Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 11/21/2005 11:08:14 PM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
I often write columns with timely information about what needs to be done in the garden, and I enjoy the memory of once meeting a gentleman who offered me a suggestion about something to write.
The gentleman said his wife read my column faithfully and then used my suggestions to help her make a list of things he needed to do in the garden that weekend. While he thanked me for providing such helpful advice, he also asked if I minded a suggestion for a column topic.
Since I’m always on the lookout for interesting topics, I asked what he had in mind. After a brief hesitation he said, "Well, could you do a column sometime about just sitting back and enjoying your garden?"
I chuckle each time I recall that conversation, but the man did have a point.
We too often spend so much time working in the garden that we forget to simply sit down and appreciate what we have accomplished. We also focus so much on what we have to do for our gardens and landscapes that we forget what we receive in turn.
During this busy time of the year when giving and receiving gifts are so much a part of the season, it’s good to consider that there are many gifts our gardens give us.
Easily appreciated are the bright flowers, sweet fruit, delicious vegetables and delightful fragrances. With a little effort, we also can realize that plants provide privacy and enclosure for outdoor living spaces and shade that is so critical in the torrid heat of summer. Indeed, trees that shade our homes from the blazing summer sun even save us money on our energy bills by reducing how hard air conditioners have to work.
Gardening is a well-documented and beneficial form of exercise. It contributes to a healthy lifestyle, and I am always impressed when I meet gardeners in their 70s, 80s and even 90s who are still actively gardening. I have to admit it’s like pulling teeth to get me out walking or exercising on a piece of equipment. But I can’t wait to get out and dig a bed to plant a crop of vegetables or flowers. Time seems not to matter as I move from job to job in my gardens, while 30 minutes on my stationary exercise bicycle seems to go on and on forever.
As tired as I might be after a day’s work in the garden, I also feel great satisfaction, and I know something inside me has been nourished and refreshed by the labor. Gardening relieves stress and tension.
I think the human spirit is most fulfilled when we create and nurture. Gardeners understand that gardening is so much more than growing plants. It fills a deep yearning for the connection we need to something beyond ourselves. A gardener comprehends the life in plants and their quiet struggle to live. Gardening is a partnership between the plants and the gardener, and, as in any partnership, both parties benefit.
Gardens reaffirm our link with nature and help us recognize that living things like plants and wildlife have a place in our lives. Gardens teach us to nourish and appreciate the living word, not just use it.
Gardening also is a wonderful way to introduce children to the natural world. From appreciating the beauty of a flower, delighting in the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly or understanding that vegetables don’t just appear in the supermarket, gardens can enrich the lives of youngsters in wonderful ways.
In addition, your landscape is a gift to your community. Well-tended lawns and front gardens full of colorful flowers, trees and shrubs enrich a neighborhood and create a sense of pride (not to mention improve property values). One caring gardener can inspire others on a block to help create a more attractive and pleasant place to live.
Finally, gardens give us a sense of place. I believe we belong as much to our gardens as they do to us. A garden, whether it is a collection of container plants on an apartment balcony or an extensive landscape, provides a place where we can be who we are without judgment or criticism. There are no timeclocks in the garden, and there is no one we need to please but ourselves (well, we do need to keep our plants happy). You could even think of a garden as a refuge, although I always feel connected to things around me in a garden rather than isolated.
Go out into your garden and touch a leaf or smell a flower. You will feel the life-giving power that waits only for you to notice it, and it will fill your heart. When I go out into my garden today and see colorful flowers and vibrant green foliage, when I hear the songs of birds and then reach down to feel the living earth in my hands, I can’t help but thinking – thanks, this is just the gift I wanted most.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.