My childhood gardens, adolescent gardens and young adult gardens.

by James K. Sayre


When I was about six years old, I planted some Radish seeds in my parents' large backyard garden in Ridgewood, New Jersey. I have no recollection of ever later sampling the Radishes. I remember rows of high Corn and a reddish-leaved Japanese Maple tree in the center of their gardens.

My family moved to Mount Lebanon, a very snotty suburb south of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania. (We lived in a more modest neighborhood, so I soon gained a lifelong distaste for the snobbery of the wealthy). By my junior high school years, I had some indoor house plants. I especially remember a Snake Plant that grew in a tall beige vase. About that time, I ventured into some flower gardening in our large back yard. The most productive garden was situated in the fire circle, which held leaves that were burned each fall. Back then, outdoor burning was permitted.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, I moved out to Palo Alto, California, where I took a crack at graduate studies in engineering at Stanford University. That didn't stick, but I stayed in the area. Finally I got into a shared rental house in Menlo Park, which had ample room for gardens. I grew annual flowers and vegetables each spring and summer for several years.

Many years later, I inherited a house in the East Bay of northern California, located across from San Francisco. This small house has small, but very productive gardens. For the first time in my life, I have planted perennials, shrubs, vines and trees. A whole new world.

The climate here is Mediterranean-maritime, with cool, wet winters and cool, mostly cloudy summers. We are about USDA horticulture zone 10, with rare frosts and even more rare hard freezes. The last extended series of hard freezes was about twelve or thirteen years ago, in the winter of 1992, I believe. This last winter we had four nights with the temperature at or below the freezing point (32 F), and all the Citrus trees and seedlings survived in fine style.



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Web page last updated on 13 September 2007..