Monica Sheppard

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

I haven’t had a good garden of my own in many years, but I always get obsessed with seeds in February. The catalogs promise such gorgeous results for a relatively small investment. How can you resist?

Of course, I have resisted, for the most part. I have way too much shade in my yard to put in a garden, but I tried growing in containers for a few years. I was able to get a handful of good tomatoes, but our hot dry summers and my then frequent travels meant they were near death far more than I like to admit. Luckily, I’ve had the amazing produce grown by my friend Mitch Lawson at Rise ’N Shine Organic Farm to make up for my shortcomings over the years, but I still dream.

Last year I visited the Seed Swap at Chieftains Museum for the first time and was blown away by the variety of heirloom seeds they had available for sharing. It really got my obsession going, so I tried contributing to my friends’ garden, just to get my fix. It wasn’t the best idea; it was far enough from my house that I had a hard time getting over there very often, and there was that campaign thing that I did taking up some of my time, too.

This year I am planning to get a bed in my South Rome neighborhood’s community garden and I am so excited! Cross your fingers that I can pull it off and be reasonable in my choices. It’s so easy to overdo, but I am thrilled for the chance to plan out a true garden again.

At our recent Bee City, USA committee meeting, Todd Wofford, Parks Superintendent for Rome Floyd Parks and Recreation, came and talked to us about the possibility of seeding fields of pollinator plants in some of the park properties. Imagine beautiful fields of blooming plants that are beneficial to our local pollinators and prevent the costly and time-consuming task of mowing and maintaining lawns. It is a win-win in my book, so I hope we can work out the details to pull it off. If you would like to get involved, visit our Bee City, USA Rome, GA Facebook page to keep an eye out for details on how you can help.

The thought of beautiful fields of flowers reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books, Miss Rumphias, by Barbara Cooney. It is a beautifully illustrated tale of Alice Rumphias, a strong and adventurous woman who travels the world and then returns to live by the sea, just as her grandfather had.

One day, she discovers that the wind and birds have carried seeds from the lupines in her garden and created a beautiful surprise field of flowers near her home. As a child she had promised her grandfather that, along with her life of travel and settling by the sea, she would do something to make the world a more beautiful place. When she sees the field of flowers, she knows exactly what she needs to do. She promptly pulls out her seed catalogs and orders five bushels of lupine seed and spends her days walking the roads and trails of her town, sowing the seeds in every nook and cranny. The town nicknames her the Lupine Lady and, quite honestly, considers her to be a little loopy. But, the following spring the town is covered in beautiful blue, pink and lavender lupines.

Can you imagine creating such surprising beauty with the seeds that we sow?

Of course, we sow seeds of all kinds within our community. Seeds of change, encouragement, and opportunity can be just as productive, though sometimes more subtly so. It makes me wonder about what kind of seeds I am planting on a daily basis to make our world a more beautiful place.

Last week we lost a member of our community who was known for walking the streets of Rome, always with words of support and encouragement for everyone she met, Missy Alford. I didn’t know Missy well, but I knew her well enough to know that the beautiful stories I have been hearing of her generosity and encouragement are an absolute testament to the seeds that she sowed to make Rome a more beautiful place. In honor of Missy, let’s consider what we are growing and sowing as we move into spring. We owe it to Missy’s memory and we owe it to ourselves, and each other.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.