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.

Three Maryland Master Gardener Programs Honored for Excellence

University of Maryland Extension’s (UME) Master Gardener (MG) program is honored to share that three of our local county programs were selected as winners in the Search for Excellence by the International Master Gardener Conference. The awards were announced in 2018 and awarded this month during the 2019 International Master Gardener Conference in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

The Search for Excellence recognizes exceptional work of Extension Master Gardener volunteers not only throughout the United States but also in Canada and South Korea. Criteria for winning a Search for Excellence award requires that projects must be practical and simple to replicate, original and creative, and compatible with Extension and Extension Master Gardener missions. Applicants also must demonstrate that significant learning occurred both for Master Gardener volunteers and the audiences they serve.

Master Gardeners
Left to right: Alexa Smarr (Baltimore County Master Gardener Coordinator), Diane Nolan (awards chair), David Gibby (Extension agent and founder of the Master Gardener program), Susan Joyce (Baltimore County Master Gardener), and Rose Marie Fury (Baltimore County Master Gardener)

The UME MG program in Baltimore County won third place in the award category for special needs audiences with their Gribbin Center Therapeutic Horticulture Garden Club. MG volunteers meet with a group at the Gribbin Center in Perry Hall, MD at least twice a month to lead them in therapeutic horticulture activities. During each session, participants engage in a short lesson followed by a hands-on activity. Participants build social skills and increase motor skills through the maintenance of a garden space where they invite visitors on an annual tour. Learn more about the Baltimore County Master Gardeners.
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