In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2005
Regional Report

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Enjoy the artistic patterns that nature provides in your garden.

Feelin' Good in the Garden

I've profiled more than 100 gardeners for articles (tough work talking plants with gardeners, but somebody's gotta do it!), and it intrigues me that a common theme pops up spontaneously in just about every interview. Everyone describes, with varying details and botanical pursuits of course, a valued connection with the soil, plants, or nature.

Some of these folks are, like me, gardeners from childhood. So, you could say that we didn't know any better and soon were addicted to the special aromas of rich soil or tomato foliage. Other people arrived at gardening from different routes, some just needed a hobby or started cleaning up the yard one day and never stopped. Once these newcomers get their hands dirty, they are just as hooked as the rest of us. Some are totally surprised by their conversion but still speak emphatically about how gardening has become an essential component in their lives.

Taking a Deep Breath
A recurring theme is how gardening acts as a major stress reducer. It doesn't matter if they are actively turning the soil, passively watching hummingbirds come to feed, or interacting with children as they share ladybug discoveries. These moments all provide time to breathe deeply and let go of a bit of the hectic day. Some people have described how gardening has helped them cope emotionally with major illness or loss. Many times I've heard, "I don't know what I'd have done without my garden," or "I feel so much better after 30 minutes in the yard." My favorite quote is from a fellow who described himself as "self-medicating" while working with plants!

It's a challenge to find a newspaper or magazine without a headline blaring the detrimental effects of stress on health and longevity. "REDUCE STRESS!" we are admonished. Well, for many, that might be easier said than done. But we lucky gardeners have a direct route to stress reduction. Just get out in the garden. If you think you're too tired to do anything "productive," then sit in a lawn chair and observe. Notice patterns from different vantage points or sun exposures that you might not have caught before. Look at the backside of a leaf or the interior of a flower up close. Rub velvety soft lamb's ears or globe mallow foliage between your fingers.

If you feel too busy to step out into the garden, you probably really need to do so. Tell yourself it will take just 10 minutes. I bet those 10 minutes will renew you. It's not a scientifically controlled survey, but all those gardeners I've talked to from all walks of life can't be wrong!


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