Gardening for Your Spirit

The Link, Spring 2019
| by Tanya Crowell |

There has been a lot of talk lately about how wonderful gardening is for our health. It apparently balances our circadian rhythm, produces endorphins that lower our heart rates, supports our immune system through the meeting of soil bacteria with our mucosa, and generally prolongs our life. All great stuff, but in my opinion misses the point.

I don’t garden in order to have a longer life. I garden to have a better life. To really enjoy being here on this earthly plane and to meet the natural and see it for what it is, even as I try to manipulate it. It’s a paradox for sure. We get out there and mold and shape, weed and deadhead, dig and establish, in every instance intent on reigning in nature’s ways and yet somehow the whole process brings us into greater appreciation of Mother Nature herself.

“Part of the excitement and anticipation of planting is the unknown result.”

Part of the reason I think this happens is that no matter how hard we try, no matter what the vision in our head, the end result will always be a composite of our efforts mixed with the hand of nature’s ways that ultimately rule. We have all experienced the plant that grows too tall or won’t take off. The unruly ones that want to take over the world. You would think they had a mind of their own! And isn’t that just it?

There is a stone in my garden upon which is written “Gardening is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration!” A good thing to remember as spring arrives and we take up the shovel bursting with plans and vigour for a new season. We make tremendous effort on behalf of our great plan with no guarantee it will work out. When it does, or sometimes turns out even better than we imagined, we are in ecstatic awe. Now there is something to feed the body and soul. When the plan fails, we must find resolve and learn an important lesson that helps us become better gardeners.

In the end though would you have it any other way? How boring if every effort were rewarded exactly as planned! Part of the excitement and anticipation of planting is the unknown result. No matter how well we plan for the mixing of colour, texture, size, season, we cannot see in our mind’s eye how it will really be until it happens. Thus it is sometimes said that the best garden is the one in our imaginations at the start of the season.

The end result will be determined by light, weather, winter, wildlife. Ah yes wildlife! Nothing can transform more. Reminds me of the lovely honeysuckle shrub I placed in my rock garden. It grew so well over the first two months of summer. Then, just as it was about to burst into yellow bloom, along came Mr. Deer. Now it sits, still dormant, in spite of the increasing warmth and light, a small bundle of forlorn branches. Not at all hopeful looking. The hope is all in me.

Hope. That is one of the great benefits of gardening! Gardening gives us hope. Every gardener exists in past, present and future all at once when at work in a bed. Embedded in our actions of planting, lies hope that this plant will do better than the one last year. That it will be full and lush three years further on. In her book A Life in the Garden, Penelope Lively said, “A gardener is able to see incipient promise everywhere.”

Now that’s therapy! A gardener by their activity is embedded in a world filled with wonder, fertility, relationship and co-creativity. We see potential everywhere. We see the possibility of beauty in every dusty corner. We see the potential for success even after failure because we learn from our mistakes and figure out how to meet a plant’s natural needs. We revel in the sun on our backs and faces and the earth under our fingernails. We are part of the earth we work. We know its taste and it knows the taste of us. It is good for us because it feeds our souls, and anything that does that is good for our bodies!

Tanya Crowell is a member of Northumberland Master Gardeners. Their mission is to promote the love of gardening and provide gardening information to the public.

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