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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?