Monday, April 3, 2017

When all else fails, garden

By Vanessa Spady

Despite all my best plans, life requires more of me than just puttering in my garden, planting and feeding and admiring my iris, and writing my favorite blog about gardening. Indeed, all the things other than my garden are often the reason I so desperately yearn to get back to my garden and revel in its restorative beauty.

'Coral Point' George Sutton, R. 1999). Sdlg. G-67. TB, 37" (94 cm), Midseason late bloom. Ruffled and laced pale pink (RHS 56D); beards coral, pink horn; slight musky fragrance. 'Sky Hooks' X F-257: (2-14A: ( 'Pink Ember' x 'Playgirl') x 'Twice Thrilling'). Sutton 2000.

It has been a remarkable year, as I look back at my blog postings, photos, and out into my yard. Not only did we plant our experimental garden of kiddie pools, re-purposed tires, and (hopefully) gopher-proof raised beds, but so much has happened in the world. So many public figures and close friends have passed on, the election was a tumult no matter what stance you take, and personally, there has been so much upheaval, drama, excitement (both good and not so good) and commotion in my life that garden therapy has become my saving grace.

'Alien Mist' Cy Bartlett, R. 1998). Seedling HD-IQ 1. TB, height 37" (94 cm), Midseason bloom. Ruffled very pale blue self; beards bright medium blue violet, horned; slight sweet fragrance. 'Howdy Do' X 'Inca Queen'. Sutton 1998.

I don’t have a routine or schedule for gardening; I often have to squeeze in projects and maintenance around other obligations, and I know this is true for so many of my friends and fellow-gardeners. That’s unfortunate, both because the number of hours my garden wants from me and the number I can provide are usually not the same (with the deficit showing in weeds and untidy beds), but also because the benefits of being in my garden extend beyond the well-being and beauty of the flowers into the well-being and beauty of the soul. Big words, but it’s true for me.

There is something so healing in a freshly turned bed. Even just clean dirt makes my heart happy. Planting is wonderful therapy, even if the rewards are only visible one season a year (for non-re-blooming iris). Weeding an area, and stepping back to see how the plants can now stretch, and grow, and thrive… it polishes up the tarnish that day-to-day living splashes on us in little bits all day long. 

'Fortunata' (Joseph Ghio, R. 1985) Sdlg. 79-125-O. TB, 38" (97 cm), E-L. S. melon; F. cool white, melon rim and shoulders; tangerine beard. 'Artiste' X 'Private Label'. Bay View Gardens 1986. Honorable Mention 1989.

The garden is a place where my mind and soul work together to feel the power and grace of nature. Harmony of the living body and the living dirt is a meditation that results in inner and outer beauty. And, at the end of a day in the garden, there is that lovely, lasting, tangible result that others can see, and share, and appreciate. It’s a lot harder to show your friends how great chanting “Om” makes you feel, but they can all appreciate gorgeous flowers, shady paths, and well-tended beds.

I can’t say when or where I noticed that gardening was good for my soul. I am grateful for the understanding, though. When work comes home with me in an unwelcome way, when stress and traffic and responsibility get too tiring, when I need to feel something more tangible, more basic, more real, I can go into my garden, and shed the rest of the world from my thoughts. I can erase the yuck, and embrace the muck. I shall always turn to my garden for the generous way it rewards my efforts.

'Sunshine Boy' (Frank Foster, R. 1985). Seedling #79-25. IB, Height 25" (64 cm), Early thru late bloom. Standards lemon cream; falls white, deep yellow markings and lines around hafts and orange beard; ruffled; pronounced spicy fragrance. 'Beau' X 'White Lightning'. Pod and pollen fertile. Vagabond Gardens 1986. Honorable Mention 1988. Award of Merit 1990.

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