Fathers, Share Your Love Of Gardening

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

This weekend is Father’s Day! It’s a great time to recognize the contributions and influence our fathers have made in our lives. And it also happens to be a fantastic weekend for gardening. For me, this is a great opportunity to combine my love of gardening with the love and memories I have of my father.

My father had only a passing interest in gardening. Every year he planted zinnias, and sometimes he would try growing a few vegetables or put some grass seed on the lawn. I don’t remember that he ever planted a tree or shrub. His passion was his family and painting. We lived in Arlington, Virginia in the typical red brick rambler on quarter acre lots that were being built everywhere in the 1950’s. When I was 13, I was already spending money earned from delivering the “Northern Virginia Sun” newspaper to purchase small terrarium plants from the Arcadian Gardens. I was even making an occasional visit to Merrifield Garden Center. By the time I was 14, I was working for Arcadian Gardens and had turned our back yard into a vegetable garden. I took my first landscape design class when I was 16 and proceeded to tear up the front yard to redo the landscape. Thirty six years later, I’m here at Merrifield Garden Center still doing what I love.

I’ve often tried to figure out where my passion for gardening came from. Nothing in my suburban surroundings or upbringing would lead me in this direction. Then one day I had an “a-ha” moment. I realized it came from my grandfather. My father’s father was a gardener. Not just a casual gardener, but the kind who packs up and moves to California so he can garden year round.

When we were kids, we made a trip to California to visit grandma and grandpa. I can remember it like it was yesterday. We picked juicy, fresh oranges and grapefruits from trees in their front yard. Gorgeous poinsettia shrubs framed the entrance to their home. Their backyard was a rock garden covered with spectacular agave, cactus and succulents. I even remember his favorite flowers —gladiolus. While grandpa spent his days outdoors tending to his plants, my grandmother enjoyed decorating their home. As a result, their home looked amazing, like something from “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine. We didn’t get to spend much time together, but I truly believe my love of gardening was inherited from my grandfather.

This is a perfect time to share the gift of gardening. June is an excellent planting season. Roots establish quickly in the warm soil and regardless of whether you’re planting in April or July, watering is always the most critical step in getting plants established. New plants need to be checked frequently and when they need water, hand watering directly on the root ball is the best method. For 15 years, I have done most of my planting in June.

So please take some time this Father’s Day for gardening. If Dad is a gardener, treat him to a Merrifield Garden Center gift card, a nice pair of work gloves or a new plant. I guarantee it will be appreciated. If you’re a dad, spend some time gardening with your family. You never know what may come of it and as we all know, life’s greatest gifts are free. Thanks dad for supporting my dreams.