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Lessons Learned In A Garden

May 09, 2017 5 min read

Maybe I’m getting old?

OK, I am old, but perhaps I am gaining clarity with age… that feels much better!  As I have settled into this spring I have found myself more introspective in thought and action.  I have found a sense of comfort that makes me feel as though I have achieved a greater appreciation of who and what I am.  Interestingly, but certainly not surprisingly, this revelation came to me as I spent time in one of my favorite places… my garden. 

Whether it was picking up the endless supply of sticks, pulling the infinite number of weeds or the never-ending pruning of my landscape plants, I found myself looking past my task, through the work at hand to something more.  Call it, seeing the forest for the trees (pun intended).  As my mind began connecting my gardening activities with the bigger picture of who I am, I realized that gardening had provided me with much more than just beautiful flowers and plants.  I am sure others feel the same way but also know that many more are missing out.  So… let me try, as best I can, to share with you what life lessons I have learned in my garden.

Don’t lose sleep over things you can’t control

Rain, cold, snow, heat… it can get frustrating.  Mother Nature always seems to be working against the gardener in providing too much, too little or too late.  Weather, like so many other things in life, is completely outside our ability to control.  Exercising an ability to deal with the unavoidable anxiety resulting from situations beyond my control is something I have learned in the garden.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

My bones ache just thinking about the summer I built my house 13 years ago… 250 tons of bounders, 40 pallets of paving bricks, hundreds of yards of topsoil… the list goes on and on!  Taking on that type of project alone isn’t something I would ever suggest to anyone but it’s my thing… it’s what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  All these years later my landscape is still in a stage of development but I have something that is precious in that it reflects who I am.  More importantly, from my time in my garden, I have developed an ability to persist when things are most difficult knowing most good things are hard to come by and truly great things require tremendous sacrifice.

Life isn’t a destination but a journey

The few spring mornings… those bright and beautiful mornings when the sun is shining and the skies are crystal clear.  The Redbuds, Crabapples and Viburnum are blooming, the fern fiddles are unravelling and baby bluebirds are hungrily chirping for another visit from their brightly colored caregivers.  Then… at that moment… my garden isn’t about weeding, fertilizing or mulching.  It isn’t about the flowers, the plants or even the sunny day.  It’s about being there, being aware and appreciating the beauty of nature.  It is a greater connection to what many (if not most) have long since lost.  It is providing the opportunity, the excuse or the diversion to slow down enough to realize that all the things I spend my time chasing every day are often far less important than what is sitting right in front of me in plain sight.  In my garden, I have learned to endure the bumps in the road knowing that greater things are sure to come if I am able to focus on what is most important. 

 Don’t judge a book by its cover

Many of the plants in my garden are misfits… unsold, returned, broken… cast offs.  It isn’t like I don’t want nice plants, I do but sometimes I am too cheap or, more often, look forward to the challenge of watching the swan come from what was an ugly duckling.  In my industry travels I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most knowledgeable and talented people in horticulture.  I am continually awestruck by this group of humble and unassuming people who give so much passion to what they do.  Time in my garden has taught me that often first impressions are just that… first impressions.  Very often it takes time for some things, some people and some relationships to realize their full potential.

Life is fragile and too often we don’t recognize this until it is too late

Sometimes plants will grow under the worst of conditions and other times they fail in the most ideal.  Gardening isn’t like baking when you follow all the steps and the bread always rises to the occasion.   Gardening is a mixture of science, skill, knowledge and, very often luck.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, good plants fail to thrive.  Time in the garden has taught me to better understand that living things, no matter how precious they may be, are living things and their well-being should never be taken for granted. 

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Growing up on a farm, literally in a greenhouse, my life has always revolved around the seasonal cycle of the business.  Holidays, weekends, spring…MAY; these things meant long days… time away from home and family.  This is what I grew up with… my norm.  As a husband the only thing that changed was that I gained another member of the team to suck into the vortex of life on the farm.  Becoming a father was another matter entirely.   Working months on end without a day off was no longer an option and Thursdays became Dad’s day off.  I came to love my Thursdays with the girls that were usually spent… you guessed it, in the garden. 

Now my girls are 21 and 23 years old and successfully living their own lives.  As I look through my garden I see the bricks they helped me lay, the trees they helped me plant and the flowers growing that we will cut for Mom on Mother’s Day.  When I see all these wonderful things I realize that my appreciation for flowers, plants and gardening will live on through my children.  They may not run a garden center or design landscapes but they do have a heightened appreciation of and connection to nature’s bounty.  They have gained an appreciation for the precious fragility of life.  They know not to judge too hastily a person by their appearance and that nothing of value comes without sacrifice.  I know they take the time to appreciate the little things in life and know not to worry too much about things they can’t control.  In my garden, I learned how to teach these life lessons to my children and that takes my breath away.

No go outside and have fun in the dirt!

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