Awwwww shucks. EveryONE’s a winner! It’s been a joy to read these Why I Garden essays during the cold and dark of winter. Your passion, my gardening friends/fiends, is delicious. I enlisted the helpful eyes and minds of May Dreams Gardens and Red Dirt Ramblings for second and third opinions.

I said there would be a Grand Prize of $100 to the winner, and a Runner Up will receive a prize of $50. I’ve decided we need three Honorable Mentions, as well.

Grand Prize goes to Anna Webb, for this brilliant bit of prose:

I garden because I’m a grazer from way back.

I grew up in an old South Boise neighborhood with trees medieval in scale, where chilly irrigation ditches ran through the dark shade, popping with water skippers.

When you grow up in a place like this, you know what it’s like to wake up on a summer morning, tie your Keds, and set out to look for breakfast. You don’t go to the kitchen. You go to your mother’s garden for raspberries fresh off the cane; plums plucked from low-hanging branches; and green apples. They’re sweet, a little wormy, and one of your friends swears they taste like pancakes around their bruises.

Eat like this during your formative years, and you will never agree to a life without plants.

I tried to be plantless for a while, during a decade-long interlude as an imposter New Yorker. I dug up a tiny sagebrush once when I was home on a visit. Took it back to Manhattan in a paper cup, intending to grow it on the windowsill of my Avenue A apartment.

Read the entire essay here @ Scalpconfidence.com. Please believe me when I say there is no regional favoritism. It was the popping with water skippers/keds and apples that taste like pancakes that did it.

Runner up is Joan Bailey of Japan because she writes like this:

I found great beauty. Thick veined cabbage leaves are one of the most beautiful things I think I’ve ever seen. Cobs of homegrown popcorn glinting in the sun thrill me to the bone. My own eye for color and composition is still developing, but I confess I don’t work too hard at that. I like the increasing madness of my garden as the season progresses.

I made new friends. The praying mantis, the assortment of bees, the birds, and the occasional neighborhood cat are welcome visitors. Not to mention the instant bond that develops with a fellow gardener when we learn of each other’s passion. There’s nothing better than a good chat about growing vegetables. It’s what bonded the Takashi’s and I almost instantly despite a language barrier. Her complete essay is here, at Popcorn Homestead.

I would truly like to give every single one of you who entered, a big ol’ present, but I don’t have enough to go around. So I picked three Honorable Mention essays because something in each of them touched a nerve in me and with the other two judges. You will each receive a copy of Hortus Miscellaneous.

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter for her line: “I can’t paint or draw, so the garden is my way of expressing myself artistically, as a sculpture in a fourth dimension: time.” Woo woo, I loved this. Check it out here.

Artful Greens (check it out here) for her awesome photo of the asparagus in the pickup truck. And because she jumped right into the world of garden blogs. Welcome.

Anna “Flower Garden Girl” because she is firmly planted in the North Carolina soil and we liked her sense of history and place. You got it, girl! Read it here.

I’ll be in touch with each of you to award your prizes. Thanks to every person who entered. I appreciate the time, thought and energy you put into your essay. I made a lot of new friends in the process and discovered a bunch of new blogs while I was at it.

Happy New Year. May 2010 bring you bountiful, beautiful gardens.