There are few pastimes that can beat gardening for its variety, longevity and rewards. Just think about it. Gardening is something that can be done practically anywhere on this earth — indoors or out. Why, even the astronauts have tried their hands at gardening in outer space. Gardening is one of those activities that can span the ages from young to old in its inclusion. It gives us the opportunity to be outdoors, to get a bit of good exercise in the process and — wonder-of-wonders — it often produces fresh foods or flowers.
Many of us can trace our gardening “roots” back to our childhood when a relative or neighbor took the time and interest in us to introduce us; to school us in the basics of growing things. I for one can name a number of my personal gardening gurus, starting in my childhood when my grandmother, Reba, demonstrated that you can grow a lot of goodness in a small space, to plant savvy friends and neighbors who have introduced me to new worlds of plants and how to care for them. I continue to discover more and learn more all the time.
Even our garden failures, or plant victims as some might label them, teach us what and what does not work. For my part, I have learned a number of valuable things from my years of gardening, and those things don’t always seem to relate directly to plants and growing them. In short, gardens and gardening can teach us a lot about life in general. If there was one thing you’d like to be able to pass on to other generations about “life’s greatest lesson” to be learned from gardening, what would it be?
I posed this question to some of my Facebook friends and they came up with a gratifying collection of rewards that come with the practice of growing things. Like me they discovered a range of bonuses that come from the garden. Here are some of them:
— Delayed gratification
— Give and take
— Learning from mistakes
— Hard work
— Trial and error
— Healing properties of gardening
— Reap what you sow
— Make dreams come true
— Nothing is static
— Joy of digging the dirt
— Best therapy on earth
— Respect for all living creatures
— Fragility of life
— Resilience of life
Summer is in full stride now, and its heat, intense sun and humidity can be hard on plants. Now is when we look for signs of black spot in the roses, or scorching of perennials and shrubs. Seems as if every summer something bites the dust. It is another one of those life lessons that teach us nothing is permanent, life can change in an instant.
We can give up trying. But my bet is that a lot of us are gamblers at heart, and love the challenges as well as the rewards our gardens afford us. Well, maybe not love the challenges, but we sure do rejoice when we, and our plants, overcome them. It’s just another one of those messages from Mother Nature that all is not lost, and there is plenty yet to enjoy.
As we work our way toward another growing season I’ll offer this caution: Before you chop that lifeless-looking whatever to the ground, give it a few more days, a couple weeks to make sure it isn’t beyond redemption. Just when I thought the sage was toast, it sent out a couple tentative little wrinkled leaves, enough to let me know everything was going to be OK. It is that first lesson learned in the garden — patience. And it is indeed a virtue — possess it if you can.
Lynette L. Walther is a four-time recipient of the Garden.Com’s Silver Award of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and she is the author of “Florida Gardening on the Go.” Her gardens are on the banks of the St. Johns River.