Friday, August 5, 2011

A Gardener's Admission

I like growing flowers and vegetables. I like pots, arbors, benches, and potting tables. I like shrubs, ornamental trees, vines and enthusiastic ground covers. I like a little bit of green grass and approving comments from neighbors.  I like eating the fruits of my labors.  I like the way orange blossoms smell, the way maple leaves look and the way Lamb's Ears feel. I like all these things, but none of them are why I invest so much of my time and energy in the garden.

I garden because it fills a need in me.

A few things I like

I garden because I’m nostalgic for my childhood which was blessed with unspoiled woods to explore. I garden because I’m nostalgic about those days when we took our time walking home from the bus stop because we were in no hurry and because we could absent-mindedly braid pine needles and laugh at everything while the air was still and crisp and smelled like apples. I garden because I’m nostalgic for that time when we knew the neighbors were gone and we sat on the top of their fence with our legs hanging over and we took our first good hard looks at their koi pond. I garden because I’m nostalgic for the summers when we made fort walls out of fallen branches and sheets of moss pulled from ancient rocks. I’m nostalgic for those days when we would huddle around a wild honeysuckle plant and suck the nectar from its flowers. It was like sipping sunshine itself.

Photo courtesy of Keyseeker on

I live almost a thousand miles away from where I spent those days. If there was some way to calculate emotional distance, I would guess that I feel even farther away than that. There are very few similarities between where I live now and where I lived then, but when I garden I feel closer to that place . . . at least on an emotional level.   For some reason, when my knees are on the ground and when the smell of earth is in my nostrils I feel transported.  Sometimes I feel transported to another time, sometimes to another place, almost always to a different state of mind. 

I garden because I can plant a tree that will give me the kind of deep shade I loved when I was 10. I garden because I can fill empty spaces with grasses and shrubs and branches that all work together to give me a spot – just one spot – where I can sit with my eyes wide open and still get that feeling I had so long ago when I sat in one of our forts.

Too much of our lives are spent working for grown-up things like paying bills, saving for college educations or retirement.  We work so we can afford a car and we need the car so we can go to work.  We work so we can have a sense of security or we work to achieve validation of our self-worth.  Too many of us work at jobs that don't inspire us, that don't excite us, that don't fill us up. 

So I admit it freely here: I garden selfishly. I garden because it makes me feel satisfied, it makes me feel young again, it makes me feel creative, and it makes me feel like I am in touch with myself and with the world around me.  Gardening makes me feel.


  1. This really resonates for me. Although I am lucky to have meaningful work that I enjoy, that work is very time-consuming and doesn't provide other equally-important components of my well-being -- especially connection to the natural world and solitude/connection to nature. Gardening provides both of these, and it also allows me to express a different kind of creativity than I use in my academic world. In many different ways, gardening grounds me. -Jean

  2. Jean, I'm glad to hear that this post resonated with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. ah Happy Days. You bring a nostalgic feel to the meaning of gardening. Look forward to reading more of your posts.

  4. I popped over to your blog after a recommendation from jeansgarden, and I am so glad I did. You have beautifully expressed some of my own feelings. Gardening is my chance to create a small piece of paradise, a place where my soul can sing. (It's a bit of an imaginary world. The reality has more than its share of weeds and fungus and death that steals through overnight, and sometimes curses are more appropriate than song!)

  5. PatioPatch - thank you for commenting.

    Deb - That was such a nice thing for Jean to do. I'm glad that you enjoyed my post. I know exactly what you mean when you wrote that our paradise is a bit imaginary. Still, there's something magical about a garden you love in spite of the weeds and the heartache. Maybe, in fact, because of those things.