Growing up on a 120-acre farm in Lebanon, PA, Becky Henry was hardly a fan of the drudgework of gardening, though she sure enjoyed the end product.
"My mom would say, 'Go weed,' and I'd say, 'Ugh,'" she recalls. "But I did love growing up with all the fresh fruits and vegetables. I never ate a canned vegetable in my life! We had apple trees and cherries. We would eat watercress fresh out of the stream, and corn was crucial. My dad would say, 'How many ears do you want?' And as he picked it, the water would be boiling."
Henry started her own garden while living in Massachusetts in 1984 simply to grow herbs. In the ensuing years, after moving to Bolton Hill and Towson, Henry continued to grow herbs and added flowers for "happiness and color." By the time she settled in her current spot, in Stevenson, in 1993, she and her husband only considered homes that had enough land for a garden.
"I didn't really know what the garden would be," says Henry. "I just knew that I wanted to find time to get outside and grow things. If you like to cook, you either know a farmer-gardener or you become one."
Today, her garden is spilling over with rock tulips, peonies, anemones, and dahlia as well as strawberries, spinach, and chard, and she admits it has become her primary passion. The garden, however, was not always so lush with life. When Henry and her family (including her husband, Harry Gruner, two sons, a daughter, and two dogs) moved to their two-acre parcel, the yard was a rather generic flat piece of earth with a low-maintenance garden, which suited her just fine at the time.
"I had two children under the age of four, and I was pregnant," she says, laughing. "For the first few years we were here, my mom would say, 'Look what's blooming in the garden,' and I would say, 'I don't even have time to figure out where my clothes are.'"
Little by little, however, the garden got going, in part, inspired and energized by Julie Moir Messervy's classic, The Inward Garden. "The book begins with a quotation by [poet] Alfred Austin, 'Show me your garden, and I shall tell you what you are,'" explains Henry.
Henry's latest life journey as an empty nester has inspired her to write a garden blog (marylandgardengirl.com) filled with personal insights and tips and tricks on everything from attracting butterflies to improving soil. "I wanted to make myself go out in the garden every day," says Henry. "So I decided to start this blog to help give me motivation and focus."
These days, the free-spirited Henry welcomes not only the weeding and the watering but also the sense of the unexpected that comes with tending to a garden. "I don't like things to be too predictable," she says. "Every day, I go out there, and I don't know what I'm going to find. Every season is a surprise. Every year is surprise. The garden gives me this mixture of hope and spontaneity."