by Tina Ann Forkner
The link between Ruby Among Us and Rose House is, without a doubt, the scenery. Because of the scenery in both books I often get asked about what kind of gardener I am. Am I a Master Gardener? Do I toil away daily at my garden? Can I give gardening advice? Well, not really. I do toil away at my garden as often as I can and I can give advice, but it might not be the kind of advice folks might expect from an author who writes novels wrapped around the concept of gardening.
I am not a Master Gardener and in fact, the very reason I love to write about gardeners is because I can be a Master Gardener through them.
Kitty is the most popular gardener in both of my novels and while she doesn’t have a Master Gardener certificate, she certainly has the experience and talent for the title. Her husband Blake is also an amazing gardener, managing to train his roses to cover Kitty’s entire cottage as he waits for her to come home. All this, while the young people are out trying to figure their lives out and carrying the plot along. Kitty and Blake already know that it is best to put all that time waiting and figuring to good use. They choose gardening.
While I dream of having my very own Rose House consisting of a cottage with roses rambling over it, I only have a green shed shielded by a tall, lovely tree that I haven’t bothered to identify yet. I like the fact that the shed is hidden because it is one of those kinds of sheds that looks very much like the plastic play houses and slides at a daycare center. My kids are finally past the daycare age, so it’s not the style I’m going for.
Last Summer, my garden took on an English Cottage style. I prefer to plan in squares instead of rows because my garden is so small. This gives me an opportunity to have a less formal look with different heights and varieties mixed together. I like to blend some flowers into the vegetable garden for the hummingbirds and butterflies. The square method, besides allowing me to reach everything easily, also allows me to grow some perennial plants like Shasta Daisy in various parts of the garden to split and move to the borders around the house as time goes by. Last year, I had all kinds of tomatoes and squash. The sunflowers bowed their heads the wrong way, but they grew tall and straight and we had blooms of nasturtium and other mixed flowers in abundance for the hummingbirds.
This year, the late hail and rain thwarted my efforts of starting early. In Wyoming, there is a pretty small window for getting a garden started, which is already pretty late compared to other parts of the country. Finally, just before I was supposed to leave on a trip planned to be part book tour and part vacation with my daughter, the weather let my husband turn up the soil with a tiller that he rented. We decided we didn’t have the funds or time this year to add soil amendments (we are regretting that now) and so I went straight to planting. I had exactly one hour to make rows (remember I prefer squares) and plant some seed before it began to rain and hail. Over the next month I was immersed in book signings, teaching at conferences, and this and that as my garden was left pretty much on its own. I am sorry to say that my garden is in a sorry state.
I would be embarrassed for you to see it, so no pictures, but now that I am home I am trying to make the most of what is left of the gardening season. I walked through it this morning and I was delighted to find some spots of beauty despite my best efforts to neglect this year’s garden. The squash is lush and blooming. I even picked a baby squash for our omelets. The carrots are thick and need to be thinned out. Lettuce is growing haphazardly throughout the garden and some tomatoes are trying very hard to grow. Even my perennials from last year are bursting with color and begging to be moved to their beds. This is why I love gardening.
I don’t set my sights too high because I don’t have to. I get excited at the smallest tomato that manages to find its way onto my salad. Someday, I hope to have a garden like Kitty’s. I hope to be a gardener like Kitty when I am her age and when I have the time on my hands that she has.
If you haven’t read about Kitty, I hope you will pick up a copy of Ruby Among Us. I think you would enjoy her and her daughter, Ruby, and granddaughter, Lucy. And while the second book is not about Kitty, she is part of the story, along with her lovely gardens that inspire many in Rose House. You can find them at your local bookstores or have your local bookstore order them for you. Or you can find them on-line at your usual favorite bookstore sites.