The brainchild of Seaweed's Aaron Stauffer (vocals/guitars) and the Screaming Trees' Van Conner (guitars, keyboards, drums), Gardener's origins date back to the late '80s, when Stauffer missed a show by the Screaming Trees on his 16th birthday. He began calling the band on a regular basis, inviting them to play with him; eventually, he and the band became friends. Meanwhile, Stauffer formed Seaweed with drummer Alan Cage, bassist John Atkins, and guitarist Clint Werner.
As the Seattle scene gained worldwide prominence, Seaweed and the Trees found themselves touring together frequently. During a 1996 U.K. tour, the two groups finally collaborated, writing two songs that would appear on Gardener's 1999 debut album New Dawning Time. The new group added to their lineup when Conner recruited his brother Pat (sitar, drums) and friend Adrian Makins (bass, slide guitar).
Shortly after, Stauffer moved to North California to pursue a more rural, rugged life, penning more songs and incorporating more members -- including a tabla player and a flutist -- into Gardener. Their debut featured a more expansive, arranged sound than that of either the Screaming Trees or Seaweed, with flourishes of sitar, Mellotron, and flute rather than the charged rock sound of Gardener's parent bands.