My parents came to the northeast in 1970. Essex, New York, at that time pretty ramshackle, stopped them on the way to find the American Dream on the coast of Maine. Before that I'd lived in Lincoln Nebraska for a time and before that, Boulder Colorado. I was born in Ann-Arbor, Michigan. As an eight year old, I was immediatly impressed by the natural surroundings in Essex and spent alot of my youth observing aquatic life in the shallow bay there. Fishing became a passion. I grew into the "historic" movement and efforts by residents to restore the village to it's former glory and thereby gained appreciation for old things made well by hand as well as good working knowledge of many of the trades. Among those more well known; I became good at installing/repairing slate roofs, patching old plaster walls, and properly replacing rotted structure. after finishing college in 1986, I returned to northern New York and purchased a derelict house in Willsboro, New York, where I still reside. This I gutted completly, then repaired and restored to a high degree of fineness as was my wish at the time. In 1998, I purchased another small antique structure. that one was completely dismantled, a concrete foundation poured, and the structure reassembled! Today it remains in want of finishing. To make all this happen then, and indeed maintain what is happening in my life still(rock gardening!), I have learned to live extremely frugally, save and (attempt to) invest wisely. Income has been limited to "odd" jobs more or less. Today these tend to be "gardening" in nature but pre 2005 they were in construction. Fairly recently I took to stone masonry and some nice work of mine may be seen in the area. Around about 2005-2006 I took to "day-trading" which worked great for two or three years. Then, as they say; that was the end of that! Perhaps the events of "The Great Recession" gave me a chimeral glimpse of just what money really is. I have chosen recently to spend alot of time in my own garden observing and learning about the behavior of alpine plants and other rock garden subjects in cultivation. This tiny garden boasts an incredible range of genetic diversity. It is something of a miracle that is ever captivating.
In 1995 I joined The North American Rock Garden Society, reflecting a new enthusiasm for plants, and that pretty much dates the start of any serious rock gardening here. I'd driven west a couple of times in the eighties and early nineties. I can't help but think the images I took in on those trips, plus my Midwestern childhood, influenced my descision to grow fewer flashy annuals by the side of my house and to concentrate on such things as Sempervivums, Sedums, Saxifrages, and cacti! I've taken several such trips since to study and photograph plants, to observe habitat, to collect material, and to observe the very structure that supports this interesting flora. Within the last three years, I've added three new crevice gardens, a tiny chunk of pseudo pine barren, and have been tweaking a couple of my cactus patches. The range of species on trial spans from Arizona to the arctic: Agave to Alpine azalea: and from New Zealand to Inner Mongolia to Alaska to Patagonia to Poland and beyond. Today I'm still roughing out the boundaries on my .8 acre of paradise. There's much to be done!
-Michael Peden, 7-12-2012