Why do I garden?

As you’ve probably figured out by now I love to garden. On occasion I wonder why. My Uncle John who died a few years ago at the ripe old age of 96 gardened all his life, planting vegetables, fruit trees, shrubs and flowers. He was a solitary man given to melancholy but he often remarked to me that when he went out into the garden he forgot about everything except the task at hand. He said it was  impossible to feel down in the dumps  when you’re gardening. I would have to agree as to be outdoors, digging, planting, dividing plants, pruning, mulching, cleaning up leaves or even the dreaded weeding it all becomes about the job you are doing. Does the plant need shade or sun, moist or dry soil, good drainage, eventual height and spread or most importantly in this garden will it be in the way of the lawnmower. With all this to think about who has time to worry or stress and its a great way of zoning out.

I bought a book recently called “ The bad tempered gardener” by British gardener and journalist Anne Wareham. I bought it based on the answer she gave to a question that has long puzzled me.”  Why do you garden?” and her answer was, because she felt  compelled to do so. She doesn’t even like the gardening its the result she likes. She said that gardening is like outdoor housework ! Although I disagree with her on the last point the compulsion is one I completely identify with. That is exactly how I feel sometimes as I’m knee deep in muck and dirt or my back is aching from hauling stones and digging holes and I say to myself why am I not inside with a book beside the fire and I grin to myself and say “Thank you Anne for making it so simple.” I feel compelled to garden!

Sometimes  people don’t garden as they feel they don’t know enough.They would love to garden but can’t because physically they’re not able, they would love to garden but don’t have the space, the time, the knowledge, the head space, the energy, the courage, the list is endless. However I think it is buried deep in all of us to enjoy nature and to try to do the most basic thing which is to grow something. To be active and connect with the earth can never be a bad thing and working your muscles  can help ensure you’re less likely to get many modern diseases such as heart disease, obesity, stroke or depression. It can help with anxiety as you are the one who is in control choosing and planting. Chopping or pruning  shrubs or hedges  can be a great way to let off steam and all in the knowledge that you will actually be doing them good and making them regrow stronger and more invigorated. Children can learn to take care of plants and where food comes from and how things grow if you give them the proper care. This in itself is a great life lesson. Plants are not choosey they don’t care who looks after them what race or religion you are as long as you give them what they need they will thrive.

Gardens are everywhere, They are in religion starting with Adam and Eve, in literature, in film, in art, in castles or cottages, in towns and schools. People plant flowers on graves or bring pots with flowers  and the symbolism of renewal and life can bring comfort to those left behind. Flowers feature everywhere at weddings, on the altar and pews, at the reception and the brides bouquet . As people celebrate special occasions a tree or shrub is often given as a symbol or a living gift to mark the occasion. People garden on a grand scale or on a balcony, in window boxes or in containers or just in their own back garden. Increasingly kids garden in schools, inmates garden in prisons, patients enjoy the garden in nursing homes and many city workers head to the park to relax and de-stress over lunch. Again the list goes on and on and everywhere humans are connecting with nature and the earth and making themselves feel good. Even if you only garden in your imagination or watch Gardener’s World or visit gardens open to the public its the connection with nature thats important and makes us all gardeners together.

Where else would you engage so many of the senses ? To see a riot of shape and colour, to smell a gorgeous rose, to taste a divine  tomato, to touch papery bark of a tree or to hear grasses rustle in the wind .


” Gardening is medicine that does not need a prescription and has no limit on dosage ”

Author Unknown

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