No, my daughter was not a horse

Janice Wells
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This picture from the Mystery Garden Tour show the variety possible in container gardening. None of these are on balconies, but all could be. — Photo by Janice Wells/Special to The Telegram

I’m reminiscing about gardening today because I haven’t actually done any lately. I’m in such a slump that I haven’t even rearranged the planters and trellises that Daughter No. 1 moved when she painted and stained the front veranda.

Daughter No. 1 was with us all summer, working and saving money to go back to school.

She’s also been my garden buddy and I can’t believe the summer is over and she is gone and the poor garden is left solely to my devices.

We’ve never actually shared a garden before as adults, and she, having chosen a travelling life up to now, hasn’t really had her own garden yet, unless you count the scattered container of herbs.

It was such a pleasure to come home from a weekend away to see signs of watering and be greeted with little observations on what opened while I was away or how Nelly Moser wasn’t doing so well.

Even a bit of havoc from my exuberant grand dog could not diminish my satisfaction in sharing a garden with my daughter.

Especially when I remember her introduction to gardening. Former ’Usband and I had moved into our first house in June; I had my first garden and Daughter No. 1 was 10 months old.

I’d garden while she napped in the pram next to me and I’d garden with her in the playpen next to me. She took her first steps pushing a toy lawn mower around the garden.

And that’s when I could have scarred her for life from gardening. In relating this story, I realize that some of you may be horrified because I’m a little horrified myself, but it is too late to report me to the authorities.

Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else.

In those days (back in the 70s) a little leather apparatus called a harness was still considered acceptable for putting on your toddler to keep the child close to you and safe while you were walking together.

It allowed the child more freedom of movement than holding hands and a taller parent didn’t have to walk scrunched over.

Somewhere along the line, parents (perhaps those formerly harnessed kids) started comparing this to dog walking or some such thing and harnesses fell out of favour, but that’s another discussion.

Anyway, when I wanted to work in the unfenced front garden and my little girl wanted to play out there and had outgrown her playpen, I had the brainwave to assemble a little pile of toys on the lawn, put on her harness, add a piece of rope and tie the rope to the garage door to keep her from running onto the street.

(I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but tying on your children really wasn’t considered a bad thing back then. I myself have a vivid memory of being tied on in my mother’s front yard, watching the coal horse coming up the road, and look how well I turned out.)

 I was very careful with the knots, making sure they wouldn’t come undone.

She was playing happily enough and I was getting my bulbs planted until she decided she wanted to do what I was doing, simply unbuckled the harness, slipped out of it and joined me in the flower bed.

I’d like to think that was the dumbest thing I ever did as a mother (even though I still think harnesses of some sort are a good idea, especially in crowds) and I don’t think she suffered any emotional scars from her first and last experience being tied to the garage door. She was happy to be with me in the garden and maybe the gardening seeds (pardon) were planted in my daughter then.

I see a balcony garden in her near future. Where are all those balcony garden pictures I asked for?


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at

Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

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