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.)