About Me and My Gardens


Like many of you, I am an ordinary gardener with problems and challenges, successes and failures.  Like many of you I became obsessed with gardening somewhere along the way, but I also got a little obsessed about gathering and recording gardening information, which eventually led to the start of this website.

We each have our different experiences that got us involved in gardening.  For me it was many things over many years.  I think I was planting petunias with mom by kindergarten.  In high school I compiled 15 different barrels of compost for a biology research project (extra points! My instructor was an obsessed gardener who couldn’t wait to take all the compost home!).  While attending the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture, most of my classes were on the “farm campus” where I met several agricultural exchange students.  Eventually I visited many of them on their farms across Europe.  My favorite visit was with a tulip farmer in Holland.  You just can’t imagine a Dutch tulip farm, needless to say the fields and greenhouses are stunning.  He took me to the largest tulip market in Holland where buyers from all over the world came to bid on tulips.  From the catwalks above you could see tulips for “miles”.  I was also able to visit many inspiring European gardens as well as Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.  I’m glad I saw Tivoli so many years ago, I believe it has become more amusement park and entertainment than gardens.

Shortly after my tour of Europe, I moved from an apartment to a house where I planted for myself for the first time.  The horrible, rock hard soil wasn’t suitable for growing much so I started with tough as nails zinnias.  I started them from seed of course, and yes, they were gorgeous!  (Just can’t go wrong with zinnias!)  In my next house I roomed with a farm girl.  The soil was better so she brought a rototiller from the farm and away we went.  She tilled up a patch as big as the garage.  She knew exactly what she was doing of course, and I got my first opportunity to grow every vegetable we could think of.

Eventually I was home with kids and I had more time to devote to gardening, landscaping and lawn chores.  I spent many years in zone 5b.  Now that I am back in zone 4 I wish I had appreciated 5b more.  Many of the flowering shrubs and perennials I grew there won’t survive a zone 4 winter of course.

Sixteen years ago we moved to our current home with a ton of lawn space and no landscaping.  It was heaven and hell all at once.  So much space to work with!  SOOO much work!  But it is a labor of love, and I love to labor in the dirt.  For the first few years I worked all summer in daylight.  And when the sun went down, and all winter, I read every garden and plant book the library had.  Leon Snyder was a favorite, Trees and Shrubs for Northern Gardens and Gardening in the Upper Midwest I read cover to cover.  I had notebooks filled with information and lists, eventually filling my computer with even more.  Once the internet was widely used I began searching, searching, and searching for good information.  This is what eventually lead me to starting the website.  I found that my own data that I had compiled from reading, research, trial, and error was far more complete and accurate than any sources I could find.  This website began more as an exchange of information between gardening friends, but now I am nearly as obsessed about the site as I am about gardening.  It will take me the rest of my life to get everything out of my head and onto the site.  So be patient!

Enjoy exploring the site and watching it grow.  But more importantly, I hope the site helps you enjoy your gardening!  And think about a few things that guide me in my gardening:

Do it well (as well as you are able) and completely or don’t do it at all

Know your site:  soil, sun, shade, wind

Give it a try - what have you got to lose

Have fun

Sharon, The Ordinary Gardener