Marty Ross

1) When did you first start gardening?

My father taught me to plant seeds when I was a child, but even before I raised my first crop of radishes, I was out in the garden discovering flowers, vegetables and bugs, learning to recognize birds and chasing butterflies. I have always been a gardener.

2) What is your favorite plant in the garden?

Spring-blooming bulbs are among my favorite flowers, but I love peonies, roses, hostas, ferns and hellebores, too. In recent years, I have developed a broad interest in native plants and in trees and shrubs. I love growing colorful annual flowers from seed. I plant herbs and vegetables every year, and I am always experimenting with new crops. I have small collections of boxwoods, witch hazels, magnolias, daffodils, deciduous hollies and hydrangeas, and at the moment I’m getting excited about native azaleas.

3) What is your proudest gardening moment?

I love the tempo of gardens, the constant change, the sudden glimpses of beauty: the tiny fists of flower buds on the witch hazels that open on bright, late-winter days to reveal flowers that look like little handfuls of miniature party streamers; the sight of columbines dancing on their delicate stems; the way the sunlight sparkles on the dew in a spider’s web. Being outdoors is important to me. One year, my husband and I counted more than a dozen different kinds of birds nesting in our garden, including a hummingbird. I’m proud that the birds know our garden is a great place to be. I love the anticipation and the building excitement in good gardens, the work of planting and tending a garden and the sustained satisfaction of watching plants grow.

4) What tool could you not live without in your garden?

When I step into the garden, I usually have clippers in my hand, but I keep a trug full of tools by the door, and in it are trowels of three sizes, my trusty loppers and a folding hand saw. I use a little pair of nippers to deadhead flowers and pick blooms for bouquets. My husband and I have his and hers hedge shears, for pruning bigger perennials, and we use sharp garden spades to edge the flowerbeds.

5) What inspires you the most?

More than anything else, I try to emulate nature, except that a garden always puts a frame around the natural world. I am always working to create opportunities to experience nature up close and in detail. A garden puts you out in the middle of nature right in your own backyard, where you can really appreciate it. I am inspired by the fuzzy flower buds of spring-blooming magnolias, the silky new petals of a peony and the flash of the fireflies on a summer night.

Marty Ross has been writing about gardens, gardeners and gardening for newspapers and magazines since 1976, when she graduated from Tulane University with a degree in English and went straight to work as a journalist. In the 1980s, she was a gardening columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. She is a regional contributor for Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens and writes for Organic Gardening, Horticulture and the American Horticulture Society’s magazine The American Gardener. Her stories for the New York Times have been recognized with the Award of Excellence for writing from the Garden Writer’s Association. Her work has been published in The Old Farmer’s Almanac and in the Royal Horticulture Society’s magazine The Garden. Marty writes a monthly gardening column syndicated by Universal UClick, and has written hundreds of gardening stories for the Kansas City Star. She writes articles and produces videos for Lowe’s Creative Ideas and also writes for Burpee’s website.