Gardening in the Dark

Gardening in the Dark

Part of Ep. 1202 The Goodness of Gardening

Although he is completely blind, Charlie Anderson has a passion for horticulture and gardening. He shares his story with Shelley Ryan and explains how he enjoys plants without seeing them.

Premiere date: Apr 21, 2004

Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Charlier Anderson:
Hello, my name is Charlie Anderson. I am 50 years old. I'm an avid gardener here in Cooksville, Wisconsin which is in Rock County. I and my partner, Ralph Pelkey... we have a historic property. And this property is approximately 500 feet long and 66 feet wide. I am a blind man. And to garden with a visual impairment is a challenge. But up until now I have done quite well. And that's because I have used adaptive techniques or I have taken measures to help &##151; to help me garden with some relative with ease. And I do this with knowing my space. What I do is I have, for example limestone rock paths. And when I'm walking on that path that keeps me on the straight line so I'm not veering off and walking into other plants.

Now, there are areas in the back of the property at least, I would say half-way back where I need to focus on orientation so I don't become lost. I have placed a hose. And when I find this hose then I just follow the hose and it gets me through some, what I consider somewhat of a complex area because I do not want to fall on some limestone rocks or a raised bed nor do I want to step on my plants.

Further back into the property heading toward the vegetable bed I have a unique feature, and it's there. I did not put it there. It is a rise of ground, it goes north and south. It's only varies maybe six or seven inches. But again, one step, my left foot is the low road my right foot is the high road. I can just follow the rise of ground into the southern reaches of my property. So, what is underfoot is very important to me. I recognize what is at my feet.

Every gardener, whether sighted or blind should include scent in his or her own space. For example, right now it's very popular to grow the Lilium Star Gazer. This is a very fragrant plant. It's very pretty to look at, and a wonderful scent. So, currently a Star Gazer is opening up and by golly, you know, when I walk by it the scent is there. And it's a wonderful reminder to exactly where I am. Again, I have placed plants in the yard almost always intentionally, for the purpose of guide posts. That is, they help me orientate myself in the garden. I know where my plants are. I just have to find them. And when I find them, I rub my hand over them and "Ah," then I know where I am at. When I leave the patio, the patio at the house I start walking south into the yard and I'm in a rather large grassy area-- and if I veer just right I will come into contact with a Swiss Stone Pine. Again, immediate recognition because of the rather soft needles.

Green beans. This year will be a third planting for green beans because of, I believe, woodchuck damage. But again, planting green beans in rather easy to do. Just square off your corners somewhere in your garden. One can place wood boards to step on. And then, with a marker and string you could parallel your row right next to the board where you're standing. And then, of course, you can estimate that these beans are to be planted one-inch deep.

So, you know, I have done this all before as a sighted person and by golly, you know, I can still do it today! I am 50 years old and being blind will not stop me. Fingers crossed I will go for a few years yet. And it is my passion to get out there into the yard and do what I like to do, and that is to create... create a prop or a scenery to look at, to enjoy of plants, such as trees and shrubs and perennial flowers. And I don't know what I'd do without the gardening thing. I would probably just lay down and die. But I do want to keep on going. I'm hoping there are many good years of gardening left. As a blind gardener I have to remember that each and every day I have the opportunity to try and learn and do a new thing in my garden. And with each and every season I can learn from mistakes. So, with each and every season, there can be change. And you know, as gardeners, we need to be willing to change and learn from our mistakes if we have mistakes out there. But, you know-- and focus on what we do well, what grows for us and take pride in what we do.


Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.


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