In the Garden:
Upper South
March, 2004
Regional Report

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Gardening offers us the opportunity to enjoy learning new things and growing new and different plants, such as this new cultivar of hardy geranium called 'Rozanne'.

Always Learning

One of the more idiosyncratic aspects of my life is membership in a ladies' literary club, an organization that has been in existence for 121 years. What does this have to do with gardening? The organization's motto is "ancora impara," taken from Michaelangelo and variously translated as "always learning" or "still I learn." If ever there was a motto that fits those who garden, it is this one.

Gardening is at once one of the easiest and most basic of hobbies or vocations and also among the most challenging. Any child can plant a bean seed and someday have a bean stalk. Yet when the totality of horticulture is viewed, the range of topics and the breadth and depth of information and skill involved is staggering.

I believe, however, that it is this very synthesis of simplicity and complexity that fascinates us, keeps us gardening year after year, and, ultimately, keeps us young at heart. Gardeners are nothing if not inveterate optimists. We are always looking forward to doing better the next year or trying another variety we haven't grown before.

Gardening and Children
One of the most important activities we can do as adults is to encourage at least one child to garden, hopefully awakening an interest in the natural world around him or her. Take the time to garden with your children or grandchildren. Or "adopt" a child or even a classroom. Through gardening activities, children can learn about biology, chemistry, and language, as well as the basics of seeds, plants, soil, water, nutrition of both plants and people, weather, insects, birds, and a myriad of other topics, to say nothing of physical activity and hard work.

Work with a child throughout the seasons. A small plot of easily grown vegetables is a good beginning. Tomatoes are readily started from seed. The large seeds of beans and corn are easy for small fingers to handle. Let them help you prepare the soil, add fertilizer, and water and weed as the season progresses. Best of all, children can then help harvest and prepare the food when it's ready to eat. If the beans are a pole-type, then grow them in a teepee so the kids can play under it.

Learning to grow flowers is just as important as food crops. Create a flower bed of annuals from transplants. Growing sunflowers provides bouquets, as well as seeds to feed birds during the winter.

Introduce Yourself to New Aspects of Gardening
As adults, stressed for time and weighed down by responsibilities, we can sometimes lose sight of the joys of gardening. This year make sure you try some new varieties of vegetables, flowers, or other plants. Perhaps this is the year that you redesign your yard or add a water garden. Take in a local garden tour to get new ideas and become freshly inspired. Buy yourself that garden reference book you've been wanting. Join a plant society. As gardeners, we can't help but learn as our plants grow and we grow with them.


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