I’m sitting here in my home office as I have since the start of our physical distancing lockdown, trying to find my footing in what appears to be an episode of The Twilight Zone. It seems we return to our traditions in times of disruption to give us a sense of continuity and stableness. As I look out of my office, I’m reminded how much gardening is part of my roots.
Hope springs eternal as do spring and flowers. We look forward to the arrival of spring as a time of renewal and its return as a sign of continuance. No matter how long the winter (and believe me, Canadian winters are long), we know that spring will come. The plants have broken through the cold soil and with each sighting, I feel my stress drop a level. Looking down from my window, I can’t wait to get dirty again – which has nothing to do with physical distancing and everything to do with sinking my fingers into the soil to plant, weed, and prepare for another season of colour and sunshine. Nature dances to her own tune ignoring the cacophony of human business.
I love gardening.
The passion has been handed down to me from generations of family who were farmers and gardeners. My paternal great-grandparents, in particular, were farmers while my paternal grandmother was experienced in both vegetable and flowering gardens. My father was a passionate flower gardening enthusiast.
In the family tradition, I spent a lot of my youth in flower and vegetable gardens. Like calligraphy which I wrote about in my last Gems, it took many years of experience before I could be considered a skilled gardener. Gardening is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration – except for spring and fall when it’s 100% perspiration.
One never “finishes” gardening.
Every turn of the calendar brings a new list of things to do. After we close up our garden beds in the winter, we start tending to our winter gardens. Shortly after that, we’re ordering seeds then preparing to germinate those seeds for the following season. We await the relative warmth of May to move our young seedlings from their temporary nursery in our home to their new beds.
Little else in my life is as therapeutic as having my hands buried in the earth and watching the evolution of a plant grow from a dried-out seed to a complex living organism radiating joy from its colours and fragrances. And nothing compares to the taste of vegetables freshly pulled from the earth or picked from a vine.
Gardening is an important creative outlet for me. As someone passionate about art, I see the ground as my canvas and my spade as the brush and the various plants, flowers, and shrubs as my palette. Laying out plants of different colors, heights and maturations times produces a living painting that beautifies our environment, nourishes our bodies. Getting perennials right means you get to experience a new garden approximately every other two weeks. And don’t forget the benefits they have for the many insects and birds who look forward to spring as much as I do.
I’ve created and developed a multitude of gardens over the past few decades. These days though, I’ve scaled back and only maintain a couple of beds in the condo where I’ve lived for the past twenty-plus years. Those that I’m most proud of are the ones that we converted into bee and butterfly-friendly oases. I wasn’t sure or convinced but the bees and butterflies sure were. Indeed, there’s little else I do around my home that is as rewarding. My dream is to have a green roof on our building. It will happen – sooner or later.
Spring brings hope. This year, we would benefit from it coming more sooner than later.
Whenever it does come, embrace it. Walk into the sunshine and if you can, get your hands dirty. Feel the earth, smell it. It will ground you during this time of disruption where everything we thought we knew about what was “normal” has been changing every day.
Above all, be as nurturing to others as you are your garden. Every living thing needs care.
Everyone is experiencing the same insecurity as you are. Perhaps it’s a good time to reach out and grow friendships along with gardens.
Gary Blair is Owner and Chief Engagement Officer for i24 Call Management Solutions and Founder of the Art for Healing Foundation. He's passionate about creating connections between people through both his for-profit and not-for-profit activities. Communication is the name of the game.
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