Jennifer Arnott, Gardener

I’ve been gardening since I was old enough to hold a trowel, when my dad jennifer arnottwould give me a little plot of his huge vegetable garden in Lively, Ontario. I could grow what I wanted (with a little bit of help and supervision.) I even had my own kid-sized serious gardening tools–a shovel and rake, made of wood and metal. From tending that little vegetable patch to following my maternal grandmother around as she cared for her flowerbeds, gardening was a regular ongoing part of life for me.

When I moved away to study Economics and Communications at the University of Windsor there wasn’t much time or space for gardening. But Windsor, with its much warmer climate, showed me plants I didn’t know existed. One April day I rounded the corner at a brisk clip, on my usual walk to campus and came to an abrupt halt—before me was a huge tree, completely covered in a massive cloud of soft pink blooms. A magnolia. Whoa!

Moving to Mississauga for my first job, I ended up in a highrise with no balcony. That lasted a year. I found a small apartment in Streetsville with a balcony—and I was back gardening. Friends could easily spot my apartment from outside the building, with vines and flowers bursting over the edges. Marjorie Harris’ Pocket Gardening was my guide, and I stuffed that little balcony to the brim with pots. Pots that needed to be watered. I didn’t mind  the daily shuffle from the kitchen sink to the balcony with watering can after watering can, but it did become a problem when I went on vacation. Upon returning from one trip away, the friend I had conscripted to plant-sit in my absence said “do you realize that you have 34 pots on your balcony?”  Well, yes. Was that a problem?

I sat on my balcony in summer, and my couch in winter, cat on lap, poring over Marjorie Harris’ Seasons of My Garden, her story of transforming a yard which she described as “an illustration of urban poverty” to the garden that has become one of Canada’s most photographed and famous. Building a garden from nothing, a blank canvas! Yes, this was a goal I wanted to pursue.

Finally, in 2003, the need for some soil to call my own coincided with a bank account that was finally just barely enough to cover the down payment on a very small home with a decent size lot in west Toronto. The sale closed on a Friday night. By Sunday afternoon I had the first new flowerbed dug and planted in the front yard. By the end of the summer I had removed all of the grass on the property and planted the foundations of the garden that is still growing maturing more than a decade later.

In between all the gardening, I’ve been working as a communications professional since I graduated from the University of Windsor. I continued my formal education by completing a Certificate in Horticultural Science and a Certificate in Spanish Language at Humber College by taking courses at night (note: my gardening is much better than my Spanish; practice does make a difference!) I love gardening and I enjoy communicating (and hopefully have learned a couple things about both by now), so this blog seemed like a natural outcome.

My partner in gardening is Keith, who I married in 2008. He has generously been taking care of a lot of the “inside house stuff” ever since, so that I can get outside and garden. He seems to think that not having a lawn to mow is a good payoff. Our cats appreciate the gardens from inside; you can usually find at least one in a window at any time of day or night.