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Sherri’s Garden

Abundant Garden

Last year, I began a project called, “The Things We Do For Love”, exploring the ways in which various people choose to engage in life with devotion. In August, 2011, I interviewed my friend, Sherri Downie, who’s known far and wide for her prodigious gardening skill. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

I know that you obviously have a green thumb… (laughter) You have a great ability to express yourself creatively, and I know that gardening isn’t the only way that you do that, but it’s something that’s real obvious to others: people who know you, and people who don’t know you can see your work in the garden and enjoy it. So, could you talk a little bit about it? Have you always been a gardener?

 When I was really young, I would always put a garden in for my mother at Mother’s Day– it was the annuals or bedding plants or whatever–but I didn’t have any gardens of my own until we had the farm. I guess it was having the space. It just came out. I started putting things in the ground, and just kept going.

And once I started, it sparked my interest, so I would read and I would study. But my girlfriend was a gardener before me. She had a farm, and one day she said, “Do you want some plants?” She was ripping stuff out. She brought over big black garbage bags, full of ripped out stuff–like, ripped out and thrown in… I think I learned the lesson early on.

Learned a lesson, like, you don’t have to treat plants with kid gloves?

No! Learned a lesson like, now I put everything in pots with labels!


You know, I’m not one to study before– I learn by doing, learn on the fly, and so I didn’t really know any more than any one else, but that love of being in the earth! How many hours have I spent bent over? (laughter) So– gardening started my love of gardening.

I had space, and I thought as long as it didn’t cost anything, as long as it was just sweat, you know, the sky was the limit. So that’s how I proceeded. My love of gardening grew kind of organically, like a garden. And a seed was set. My first gardens were probably like most people’s– I started out with the bedding plants and the annuals, and then I got excited about perennials… and all those herbs! And then I would read, and… you can see what that grows into! (Laughter)

Have you always had that approach to life? Before gardening, were there other things that you really got into?

Gardening is one of many things I’ve done that led to a profession that I was never formally trained in. Formally trained? If you know them, you know them. So I do  flower arranging, I do weddings, I’ve sold plants with the same approach–I always approach it as, “What do you want? This is what I can do.” I’ve taken the same approach to other things. I sat down one time and made a list of things that I’ve done in a year as a job, and it was this extreme, long list–so my approach is, “Do it! See what happens.”

I’ve always had lots of energy, and for me gardening was a way to focus that. It was creative, and then it sparked this interest, the love of the cycle of life… I love to be connected to the earth. It grounds me.

How have you shared your love of gardening with others?

 When I started showing my gardens, someone came to me and said, “We’re doing a fund raiser…” and I said, “What! Show my gardens! No! Who would want to look at my gardens?” But what I wanted to do was to inspire people: I do this myself, of course you can do it, too! Women would come and say, “Can I bring my husband over? I just want him to meet you. If he sees that you did it, he’ll let me do what I want to do.” No matter what you do in life, just do what you can do. I enjoy it, I like it, and that’s inspiring to people, like, “ Wow, you did this yourself!”

My approach has been to talk with people, to actually connect with people. That’s my bottom line. And then people can look at this and say, “I can do that! I’m going to go home and tell my husband to let me do what I want to do! I’ve always wanted to do this!” Over the years, there has been a lot that has spiraled off that. On one tour I gave seeds, on one tour I gave plants, and it was that connecting with people.

And what people really connected to was, “You don’t pay people a bunch of money to do this, you just do it yourself” and they would say “How did you do it?” And I would say, “Well, they’re plants. You stick them in the ground and see what they do.” Don’t be afraid to do it, and see what happens. They’re plants. If it doesn’t work, you dig them up and put them somewhere else. That’s the joy that I get out of it and that I like to share with others.

Thanks, Sherri! Stay tuned for Part 2…


  1. Teresa Schwenk says:

    Love this, love Sherri!

  2. How enjoyable, but this I know because I know Sherri and could listen to her for days on end….I am usually exhausted after a visit, but it’s worth every second!

    Thanks and I look forward to part 2!

  3. Yep, this is her. Sherrie Downie. The laughs, the love, the enthusiasm, the beautiful gardens, the words spoken. Great interview to be able to get this down for eternity. Thank you.

  4. Walking through Sherri’s yard is a wonderful experience.
    Every turn either left or right is anew adventure. life
    is everywhere and just so beautiful. You can not walk away
    without a feeling of renewal. Great article!

  5. I agree! Well said, Mike. Thanks.

  6. Sherri! So exciting to see this, and listen. Thank you for doing this blogspot on my master gardener friend!
    Knowing your gardens as I do, it’s great to hear you speak about gardening this way, and to see you immortalized on the web! Love you and your flowers Sherri!

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