Why garden, you ask?

Recently, I came across an old clipping that highlighted 10 reasons why people garden, or should begin gardening, and it made me stop and think. In the article the writer suggested we cultivate gardens to make money, for exercise, to win, to add beauty, to be creative, for safe and healthy food, to learn, to meet people, for lasting memories, and for emotional needs and spiritual connections.

Hmmm…..

Of every hundred gardeners I know, one might be making money. I assure you, the other ninety-nine, me included, are spending it.  Big time.

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A great favorite — Wingard’s Nursery & Garden Center, Lexington, South Carolina.

For those not selling flowers or vegetables, the column suggests that gardening adds value to property, increasing its worth as much as fifteen percent. I can only hope this is true.  If so, I stand to recoup at least a meager portion of my investment.

And exercise? Come on.  Sure, gardening is healthier than sitting at the computer or watching television, but unless you’re pushing a non-propelled lawn mower uphill it’s hardly a workout.  In fact, I’m living proof you can garden and be completely out of shape.

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Winning sweet peas at the 2007 Hampton Court Flower Show.

Gardening to win is another stretch of the imagination. Yes, I know there are flower shows and state fairs that spotlight the best of the best.  Are there really more than a handful of us, however, who cultivate plants to satisfy a competitive streak?  Besides, in my garden, it’s the voles that usually win.

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. I have an appreciation for many types of gardens and find nearly all attractive.  But don’t forget the old cliché, “different strokes for different folks.”  As works of personal expression, not all gardens will be pleasing to everyone.  Nor should they be.

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But who wouldn’t love Les Jardins de Castillon in Normandy, France?

I must admit, I do enjoy the creativity of gardening. I like to combine forms and colors and plan for textural contrast.  Frequently though, I find Mother Nature has a larger hand in the end result.  Plants flourish or languish at her will, not mine.  And I often discover the most beautiful plant combinations are the result of serendipity, despite my best efforts to manage the plant palette.

Gardening for healthy food is a good idea, especially now that we realize the dangers of pesticides. Most of the vegetable growers I know, however, toil for flavor, not safety.  Besides, just how healthy is crispy-fried okra, or sweet corn slathered in butter and lavished with salt?

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Dave Hull, volunteer coordinator at Project Host, growing food for the hungry.

I love the notion of gardening to learn and to meet people. Indeed, nurturing wisdom and understanding, as well as enjoying the friendship of other gardeners, are two of its greatest rewards.

I might even push the concept a bit further and say you can garden to build character. I’ve learned patience, humility, and a slew of other valuable lessons through my efforts.  And without a doubt, other gardeners make the very best friends and role models, for they embody optimism, tenacity, loyalty, generosity, and forgiveness.

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Celebrating life with gardening friends at Locanda dell’Isola Comacina on Lake Como.

The writer comes a bit closer to the mark, I think, when she says gardening builds lasting memories. Nearly every gardener I know was inspired by or learned their skill at the knee of a parent or grandparent.  In some special, lasting way, gardening cements our bonds to each other.  It is, undeniably, a great gift to pass from one generation to the next.

But gardening can be, and very often is, a more solitary calling. That’s okay too.  Everyone needs something just for them, on their own terms.

The writer’s suggestion to garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections also struck a chord.  Time and again I’ve interviewed people who explain that gardening is not just their hobby, but also their way of mitigating stress and regaining a sense of well-being.

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Gulf Fritillary, one of nature’s most beautiful pollinators. Butterflies have especially good color vision and, unlike bees, can see the color red.

And who can doubt that gardening connects us to the web of life in spiritual and mystical ways? As the writer notes, it’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or tasty, nutritious food.

For me, though, the most important reason to garden is to root myself, in both life and place, and to cultivate amity and continuity with the plot of earth I nurture, the plants and wildlife that share it, the friends who garden and don’t garden, and most importantly, the family I love.

The essential truth is that I don’t need 10 good reasons to garden.

How about you?

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On a visit with Mimi and Pop, headed to the garden…

 

 

 

 

54 thoughts on “Why garden, you ask?

  1. An Eye For Detail

    Oh Marian, this is wonderful. Can I quote and/or link to this on my Friday post? I also think I will forward to Martha for your upcoming talk. I have SO much to say here, but no time right now. One thing is certain: gardening does link us to past generations and lets us see those people, no longer here, in a different light. Mostly, for me, it makes me happy!

