In this season of giving, I want to reflect on what gifts our gardens share with us—whether we’ve got a few pots on a porch or acres of plants.
In this year of chaos and closures, many people are reporting a heightened awareness of the benefits of gardening for both body and spirit. Seattle journalist Erica Browne Grivas sees a multitude of gifts her garden gives her. For example, she says, “My garden offers me a laboratory to work off the stresses of the day, and a canvas to practice creativity, along with excessive gifts of food, flowers, and seeds.”
I agree with Erica about plants’ profligate generosity. My spring nursery shopping didn’t happen. And with many mail-order nurseries running out of stock, I became much more aware of how many plants I already owned that could give me more plants, to fill in the spaces where I would have placed my new purchases.
First, self-seeding plants, like foxgloves and hellebores, shower us with their offspring. I moved these tiny starts around to more suitable locations. I also divided plants—like daylilies and various red heuchera. The bonus? By proving their success in my garden, I know they’ll be easy-care. And by limiting the beds to fewer kinds, I can bring about more design cohesion.
I also made more plants by taking cuttings. Depending on the winter in my Zone 7 climate, my upright rosemary may not make it outdoors. So, at summer’s end, I clipped the soft green stems, stripped the bottom inches of leaves, and dipped them in hormone rooting powder before tucking them into planting trays. These little guys can be brought along through the winter in the greenhouse or even on a sunny windowsill. If I’m lucky, next year’s ornamental beds will have plenty of upright accents.
Of course, another bountiful gift is food. We say we “grow tomatoes” but really, we just set up the circumstances. It’s still nature who grows them. Sometimes, beauty and sustenance combine—lettuce, arugula, basil, peppers, and eggplants—the harvest can be gorgeous.
And speaking of beauty, perhaps the grandest present from our gardens (and nature itself) is the ability to sooth our souls. Even five minutes spent pulling old foliage from my container plants can settle me in a way nothing else can. Whether we’re tending that collection of roses, or hiking through a prairie parkland, the ever-renewing bounty of what surrounds us is vital for our well-being. The growing world gives us joy. My friend Vanca Lumsden, a long-time gardener, garden artist, and self-described plant addict, jokes, “I owe my sanity, and my children owe their lives, to the fact that I garden.”
So, what has your garden given you this year? Perhaps the greatest gift of all is a heart full of gratitude.