Having an eclectic garden is not something that I set out consciously to do, it just sort of happened. Really, I've always had a plant or two around, but it never turned into much until I lived in Los Angeles. There, I met a lady named Joyce who changed how I thought about homegrown produce, particularly tomatoes. She was my boss at the Pasadena Playhouse, and my first day of work, she brought in a bag of heirloom yellow tomatoes that changed my life. I put them on a pizza, and it was the beginning something huge for me. I wanted to grow things.
At the time, I lived in a very dark apartment, with a balcony, but (ironically for California) no sun. Then I moved into a duplex with a huge backyard, and started growing veggies with a passion. I hauled bag after bag of "soil amendment" (probably just compost, but that's how they labeled it then) into my backyard, and I tried to grow carrots (big mistake), potatoes (also a no-go), herbs (relatively successful) and tomatoes. My biggest success? I grew canteloupes under my kitchen window. Freaking canteloupes!! They were the most amazing canteloupes I've had in my entire life, even if they were only the size of grapefruits. I still dream about them.
|Joyce gave me this plant stand, once upon a time|
Later on, her boyfriend installed a remote controlled train in the corner of the backyard. It had a tunnel, plants all around, and even a waterfall, if I remember correctly. It's been a long time. I kept in touch with Joyce after I moved back to Washington, but a couple of years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was really serious and she had some experimental treatments. She lost her hair. I went to visit, and we snuck into her friend's pool when they weren't home. I kept having visions of being carted off to a police station in my bathing suit, but the friends really didn't mind when they caught us. She had been recovering for over a year. Her hair was growing back into first "the Jamie Lee Curtis" and then into "the Annette Bening".
I didn’t hear from her for a long time, but that didn’t really worry me since her voice was still on her answering machine. Until the day that I accidentally called her, (my phone misdialed) and found out from her boyfriend that she’d passed away. The cancer had come back, and despite everything, she’d lost her fight. That was a little over two years ago, I think.
I really didn't plan for this post to turn into a tribute to my friend, but that's where the roots of my gardening as an adult started (no pun intended). (Gardening as a kid though? That’s a whole other story…) Even though Joyce’s garden wasn't that crazy, in terms of decoration, it was in terms of awesomeness. And that's the legacy I hope to carry on. So, when my neighbors think I’m weird for growing edibles everywhere, and offer to show us pictures of how our bark-covered hill used to look (“when it was nice” i.e. just bark), I have to take it with a grain of salt. Because I love my eclectic garden- weird sculptures, giant rhubarb plants, and all.
I’ll have to show you my recently acquired “solar duck” really soon. I named her Petunia. Maybe her middle name will be Joyce.