1) When did you first start gardening?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t gardening. Over the years, my gardens have popped up all over the nation — from a proper kitchen garden outside of Boston to a contemporary patio garden in Venice, California. Now I garden near the foothills of Boise, Idaho, where I keep my friends and neighbors well supplied with fresh vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.
2) What is your favorite plant in the garden?
It changes constantly, but I do have some ground rules. It helps if the plant looks attractive, smells good, tastes delicious, enjoys an interesting history and plays well with others. One example is elder (Sambucus nigra; Sambucus canadensis), which blooms in early summer with white edible flowers that later become berries beloved by birds. The berries are edible for humans when cooked and contain powerful antioxidants. Little wonder that Hippocrates called his elder a “medicine chest” in 400 BCE, and earlier cultures used the flowers and berries for fighting colds.
3) What is your proudest gardening moment?
They happen all the time. Every time I bring in an armful of aromatic flowers or sun-kissed heirloom tomatoes from my backyard, I feel proud. I’ve even been known to hold up a family dinner so I could photograph my harvest. That’s another reason why I love gardening. You get a sense of accomplishment from the simplest garden tasks, whether it’s pruning roses or picking peas off the vine.
4) What tool could you not live without in your garden?
If I could only pick one tool, I would definitely grab my bypass pruners. Whether I’m shaping a bush or pruning away dead branches, I always rely on my pruners to do the job correctly.
5) What inspires you the most?
I’m inspired by the wise gardeners of the past. Some people collect stamps. I collect seasonal traditions, plant folklore and gardening superstitions that reveal much about the way we used to live. I admire and appreciate the latest horticultural research and hip garden design trends, and I feature them often in my writing. But it’s the mix of this old, little-known gardening wisdom combined with the latest plant trends that excites me most. History really is stranger than fiction, even in the garden.
Teresa O’Connor is an author, speaker and consultant on gardening, food and folklore. Trained as a master gardener in California and Idaho, she co-authored the book Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing & Preserving Fresh Foods. Her articles have been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Coastal Living and Gardening How-To magazines. An avid speaker, Teresa presents on gardening and food topics for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, Idaho Botanical Garden, Boston Flower Show and Mother Earth News Fair, among others. Teresa is known nationally by many as Seasonal Wisdom from Facebook, Twitter and her blog — SeasonalWisdom.com — where she inspires people to stay connected to nature all four seasons, regardless of where they live or garden.