These Roots Run Deep

Gardening is Mary Daugherty's Passion

If you were out and about in Columbia and overheard a conversation, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear someone talking about their mid-Missouri roots. Mary Daugherty could be one of those people. Her roots, however, run deeper than most. And that’s not just a figure of speech.

For some, gardening is a hobby. For Daugherty, being a horticulturist is a passion that borders on a lifestyle. “It’s almost spiritual to be in nature and enjoy what you’re doing,” she says. And enjoy it she does.

Growing up on a farm, Daugherty spent countless hours watching her mother, an organic farmer, grow both flowers and vegetables, learning all the while. Although it would be a number of years before Daugherty would have the chance to begin her own garden, “My mother gave me the interest,” she says.

Daugherty and her husband, Jerry, met as students at the University of Missouri in the late 1960s, married (they recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and have two adult children), and made Columbia their home. In 1988, the Daughertys purchased a wooded lot in town, cleared it, and began building their home. This afforded Daugherty the opportunity she’d been waiting for — the chance to have her own garden.

In the more-than-three-decades since, Daugherty’s garden — slowly but surely — has grown into a thing of beauty, with Mary providing the “vision” and doing the actual planting and gardening while Jerry handled the construction that brought her gardening vision to life.

“There are dozens and dozens of different types of flowers and shrubs [in the garden],” Daugherty says, with hydrangeas, Asiatic lilies, and roses being among her personal favorites. Daugherty also has a strong interest in growing plants native to Missouri, as well as learning about and growing new plants that don’t require much sunlight, as her backyard garden receives a lot of shade.

While many are still trying to stay warm inside in early March, this is when Daugherty begins her annual process. “I start pretty early in March,” she says, “[I] get a head start on weeding, mulching and fertilizing. I love working outside when it’s cool. Spring is perfect.”

As with everything, though, gardening doesn’t come without its obstacles. For Daugherty, that means dealing with pests, both large and small. “Deer can be a problem,” Daugherty says. “We have a tall, see-through fence that runs the perimeter of the back yard, but every now and then one gets past.” Daugherty also mentions that groundhogs used to be a problem, but after she stopped planting impatiens (also known as Touch-Me-Nots), the problem went away. “If you can’t outsmart them, you work with what you’re given,” she says with a laugh. Japanese beetles, however, are no laughing matter, with Daugherty identifying them as by far the biggest nuisance. “They love roses,” Daugherty says, “especially the fancy ones. They have expensive taste.”

Despite her intense passion for gardening, Daugherty isn’t much interested in entering garden shows or competitions. Instead, this is purely a labor of love. “I like planting, potting and arranging,” Daugherty says. But her favorite aspect of gardening? “Watering,” Daugherty says. “It’s slow and deliberate. It gives you a chance to appreciate, smell and take note of everything and be inspired. It can be a very thoughtful moment.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Daugherty’s passion for gardening isn’t limited merely to her own. Along with several friends, Daugherty volunteers her time helping take care of the garden located at First Christian Church in downtown Columbia.

When she’s not in a garden, Daugherty partakes in additional hobbies, such as traveling and collecting wine with her husband. Daugherty also enjoys cycling, cooking and keeping a nice home. “I’m just a typical homebody,” Daugherty says. A homebody? Maybe. Typical though? Mary Daugherty is anything but typical — in the best way possible.