<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> RowanTree -- An Introduction

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Let me introduce myself. I'm Barbara Rittiman, originally from Staten Island, N.Y. My first marriage was to a career soldier. We traveled a great deal and during these travels managed to have six children. We divorced after 16 years and I settled in Northern California with the kids. I married Dennis and for the first time since I was a child, had a backyard of my own.

At first, the yard was just a place to store kids' bikes and the dead Christmas tree (until at least March or April). In those days, it was enough to get to work and back, and hold off those mountains of laundry and roomsful of housework. Notice I didn't say 'conquer' or 'control' or 'manage.' Holding off was the best we could do. And we did. Eventually, the kids grew up. They moved out. We cleaned the house and got rid of that tree. They moved back. And this time, they had their kids with them.

We needed more room. Since we live in a townhouse in a managed community, building onto the house was not an option. The only area we had that had not been maximized long ago was the yard. Sadly, we couldn't use it as bedroom space but we certainly could use it as another room as long as the weather held up. Since we live at the lower end of San Francisco Bay, we enjoy lovely weather most of the time.

Compared to the rest of the country, our yard is very small (30' x 60'). We had dabbled in the yard over the years. At first, it was, shall we say, 'natural.' Eventually we got ahead of the weeds, put in some foundation plantings and some grass. Oh yes, and late one summer Sunday night, holding a plumb line and a trouble light for the bricklayer, I helped my husband Dennis, the aformentioned bricklayer, put in a brick walkway from the gate to the cement pad outside the Dining Room door. We had imposed structure. We rested on that laurel for years.

I have always been interested in plants. As an ex-military wife, my experience had been with houseplants and those outdoor plants that I could coax into living indoors. As often as we moved, it didn't make sense to invest too much effort and money in the ground just to leave it behind. So at least I had an understanding of the basics of light, water and nutrients in PlantLand.

As we spent more time in the yard, we began to seriously garden as a way to decorate this outdoor room of ours. We started with the easy stuff and I fell in love with the cheap glory of flowering annuals. (I'm still a sucker for a flat of Lobelia.) I also began to accumulate gardening books. (We had no idea what we were getting us into!)

As I researched what was possible and why a particular planting had failed or flourished, I became familiar with the possibilities of plants and began to research the plants themselves. I began to accumulate herb books. And to read them. And to try out some of the plants we could raise. I experimented with propagation, maintenance, harvest and storage. I'm still experimenting. I'm still learning and do not consider myself an expert of any stripe. The more time I spend in research and in the actual gardening, the more I realize that what we favor and grow today are, for the most part, the newly-beautified versions of plants that our ancestors grew or gathered more for their medicinal properties than their beauty.

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