A garden is a microcosm of the bigger world out there. There are predators like slugs, deer, rats, bugs, and blights. One has to constantly be on guard against these foes. Armed with sprays, traps and tools and protected with fences and rewarded with fertilizers the plants will eventually comply and deliver edibles like fruit, vegetables, spices. And a myriad of colour which attract bees, butterflies and humming birds. There are other plant species who proliferate, invade and steal nutrients, sometimes choking and destroying the pampered and coveted crops. Those are called weeds and like vermin and bacteria, they are very successful organisms.
Gardens, like any organized culture, cost money to maintain and one has to be constantly vigilant because gardens are artificial environments which do not thrive without care and compassion. The gardener also has to have a vast store of knowledge of the local flora as well as belong to clubs and organisations and groups of friends and neighbours which exchange and share ideas and tips, remedies and insider tricks like how to trap and kill slugs: with beer; or how to guard against deer: with fences.
In order to civilize a rough patch of ground, so it can support a garden, means purging it of roots and rocks. For every shovel of dirt there is a bucket of rocks and an armful of roots to remove. No loamy soil here on this old rocky west coast, home of red cedars, hemlocks and big leaf maples.
Gardeners also provide special housing for plants that prefer warmer climates. These are called green houses, also used to grow industrial sized crops from tomatoes to marijuana. Nurseries is where the young seedlings are bred and every gardener has more than one such establishment where they are seen wandering about and adopting young transplants to take home and give them a nurturing and caring environment.
And as in the larger human world, success is not always guaranteed. Unpredictable forces like hail or frost or environmental catastrophes like prolonged draught or severe weather can wreak havoc in any garden. Accidents like dogs and kids trampling the strawberry patch are also unpredictable.
Gardening, like economics, is sometimes called a science but one does not have to be botanist or biologist to be a good gardener, just as a good financial advisor does not have to be an economist to know what’s going on in the markets. Trial and error and experience are the key elements and a love for the endless variety of flowers, shrubs, vegetables and plants is essential. A diverse garden is like a diversified society. Variety makes for good companionship and some plants prefer to be close to others, like roses next to garlic or the three sisters: corn, beans and squash who grow and thrive together. On the other hand, beans and peas don’t like broccoli and tomatoes and peppers don’t get on with fennel. It’s a complicated world.
Of course, there are the prickly aristocrats like roses who need pampering and special treats but they are no more beautiful than the pedestrian daisies or the wild and proud foxgloves which pop up anywhere they please.
Gardening is about small and simple pleasures. Nothing like the joy of an early spring bloom of the first daffodils or the gentle perfume of a flowering jasmine in mid-summer to lift one’s heart, or the harvest of a plump, fresh tomato to grace one’s dinner table in the fall.
The Garden World is a world without hurt or retribution, without pain and glory, without revenge and wars. It is a world of joy and natural work, of seasons and sun and rain. It is a world where nature is tamed but not subdued, where the gardener co-operates with the environment but does not co-opt it. I recommend gardening for heartaches and loneliness, for for stress relieve and mediation and for its simple rewards and lasting satisfaction. No other world provides food for the table, pleasure for the senses and healing for the spirit. I highly recommend it, especially in this time of the covid.