    Reply
  2. Pat Webster www.siteandinsight.com

    Like you, I have to discard many of these ten reasons and wonder who wrote the piece, and when. Also like you, I garden to make connections, with the land, the plants and the people on and around it. I garden to learn facts as well as less prosaic things, like patience and acceptance and understanding about where I fit into a larger scheme. I garden to enhance the beauty around me and to show and develop my own creativity. I garden to find that calm spot inside me that the world too often disturbs. I garden to have fun. I could go on and on… far more than ten reasons!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Pat–I definately agree with gardening to center ourselves (find the calm spot inside)…which is the number one reason I need to get out from under this computer and outside more often.

      Reply
  3. Deen

    What a wonderful way to start my day! Gardening is a wonderful time to relax, to reconnect with myself, and to think of days and gardens gone by.

    Reply
  4. Chloris

    A great post Marian. From time to time we gardeners look up from the soil and ask ourselves this question. Why do we do it? I wrote a post on this subject last February and enjoyed all the thoughtful comments. https://thebloominggarden.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/why-do-we-garden/

    For money, for exercise or to win prizes? No, no and no, certainly not. But I think most of us who love gardening enough to blog about it share your reasons. I have a great book by Rory Stuart called ‘What are Gardens For?’ It is really thought provoking book about the purpose of gardens and why we do it.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Chloris–I’m so glad you pointed out your February blog, as I was so busy with our annual gardening symposium here that I missed it completely. I’ll look for Stuart’s book too.

      Reply
  5. Christina

    Thoughtful piece Marian; I certainly don’t need ten reasons to garden, connecting with nature, people and my inner self – those are my reasons plus I can’t imagine not doing it.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Christina–I think we see the world differently as gardeners and I wish more people had that vision. I took a painting class once and was shocked to discover a whole new way to look at shapes and colors and shadows…it changed the way I experience life. I think gardening does that for us too.

      Reply
  6. Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

    My history was gardening on my grandparents’ farm. My present is gardening with my MG group. My personal is gardening just for the shear beauty of Mother Nature whatever the plant may be. 🙂 I wear a Fitbit in an ‘attempt’ to increase steps, and I can tell you gardening in general doesn’t do a whole lot for that. I can work like a dog outside for hours and not even have 5,000 steps, but I can increase it if I only get one tool out at a time and have to keep going back and forth. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Judy–Though I still love to garden, the space I have here is more naturalistic and less adaptable to the style of garden I like best…so I’m very much into “the shear beauty of Mother Nature” right now.

      Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Summer–Yes, I think the most important aspect of visiting a new garden is understanding the gardeners intent…that is the way to learn. Not deciding if you like or don’t like what you see.

      Reply
  7. Martha Strain

    Well said, Marian! As a toddler my love for flowers made me one to be watched in neighbors’ gardens! My mother said she couldn’t turn her back on me because I would pick the most enticing blooms. So, some of us garden because it is in our DNA. 😀🌸🌼🌷🌺🌿

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Martha–I can picture you plucking those blooms! And you are right, I believe some of us definately have gardening in our DNA. In fact, I just ordered a DNA kit from 23andme. I wonder if gardening will show up?!!!

      Reply
      1. Martha Strain

        Excited to hear about your 23&me experience. A member of our book club was very pleased with the company! Bet there is a gardening gene! 😀

  8. Debbie Shaughnessy

    Thanks for your beautiful words, Marian. It’s a wonderful reminder of why I love being in my garden.

    Reply
  9. johnvic8

    Marian, I included three articles about “why I garden” in my book, Guess What’s in My Garden! Here is a brief quote, which I hope will add to your post:
    “I enjoy the camaraderie with the good folks who share my love of gardening. They are “my gardening buddies.” I’ve never known a selfish gardener. We share plants, ideas, dreams, experiences, and knowledge. We visit gardens together. We join Garden Clubs. We are happy to receive and give recommendations. We critique each other’s creations. We trade old garden magazines. We recommend books. We encourage each other. We delight in each other’s successes, and we feel disappointments. We never lack for something to talk about.

    Reply
      1. Martha Strain

        You and John have expressed my feelings and appreciation for my gardening friends. They are generous, intellectually curious, nurturing, and fun-loving!

