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Like growing up, so are the gardens of our lives

In my life, I have been lucky to experience city gardens, country gardens and suburban gardens.

I'm always reminded of this, whether I'm relishing the first weeks of spring or sailing headfirst into summer.

My first garden growing up was at a house in a small city. The trees were mature, the soil rich and the house brown with white trim. Out front, we had a porch and white window boxes bursting with red geraniums. In the back, rhubarb grew in a bed behind the house and an above-ground pool was sandwiched between our detached garage and that of our neighbors.

Assorted flowering shrubs separated the properties, with something always in bloom. The man next door grew magnificent roses along his driveway. He often invited me over to select one to put in a vase in my bedroom.

From there we moved to the suburbs where the lawn stretched up to the house. Landscaping was minimal. Gardening quickly became my mother's passion. Lawn maintenance, my father's obsession.

His neatly edged lawn may have been the sharpest on the block but, quite frankly, in that place and at that time, he had plenty of competition.

The amount of lawn grew smaller as my mother's garden beds grew bigger and bigger. Men may have been walking on the moon back then, but my mother's feet were firmly planted on the ground. Covered in peat moss.

Loads of topsoil were regularly delivered and spread. Gardening books piled up. Trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals went into the ground. All the neighbors were doing this back then. No homeowner dreamed of cranking up a gas-powered lawn mower too early in the morning, too late in the evening, at dinner time and certainly not during cocktail hour.

Indeed, at the end of the day, my parents and the neighbors they were getting to know would gather on one of the patios and toast their hard work.

I also became familiar with a country garden. When we visited my aunt, uncle and cousins and corn-on-the-cob was on the menu, the corn wasn't picked until the water was put on the stove to boil. That is how fresh it was.

When I was old and strong enough to push a human-powered mower, I would return to that first garden of mine where my grandmother still lived -- now joined by her sister, who was also widowed.

I would push that mower twice -- maybe three times -- up and down that 40-foot-wide lot before the two of them would tell me to take a break.

"Come on up and have some lemonade!" they would call from the porch. Or, better still, some ice cream. It could be 10 in the morning, mind you.

Yes, these memories come back to me as we prepare to set up the patio and porch, draw up some gardening goals and dig our hands into the soil.

I wonder if anyone plants rhubarb anymore?