• Abby Rupsa

The Origins of My Passion


On my 4th birthday, my mother gave me a storybook called A Time To Keep, written and illustrated by Tasha Tudor. The story highlighted each month of the year and reflected on the festivities, holidays and traditions of time gone by - a simpler time of her family life in New England. I was captivated by the joy of the characters' lives and their family bonds. Not only did the story keep my interest, but the images were a feast for my little eyes and I remember this becoming one of my favorite books to read at bedtime.

Delicate pastel watercolor landscapes and flowers were literally intertwined throughout the story and seemed to me to be just as important as the story itself. I would scour the edges of each page just to see what was blooming that particular month. Spring violets, daffodils, tulips and budding pussy willow made way to Summer's lavender, wisteria, cherry blossoms and honeysuckle.

Autumn offered hollyhock, cattails, black-eyed Susan and goldenrod only to finally harvest apples, pears, pumpkins and corn. Even Winter was beautifully highlighted with fallen pinecones and acorns, evergreens dusted with snow and skeletons of spent perennials adorned with icicles and glistening frost. I could almost feel the chill rolling off the page.

As a child growing up in Florida, these floral images were so foreign to me. We only had one season year-round and while we could grow tropical, prolific, even sometimes alien-looking foliage, I was curious as to what Tasha Tudor's magical storybook plants actually looked like in person. I can recall the surprise of seeing them years later as an adult and marveling at the accuracy and intricacy of how they had been portrayed in her book. I remember moving to Colorado and recognizing acorns for the first time while dropping my son off at preschool. The other mothers must have thought I was crazy for getting down on my hands and knees to collect them! I remember longing for warm Spring weather the first year we lived here. Seeing crocuses happily emerging from the lingering snow gave me such a thrill. Even today after almost 15 years of Colorado living, I will stop and inspect a new plant or marvel at a new way it is being used in the landscape.

Tasha Tudor had such a love of her garden and her property that the plants illustrated were indeed intentional characters in her book. I could feel her love of the land jumping off the pages. That essence seeped into my bones and has been there ever since. Little did I know, this was laying the groundwork for what would become my livelihood. I had no idea that as a child creating a tiny landscape in my backyard complete with a faux river bed that ran actual hose water was going to turn into more than just something for my Barbies to enjoy. I had no idea that two packets of nasturtium and morning glory seeds and a long hot summer could ignite my passion for tending to the soil. I had no idea that my mother turning me loose over a vase and a bouquet of flowers for the holiday table would turn into a lifelong love of me trying to mimic what Mother Nature does best.

It fascinates me a bit to think how long this has been a part of my DNA. My love of nature and the manipulation of it has been there my whole life it seems. Maybe it was born from the joy the book gave me, feeling safety and love while reclining against my mother's chest as she read it to me countless times. My love of plants certainly took hold, grew roots and sprouted organically and I have a simple birthday gift to thank for it.

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