by David Pippin, Course Instructor, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The question often arises, “How and why did you become involved in horticulture?” As I stop to ponder my response, I realize my interest started when I was very young, probably 4- or 5-years-old. How could I remember such things? It was because they made great and lasting impressions. I believe these experiences ultimately influenced my career choice.
Growing up in a rural area near both sets of grandparents set the pace for the rest of my life. One of my grandfathers was an avid fisherman and hobby gardener — yes, he taught me how to fish, but he also taught me an appreciation for nature and to take care of our world for future generations. At the time I did not understand everything he was talking about and did not think he really knew either. As I look back I think he was “right on target” with his beliefs about recycling, conservation and preservation. I find myself referring to these values today in my personal as well as my professional life.
My other grandfather was a farmer who always invited me to help him in the family vegetable garden. I would help plant and harvest crops, as well as weed (which was and still is my least favorite gardening task). Throughout this process I was learning without realizing it. Would I have “helped” if I had thought I was going to learn anything? Probably not.
Also during my childhood I would travel to Richmond with my family to visit my great grandmother. The visit with “Big Mama” was always full of surprises. She would lead us around her yard to show off her most prized plants – pansies, lily of the valley, lilac, peonies and roses. I never left her house in the spring without an arm full of flowers she had cut from her garden. (They were always carefully wrapped in wet paper towels and newspaper for a safe journey home.) Could these be the seeds that were sown to prepare me to be a horticulturist?
Allowing a child to experience nature and gardening can be a very simple way of influencing his or her future. As you water your houseplants, plant your vegetables, weed your flower beds, or rake leaves, ask your child to help. Make these tasks fun and exciting! Give the child a set of child-size tools and a small plot or a few containers to create his or her own garden. Take your children or grandchildren on a hike along a mountain stream or visit a local park or botanical garden. These experiences can be very rewarding for you and the child! Who knows, you may be planting the seeds for a budding horticulturist.
Interested in taking a class at the Garden from David Pippin? Registration is now open for our Lunchtime Lecture: Dueling Designers Do Holiday Designs, Thursday, November 21, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and Arranging for the Altar: Floral Design in Religious Spaces, Saturday, November 2, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s newsletter many years ago. It seemed timeless, and a great message, so here you find it reprinted on our blog. David Pippin is also a horticultural designer and consultant in the Richmond Region.