In the Garden:
Middle South
November, 2009
Regional Report

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A love of gardening and nature is a great gift to pass from one generation to the next.

Need Ten Reasons to Garden?

I recently came across an old clipping that listed ten reasons people garden, or should begin gardening, and it gave me pause. In the column, the writer suggested we cultivate the good earth for safe and healthy food, for exercise, to add beauty, to learn, to make money, to meet people, to be creative, to win, for emotional needs and spiritual connections, and for lasting memories.

My thoughts?
For every hundred gardeners I know, one might be making money. I assure you, the other ninety-nine, myself included, are spending it. Big time.

For those not engaged in selling flowers or vegetables, the column suggests that gardening adds value to property, increasing its worth as much as fifteen percent. I can only hope this is true. If so, I stand to recoup at least a meager portion of my investment.

And exercise? Come on. Sure, gardening is healthier than sitting at the computer or watching television, but unless you're pushing a non-propelled lawn mower it's hardly a workout with Jack LaLanne.

I'm living proof you can be a gardener and be completely out of shape. But then, maybe that's because my husband does most of the hard stuff. He's a whiz at digging holes and moving mulch, and you should see how much garden rubbish he can load into his pickup truck.

Gardening to win is another stretch of the imagination. Yes, I know there are flower shows and state fairs that spotlight the best of the best. But, are there really more than a smidgen of us who cultivate plants to satisfy a competitive streak? Besides, in my garden, it's the voles that usually win.

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. I have an appreciation for many types of gardens and find most attractive. However, don't forget the old cliche, "different strokes for different folks." As works of personal expression, not all gardens will be pleasing to everyone. Nor should they be.

I must admit, I do enjoy the creativity of gardening. I like to combine colors judiciously and plan for textural contrast. Frequently though, I find Mother Nature has a larger hand in the end result. Plants flourish or languish at her will, not mine. And I often discover the most beautiful plant combinations are the result of serendipity, despite my best efforts at design.

Gardening for healthy food is a good idea. Most of the vegetable growers I know, however, toil for flavor, not safety. Besides, just how healthy is fried okra, or sweet corn slathered in butter and lavished with salt?

I love the notions of gardening to learn and to meet people. Indeed, nurturing wisdom and understanding, as well as enjoying the friendship of other gardeners, are two of its greatest rewards.

I might even push the concept a bit further and say you can garden to build character. I've learned patience, humility, and a slew of other valuable lessons through my efforts. And without a doubt, other gardeners make the very best friends and role models, for they embody optimism, tenacity, loyalty, generosity, and forgiveness.

The writer comes a bit closer to the mark, I think, when she says gardening builds lasting memories. Nearly every gardener I know learned the process at the knee of a parent or grandparent. In some special, durable way, gardening cements our bonds to each other. It is, undeniably, a great gift to pass from one generation to the next.

But gardening can be, and very often is, a more solitary calling. That's okay too. Everyone needs something just for them, on their own terms.

The writer's suggestion to garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections also struck a cord. Time and again I've heard people explain that gardening is not just their hobby, but also their way of mitigating stress and regaining a sense of well-being.

And, who can doubt that gardening connects us to the web of life in spiritual and mystical ways? As the writer explains, "It's a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food for your table."

But for me, the most important reason to garden is to root myself and to cultivate companionship and continuity -- with the plot of earth I care for, the plants and animals living there, the friends who garden and don't garden, and most importantly, the family I love.

The truth of the matter is I don't need ten good reasons to garden.

I hope you, too, find yourself equally blessed.


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