There’s a coloring sheet of George Washington hanging on my fridge. It looks like a 1st grader colored it because, well a 1st grader did color it about 25 years ago. We were learning about the presidents around their birthdays that winter, and while the presidents were important, what really mattered to me was what I had colored on the back blank page. Rows and rows of colorful vegetables awaiting me in my garden in just a few more months.
My parents told me that I’ve been gardening since before I was five years old. I have two photos of the summer before my fifth birthday of a young stud weeding corn and tomatoes. The love of gardening was my grandfather’s fault; he instilled it in me. I recall many days where we would work together in his garden, him pushing the tiller and me raking our footsteps behind us. He would eventually make me my own little garden patch. It was a great spending summers with him.
When I was 12, he passed away one cold, March day, just as I was setting my sights on another gardening season. His death left a hole in my life. No longer was this pillar of support present. So, I did what any good gardener does—I learned how to grow stuff better. I started asking questions, I read and eventually bought gardening books, and I scoured that new thing called “the internet” for answers. I joined the newly formed Master Gardener class in northwest Tennessee when I was 15. Fun fact, my mom had to drive me because I didn’t have my driver’s license yet.
It seems like a whirlwind from there. I got my bachelors in 2008 from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a focus on botany. The summer after graduation, I worked for an incredible internship at The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. And, that fall I started graduate school at NC State University, where I would spend six wonderful years growing even more as a person, a gardener, and a friend. While in Raleigh, I would have the opportunity to give presentations across the country from Greensboro, North Carolina to Portland, Oregon. I would even travel the world and see horticulture from a new perspective in ten different countries. And, I would even land as a feature in Organic Gardening. As my parents said, who would have ever thought that a country kid from the woods of west Tennessee would end up in a national magazine.
But, here I am, acclaimed as one of the rising stars in horticulture. I feel blessed, honored, and humbled that my colleagues and peers think so highly of someone in their early thirties. It excites me to look ahead at my future and the future of horticulture.
Sometimes, I think back to that 1st grader coloring and ask, did you see any of this coming? Did you know you were going to get to travel the world learning about plants, that you were going to have a multitude of horticulture friends, and that you were going to have the incredible opportunity to teach and influence the minds of gardeners of all ages? I don’t know if he did, but I do know one thing. He was looking ahead. And, you can bet that I’m still doing that today.
Welcome to my website, Meristem, a hub for my love of horticulture, teaching, and life. I hope you learn something valuable from visiting. #keepgrowing
I've very fortunate at this stage in my life to have been highlighted or featured in various publications and media. Here's a few below in no particular order.