Ten years ago, when my dad retired, he went to Tractor Supply in Asheboro and Southside Hardware in High Point and bought the following: one dozen 55-gallon galvanized, metal trash cans; four 30-gallon galvanized, metal trash cans; two 18-gallon galvanized, metal trash cans; and two oval washtubs.
After he hauled all these trash cans home, he drilled holes in the bottom of each one and set them in a 30-by-40-foot area to the side of the house. He filled each trash can with empty two-liter Ginger Ale bottles to take up space and make the cans lighter and easier to move around. Then he poured in bags of potting soil. Not a lot; just enough dirt for roots to burrow.
Then he added his plants.
My dad, who was never a gardener, planted morning glories and nasturtiums, sweet peas and bluebonnets. He planted herbs in the smaller cans: rosemary and basil and thyme for their green color. He planted vegetables, too: tomatoes and squash and eggplant and peppers. He planted sunflowers and trumpet vines in the waist-high cans, staking them
so they towered high.
And he planted moonflowers, their big, beautiful blooms coming out only at night. In the evening, after supper, my dad called to my mom to come out and see the moonflower, shimmering white against a black, country sky.
It all was a sight to see. People stopped on the back road behind my parents’ house and walked down the hill into the yard to see what was growing. They were curious about these plants that popped out of those metal trash cans, plants that grew seven and eight feet high. People in the grocery store stopped my parents and said, “Y’all are the ones who live in the house with the tin-can garden.”
All those years in that house and my parents never had a garden. Not even a flower bed. For 30 years, they worked long hours running their business, leaving the house every day, even on the weekends, early in the morning, coming home well after dark. There was no time to put flowers in the ground.
The earth around my parents’ house was too poor, too full of rocks and red clay to properly dig up for a garden, and my dad, who was never a gardener, didn’t have the right tools anyhow for preparing a traditional plot. So he improvised. He thought of something different.
He wanted a garden.
Instead of putting one in the ground, he put one in the sky.