Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Starting from Seed

by Cheryl Dorschner


Gryniewicz checks on some of the hundreds of seedlings he starts in his basement.

Wide-eyed innocence coupled with invention and fastidiousness define gardener Jerry Gryniewicz. This northern Vermonter is the gardening equivalent of a folk artist. He's not plugged into any networks of gardeners or garden groups, relying only on seed catalogs and a few well-chosen references for inspiration.

Flipping through the pages of a garden-design book bursting with photos of profusely blooming perennials and annuals, Gryniewicz shakes his head. Other gardens all look alike to me. Even though I appreciate more manicured flower gardens, they're not for me. My garden is just as I want it -- comfortable, a place where the flowers live among the people who visit."

When he phoned in his seed orders last year to three companies, all three of them started asking him questions. Among other things, they wanted to know just how big his gardens were. And could they come and visit? Altogether, he spent nearly $170 for 64 packs of seeds (plus a few bulbs).

This garden is unique because it grows to the beat of a different drummer. If he perceives any influences at all, Gryniewicz postulates that they are the gardens at Versailles, although he is adamantly not formal. Or maybe his garden reflects the influence of his grandfather whom he gardened alongside in France for two weeks each summer during early childhood. "But he grew only vegetables. I grow only flowers -- except snow peas, which my cat likes to eat." He reasons, "I only have so much space, and my goal is to create an environment drastically different from my work day. Flowers force me to relax." After his work day ends at 3:30 p.m., he spends four hours working in the garden.

However, Gryniewicz's planting paradise is on a rented plot. "I know I'm taking a big chance that I could lose this place, but I can't let that stop me from fulfilling my dream," he says. (He has talked to his landlord, he says, about the possibility of an option to buy.)

Last year's plantings included over a hundred different kinds of annua. He sowed 'Victoria' salvia, as well as 'Flamingo Feather' celosia, green zinnia, 'French Vanilla' marigold, 'Joseph's Coat' amaranth, 'Blue Horizon' ageratum, and two kinds of Lavatera trimestris: 'Pink Beauty' and 'Ruby Regis'.

Although the plants he grows are sometimes standard, his combinations are not. Where else would pink and lavender 5-foot-tall asters form hedgerows alongside a huge "wall" of purple, pink, and white buddleia, arching sunflowers, and mixed colors of cosmos?

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