My branch of the family tree is green with DIY gardeners: a straw-hatted grandfather pruning pear trees and snipping prize gladiolas; a green-thumb mother who collected flower arranging ribbons; and a sister with a degree in horticulture, working in the heart of the nursery business.

There's something renewing about being outside in the warmth of the sun with newly turned soil running through my fingers. It's calming, nurtures the soul, and best of all, doesn't require a lot of expertise, at least for the casual gardener.

I am proof of that. With neither mother nor sister nearby I started as a garden idiot, choosing plants by pictures, paying no attention to care or instructions "” plopping sun plants in the shade, shade plants in spots guaranteed to cut their lives short. I learned by doing "” a costly venture at the cash register as I've planted, ripped out and re-planted my way through four homes.

But it needn't be that way. There is a cache of green-thumb expertise around Cincinnati "” pros to lead you down the garden path, to blooming delights of your own. You'll find them in this issue "” the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association members. I've yet to meet one who wasn't happy to answer questions.

The starting point is here and now. March and April are the months to dream about summer blooms and plan how to get them. Just ask for help, a little or a lot.

Make yourself at home,

Joy W. Kraft