Earning the “gardener” badge

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A friend recently related my love of plants to the joy I feel when my team builds something new at work. “You’re a gardener. You grow things,” he said, standing in my office. It may have been the first time anyone has referred to me by that term “gardener”, which delighted me. Like runner, blogger or musician, “gardener” is a label made more legitimate when bestowed upon you by someone else. Fundamentally, though, I think anyone who has realized plants can teach you about your own life can call him or herself a gardener. A few things I’ve learned:

Bulbs teach you to plan: You plant tulips in the fall so you can enjoy them in the spring. You plant lilies in the spring so you can enjoy them in the summer.

Vines teach you persistence: Leave wisteria to its own devices, and you have purple kudzu.

Herbaceous perennials teach patience: They are there under the surface. Wait for the right conditions, and they’ll rise again. Divide when it’s time, water when it’s dry, and prune after blooming. Know when to do each task.

All my plants have taught me to relax. When I first began to garden, I worried animals would dig up every bulb, bugs or fungus would attack every leaf, and that every storm would be the death of every sapling. I over-pruned, over-fertilized, and over-watered.

Today, I found myself pondering this question: If we really want something, does it come to us? Or do we go get it? The answer is in the garden, I think. You make decisions here and there, creating conditions for something to take root, bloom and flourish. But if and when it does, it isn’t because you forced it. It’s because you let it be.

Spring is a colorful reminder of how that works.

(All the photos in the slideshow, by the way, were shot in my garden this weekend. Everything is opening at once this year because the colder-than-usual Tennessee winter delayed a lot of the spring bloomers, including wisteria and daffodils. It makes for some incredible photographs, but also some serious Zyrtec popping. Another lesson, I suppose. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.)


6 thoughts on “Earning the “gardener” badge

  1. Nellann, Scott and Jackie: If you want flowers but don’t know how to start, I suggest bulbs. It’s still not too late to plant summer bulbs like lilies (rhizomes like calla lilies or Asiatics) or irises. In the fall, when it’s consistently below 50 degrees, plant tulips, daffodils and crocuses. You will feel like it’s a total act of faith, because you can’t do much other than sit back and wait. But sometimes that “out of my hands” feeling is what you need to get past the beginner jitters.

    Jim: I will always treasure that bench in the background.

  2. Knight, this is a beautiful post. I think I’m in the over-___ stage. I need to step back and garden. P.S. I am jealous of your garden. The tulips! Oh I love it! Tulips make me happy. Once I have a place of my own a garden is the first thing on my list. I will be asking you for tips so watch out 🙂

  3. I’m jealous of the garden…every year about this time I get this desperate overwhelming need to plant and water things 🙂 Usually just potted plants/flowers, and sometimes they do well…until I get too lazy/busy to tend to them anymore

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