on her face. When that time comes, I’ll understand, but it won’t stop me from cheerfully adding another flat of Johnny Jump-Ups to our cart.

Dig In

Three ways to produce a pint-size gardener.

The more exposure children have to gardening, the more his or her connection to the earth takes root. Engagement can come in the simplest of forms, like having your child pick out a couple of packets of vegetable seeds or buying a child-size shovel. Here, three easy ways to ensure the next generation’s green thumbs.

  • Don't miss the family events at the three-acre Mordecai Children’s Garden (denverbotanicgardens.org), such as the From Plant to Plate workshop (June 4 and 5), where you’ll make salsa from the on-site garden’s ingredients and plant a container garden full of edible plants to take home.
  • Throughout the spring and summer, City Floral (cityfloralgreenhouse.com) has a lineup of gardening courses, from starting a terrarium to the ins and outs of vegetable seeds. The nursery also sells a line of Nickelodeon gardening tools (think Sponge Bob trowels).
  • Paulino Gardens (paulinogardens.com) offers a fairy garden class where children build a magical diorama with tiny plants and whimsical accoutrements. Pick up a pair of mini-gloves and a sun hat afterwards.