  10. Frogend_dweller

    Well, I guess that there are elements of truth in most of the 10 reasons, but I especially like to germinate things, anything really, from all over. There is so much magic in that simple thing. Also, sharing is very important. For instance, I’ve noticed that of the photos that I take when I volunteer at Wimpole, most of the shots are of other volunteers chatting and exchanging knowledge, ideas, seeds and produce etc.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Frogend–Ah, propagation! There is lots of joy in making more plants, but I have to admit, I’m not that good at it. Oh, I can do the easy stuff, like ground layering and scattering seeds that overwinter, with great success. But I’m not as adept with methods that require lots of special attention.

      Reply
  11. Sharon Lanier

    This may be one of my all time favorite Marian articles/blogs…right there with the Recipe Box.! Wow, did this ever speak to me on so many levels. The photos today brought me so many joyous memories of days spent with the best garden friends ever, in some of the most fabulous places…Italy, France and Lexington. Awesome, Marian!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Germac–I remember the first time I discovered gardeners make great friends…I arrived late to a gardening group luncheon and had to sit at a table with 9 new people instead of the ones I already knew and within minutes realized every one of them could be a wonderful new friend.

      Reply
  12. Cathy

    I don’t need a reason to garden, Marion, but I would love to hear a good argument NOT to garden! Can’t imagine life without a trowel and a pair of secatuers at hand! Lovely summary of all those positive aspects of gardening – I think you have included them all. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Cathy–Not gardening would be a challenge. I don’t have as much time to provide gardening programs these days, but if I receive an invitation to an assisted living facility or nursing home I make a special effort to go because it’s especially meaningful to share experiences and hear how gardening and gardening memories are essential at every age, even when physical ability and opportunity is limited.

      Reply
  13. rusty duck

    Well exercise works for me, I lose weight in summer but not in winter. But that’s not the main reason. I love the creative side of it and the fact that we have another chance to get it right every year. But mostly it’s to relax. There’s no place better. Great post Marian.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Jessica–I love the idea of a new chance to get it right each year…part of what makes gardeners such optimists? And I think we are more attentive to the seasons and thus have a stronger connection to nature’s cycles. I’m always looking forward to what comes next, with the exception of the six weeks of August (well, it feels like six weeks), which is just so hot and unbearable here. On the flip side, though, is our gorgeous winter.

      Reply
  14. Julie

    I really enjoyed your post Marian and reading through everyone’s comments too, I especially liked Christina’s thoughts. I earn my living as a gardener, but it has to be the worst paid job ever. Giving up the corporate world was financially hard but the rewards of being at one with nature, sharing plants with like minded folk and the feeling I have made a tiny patch of the world a better place cannot be beaten. My children have a greater appreciation of the natural world, my mother and grandfather were passionate gardeners, the connection and the future. My youngest is just about to buy her first house and can’t wait to grow vegetables, this makes me very happy.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Julie–I understand “worst paid job ever,” because surely garden writing is right there too. Some jobs, as you point out, are rewarding for other reasons. I like to think I’m nurturing and growing the local gardening community by writing about plants and new (or not so new) ideas in horticulture and design, and I especially enjoy highlighting the work and events of various gardening groups so we can all support one another.

      On a personal note, I hope the blogging world will be hearing more from you again soon. I know you’re busy with some changes (happy ones, I hope), but I miss your posts.

      Reply
  15. susurrus

    I loved reading the post and the comments. You certainly are nurturing and growing more than your own garden. I smiled too at the idea of making money rather than spending it and Judy’s disappointing fitbit scores for working like a dog. I’ve known many people have garden related injuries (Felder with saw marks on his face comes to mind after making a potting bench). But the idea I most wanted to underline, like so many other people before me, is what wonderful people gardeners are.

    Reply
  16. Beth @ PlantPostings

    What a beautiful post, Marian. I got a little teary thinking about living and past family members who helped shape my love of gardening and continue to inspire. I agree: I don’t need 10 good reasons to garden. But there are many more, and they are all powerful, life-affirming reasons. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Beth–Yes, teary; I’m right there with you. I’ve been in a reflective mood since my mother passed away in May…part of what prompted this post. Life is different when that last thread to childhood breaks.

      Reply
  17. Thus Saith The Lord, God

    Me neither I don’t need 10 good reasons to garden, but what I need is time which is lacking. Going to the garden with my kids when they were little is still in our memories fifteen years later. The discovery factor marvelled their minds each time they found a grown up plant or a new flower they had never seen. Your article reminded me of all these little details that made our joy. Thank you.

    Reply

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