One of my earliest gardening memories is my fascination, not with flowers, but with worms.
I'm about four years old and I'm following my father around the garden, he with shirt sleeves rolled up and spade in hand, ready for the digging. It's a warm day in early summer and I can picture him as he grinds his foot down on the spade, the shiny metal disappearing into the dark earth.
Then, as he levers it skywards again, the soil cascades into the air like an explosion of coffee granules.
"Look, there's one," my father tells me, as the first worm wriggles to the surface.
And I dive down with childish squeals of delight as more and more appear, pushing my hands into the soil to grab hold of those slimy creatures before they burrow deep again and out of my grasp.
That memory springs to mind this week because, suddenly, gardening is top of the Covid-19 agenda as people load up with geraniums and marigolds and all manner of bedding plants. Instant colour.
There's nothing like it, of course, that ability to quickly transform the garden from its winter monochrome look to one that dances with rainbow hues.
And yet gardening, like so many other aspects of life, is about so much more than the instant.
For as I get older I have come to appreciate that this time-old activity is rooted in the past and that its value lies, not in €4.99 pots of immediate showiness, but in its sense of continuum.
Along the Atlantic coast of north Derry, at the butt-end of the 19th century, my great-grandmother Mary Ann Bradley grew peony roses in the salty-sand soil of her cottage garden.
It's a beautiful flower, the peony, varied in its density and also embracing a small colour spectrum from snow-white to pink to coral to deepest cerise.
A generation later, Mary Ann's daughter - my grandmother - grew peonies in her tiny urban garden and from there, on down the line, it was peonies that were later given root in the shelter of the wall of my parents' garden.
And now that love of peonies is part of my own inheritance, having travelled down the female family line. Like floral heirlooms.
Yesterday, the peony that I transplanted from my childhood home opened its first flower of the season, its cerise-pink blossom exploding into life and creating a little oasis of colour in the corner of my terrace.
With no "instant" plants yet acquired from the garden centre, I dallied on the terrace yesterday to inspect my other old stalwarts, the ones that year in and year out bring me great joy.
Primarily, these are roses, and my pride and joy is a standard yellow one that has travelled with me from home to home, in a monstrous-sized pot, down the years.
I love yellow roses. The vibrancy of them. The sense of summer that they bring.
This one is in its fourth home now and although it didn't take too kindly to its last move, refusing to flower properly for two seasons, it has since stopped sulking and has its mojo back.
And then there's the prostanthera, the Australian mint bush planted in 2014 in memory of a friend, its delicate pink/purple flowers now in profusion.
Like my other old stalwarts, it's a plant I can rely on, one that remains forever faithful.
In the gardening world, as in life, we can ooh and aah all we like over the instant look-at-me fly-by-nights.
In the end, though, and especially in tough times, it's the old stalwarts - be that plants or people or ways of life - that will always see us through.