Gardens Create Beauty, Food, and Hope

butterfly garden
Washington County Master Gardener Jessica Lantz tends a butterfly garden.

Fresh air. Sunshine. The smell of warm earth. The feel of tender leaves. The honest sweat of work. The imagining of tastes, fragrance, and beauty to come. 

How could gardening be anything but therapeutic? 

We who delight in plunging our hands in the soil, tucking in seeds and plants and gently tending them know that gardening feeds the body and soul. And a little soul-feeding is just what we need right now. 

Actress Helen Hayes said, “All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy and my spirits soar.”  

So if you’ve never planted a seed, grown flowers for your table, or eaten something you’ve grown, jump in. Now. You will feel better.

And if you’re an old hand – meaning experienced, not decrepit – get out there. Times a wastin’. 

A new friend showed me her new raised beds with such pride this week. An old friend showed me his newly renovated raised beds with the same amount of pride. This is what we do. And it helps.  

It’s a simple equation. Seeds plus soil plus sun and water equal plants. But there is something miraculous, nevertheless, in the alchemy of it all. 

Every time I watch one of those time lapse videos of a lima bean sprouting, it is marvelous and I catch myself smiling. Go on, now. Go look one up.

Growth itself is a miracle that connects us. Man is a hunter-gatherer. Gardening is gathering, a means to harvest. So when we dip a trowel in the soil we are perpetuating a practice that dates back eons.  

And we garden not just to feed ourselves, but to create beauty. A pond brimming with water lotus at the gardens at Chanticleer brought tears to my eyes as did Monet’s water lilies at Giverny.  

But I take the same delight in the cottage garden of a friend, in the daffodils on my table, and in the wildflowers sprinkled along my favorite hiking trail. This beauty is a gift which I receive gratefully.

And when we consciously add beauty with flowers, meadows, trees, we are answering a deep need to create and contribute. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone who might see our gardens.  

John Muir once said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” 

When asked why he was planting small tree seedlings, an older gardener smiled and said, “These are for my children and my children’s children.”  

That’s the other connection gardens give us:  a connection to others. A garden shared is a true garden, whether you are sharing advice or bounty, seeds or seedlings, a plant or spontaneous garden tour.

In giving, we receive. 

The best gardens are echoes of all the friends and family who contributed to them and took joy in them. Garden walks then become visits with those held dear, past and present.  

So dig, plant, and share.  It’s hope you are spreading and we need that most of all.

By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media.

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