Gardening is an endeavour that blends hands-on tactile effort with a working knowledge of plant requirements and soil management…essentially, that is a solid definition of what you are physically doing when you are tackling any garden chore.
It’s the dig in, sweat and do what needs to be done part of the equation.
Ah….but then there is the MAGIC! The intangible and subjective side unique to each person which enriches us on a different level of being.
The energy, awareness and joy we feel permeating our experience of the garden…these 4 ways gardening feeds our souls.
1. Connection to Loved Ones and our history
Why have I decided to plant Dahlias this year in my flower bed? Yes – they are incredibly beautiful in their colourful variety, but I have never grown them before in my garden. My choice to include them this year is because of my father. I know he’ll be here to see them this summer and as a young boy he enjoyed them in his family garden because my grandfather LOVED them and grew them like an expert. The smile and happy remembrance it will bring to him is what moves me to plant them. Connection to my father and a grandfather I did not have the pleasure to meet growing up – but I am connected to nonetheless.
Many of our garden traditions connect us to our history as well. My husband and I received a lovely ‘Bridal-Wreath‘ Spiraea from my parents for our wedding here on this property 15 years ago. It has become a magnificent addition to one of our foundational beds with its cascading white blossoms in early summer.
Now, we continue the tradition each anniversary, by heading out to the garden centre together and choosing another bush to add to our property…each one a reminder and happy memory linking our past to our present.
Plants shared with friends and planted with loved ones – we all have our personal stories of these don’t we?!
“Lilacs were my mother’s favourite…every time I see them I think of her” or “The peonies grew for decades in my grandmother’s yard…we transplanted one to our garden to remember her fondly“.
Every gardener amongst us has one or many stories to share which reflect back to the memory of a loved one.
Over the years I’ve observed that people who are particularly drawn to plants with strong scent and aroma in their garden have a deep connection to history. My friend, Sandra Knauf is a wonderful example of this – she LOVES scented plants in her garden and also possesses an exceptional talent for weaving historical research with enchanting stories of gardeners who came before us making them relevant to the lives we live now.
2. Present Moment Awareness
We all have different kinds of stress in our lives these days…being ‘lost‘ in thought is inevitable at times. But nothing transports us from ‘there‘…to the ‘here and now‘ more immediately than the sheer beauty of a simple flower in glorious bloom – or perhaps – a wilted plant in PRESENT need of water on a hot summer day!
The other day I was on an early morning walk with the dogs – my mind swimming with concerns and possible solutions for a problem that arose at the office the day before…when suddenly the song of a robin shot through the ‘noise‘ in my head like an arrow aimed true – AWAKEN! The veil lifted and I instantly stopped thinking about my worries to look around at the incredible beauty surrounding me. Safely delivered back to the present moment by nature – NOW – where LIFE is happening…I let go and came back.
Working in our gardens requires our focus and attention, and there comes with that a very special gift – a mindfulness capable of bestowing the sense of peace which MOST DEFINITELY feeds our souls in a healthy way.
3. Embrace Change
Have you ever had the experience of watching a plant languish in the garden…getting by, surviving the winter and coming back again and again – but – just NOT thriving?
A CHANGE is required.
I could choose from innumerable examples, but in particular I recall three Hostas that I planted in a shade garden underneath the massive Cottonwood tree at the front of our house. In my newbie gardener enthusiasm I decided this shady spot would be PERFECT for them!
They were starved for water and nutrients competing on a daily basis with the roots of the Cottonwood tree as well as three Chinese Elms in close proximity.
One summer, Ray and I decided to create a decorative river by diverting the grey water shooting out from the house into the center of the bush area at our front entryway.
We thought – why not create a shade garden bed at the edge of the bush that would receive this constant moisture and at the same time beautify the front of our walkway?
Hell yes – GREAT idea!
So – the shovels came out and we dug a decent sized bed and filled it with garden loam from a recent delivery of 15 yards of garden soil.
Stood back, looked at it and wondered…what do we fill it with?
I think you’re ahead of me here…that’s when the lightbulb went off! 🙂
Hostas transplanted along with some Goatsbeard, Jacob’s ladder and Bergenia – ALL struggling under the Cottowood tree were moved to this new nutrient/moisture rich bed within 15 minutes.
Happy Hostas AND huge Goatsbeard…they all THRIVE now in their new home I am very happy to say.
Change – we resist and sometimes fear it – but it is often the most necessary thing to propel us forward in our lives – a new direction that is more in line with our highest hopes and dreams.
It takes only a small commitment to living an examined life to realize the lessons nature is freely teaching us can be applied to our own struggles and choices.
In truth, there is nothing more ephemeral than a garden – oh, we think we are planning the garden design out to the last detail, but believe me, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect‘ garden. If you are aiming for that – shift your focus NOW, because you are aiming at a moving target!
Self-sown seeds add happy surprises on a yearly basis – plants die off unexpectedly, and weather has the power to eradicate in its savage extremes. Change is the one constant in the landscape…over eons, or over-night – it happens.
Just as it happens in our own lives…some change is brought about through the choices we consciously make – others surprise us with unexpected harshness. It is our indomitable spirit which determines how we weather the changes. Not fate – nor a measurement of our sins real or imagined – the true test of courage, adaptability and strength lies in how we choose to handle the challenges that come our way.
If some ‘holier than thou‘ person tries to tell you that you deserve what has befallen you – kick them to the curb – seriously – NOW!
There is a distinct lack of compassion and an ego disguised in the garb of ‘spiritual superiority‘ at work there – do NOT let that fool you.
THAT is what my garden has taught me – how it has fed my soul…a simple change was needed – a shift in my perspective.
If something isn’t working for you – if a strong ‘NO’ is required to protect your own awareness of what you are willing to give or spend in the way of time and effort in your life to follow your own unique path…then do it. Saying ‘No’ can often be an act of courage and incredible self-awareness. If, on the other hand, you feel expansive at the thought of a potential change in your life – then follow it – YES – would be the answer in this case.
Understand how your garden grows best – both figuratively and literally – and welcome change in your garden and in your life. You will both grow in unexpected ways when you do.
There have been moments in my life when I’ve experienced having the wind knocked out of me emotionally. Heartbreak and disappointment is something we ALL have encountered in our lives to one degree or another.
My garden, my love of place and of nature – has saved me time and again.
When I lost my mother, I was certain the world should just stop – everything should just…STOP.
The next morning the sun rose…and the birds were still singing and in my state of mind and deep grief – this fact stung hard…that life went on – it honestly shocked me.
Gratitude, I’ve learned is the portal to understanding the GIFT that life is – the span of our lifetime here may be short or long, but there are wonders every day that we can see around us which we can be truly thankful for.
Gratitude for the seed, now seedling, turned to ‘warmed by the sun‘ tomato eaten fresh off the vine.
Gratitude for each bee and butterfly that still find their way to my garden each year – and for the little I can do to create a habitat that promotes their health and well-being.
Gratitude for the crazy pups I call family which greet me with a smile and wagging tail each morning and venture out by my side into the garden each day as I follow my usual routine of watering and weeding.
Wherever you are, and whatever circumstances you are dealing with – there is something beautiful, forgiving and open within nature and your own garden that will lift your spirits and make you say…
For this – I am thankful.
Let gratitude within and without in your own garden lead you to remember that your heart is open and willing to receive the beauty that grows before you.
Let your garden feed your soul – it is willing and able to show you the way.
Garden lovers welcome💚
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Grow a garden - Feed your soul