Friday, June 15, 2007

Portrait of a 94-year old gardener

Meet my father. At 94 years young he is a full-time gardener. From sun up to sun down he tends to his large garden in Miami (not an easy task at any age in this hot and humid environment). My father was born in Cuba in 1913, the son of poor share-cropper and the oldest of seven brothers and sisters. My dad has been around plants all his life. As a child, he quit school to go work in the sugar fields of Cuba to help support his large family. After he married my mother, they both moved to the city but always our house had a beautiful garden lovingly tended by my dad.
Dad got his gardening genes from his mother who was an avid gardener. My grandparents lived in the country in a very modest home and my fondest memory of their home was of my grandmother’s magnificent garden. Visiting them as a child was an adventure that I always looked forward to. My father, grandmother, and I would spend hours in the garden, me doing what little kids like to do like looking for interesting animals and bugs while my dad and my grandmother would work and talk about plants.
When my parents migrated to the U.S. in the mid 1960’s, we settled in southern Connecticut and lived in a third-floor apartment but even there my dad had a small garden--he asked the landlord if he could garden the grassy part of the building’s parking lot!
In 1975, we moved to Miami and my parents have lived in the same house for these past 32 years. All the plants and trees in the garden were planted by my father and the gazebo and utility shed were built by him (carpentry is another of his hobbies). My father retired 25 years ago and since that day he has remained very busy every day, always occupied with a task, most of the time in his wonderful garden.
My father’s philosophy about plants and gardening is simple--share what you have with others and they will share their bounty with you. He seldom buys a plant at a nursery since most of the plants he has are grown from cuttings or seeds. Many of the plants in my garden have come from his, including an heirloom-rose bush he brought with him from our home in Cuba.
Our mutual love of growing plants and gardening has brought my father and me closer together. We talk every day and the conversation usually starts with, “Did you get any rain today?” Dad believes that rain water is like gold for a garden and no matter how much city water one uses, it is never as good as rain.
I get many funny looks when I tell people about my gardening obsession, but the way I see it, I come from a long and proud family of gardeners; growing things is in our genes.
Happy Fathers Day, Dad, and thanks for the gift of gardening!

Gazebo he built after he retired

Pictures from the garden

He grows sugar cane to remind him of his childhood

Tropical fruit tree called “Nizpero” in Spanish

His prized avocado tree


Carol said...

What a beautiful tribute to your father, and how lucky you are to share a love of gardening with him. His gardens are beautiful. You can see the love and care he gives his garden each day in every picture.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Rusty, what a lovely post, such a wonderful tribute to your dad!!!

Thanks for this truly wonderful story and how nice that gardening runs in your family.

Your dads garden looks wonderful, it's clear to see how much he loves gardening. Looking good at 94 too! ;-) He's a hard act to follow Rusty! :-)

Me said...

An absolutely beautiful tribute. How fortunate you are.

You can tell your father that his garden is gorgeous. Although I am sure he has heard it before!

LostRoses said...

What an amazing man, Rusty, how fortunate you and he are to be close and share the same passion. To think he brought a rose from Cuba, that's wonderful. And so touching that he grows sugar cane to remind him of his childhood. What a great post!

Jeanette said...

Gday Rusty, What a beautiful tribute to your dear dad.and still tending his garden at 94, how wonderfull and his love for the garden shows through in your photo's.

Brenda said...

Lovely post. After looking at the photos of your fathers garden it is easy to see where you get your gardening "genes".
You are very fortunate to have your father still with you and how amazing that he is still gardening. You are both lucky men.

Garden Lily said...

What a great tribute to your father! Thanks for sharing it. I hope I will pass along my love of gardening to my kids, too. I find it to be so therapeutic after the stresses of the day.