10 Things Gardening Can Teach Us About Living Well
Wednesday May 20, 2020

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“There is nothing quite like gardening. We work with nature to create something unique. In the process of planting seeds, caring for plants, adapting to seasons and weather, and the physical work, we find something greater within us. Gardening calms. Encourages. Uplifts. Invigorates.” —Monty Don, during a talk in Sweden in 2017 (watch the entire video here)

Depending upon where your ideas about gardening originated, gardening can be seen from many perspectives. Of course when we see a garden as a showcase, a molding of Mother Nature into a perfect, pristine, static state, one’s blood pressure may immediately rise, but if we instead see gardening as far more than the finished “look” or the need to impress others, we can actually welcome a natural stress reducer and yes, improve our well-being and create a more fulfilling life that is well lived.

Each one of us will have our preferred garden style that our eyes gravitate toward and treasure. Whether or not we can grow the type of plants we love, doesn’t mean we cannot appreciate differing style and see the beauty in each, the unique aesthetic qualities. Whether it is our own garden or another’s garden, there are powerful health and well-being benefits to take-away from gardening and I’d like to share 10 of what are no doubt many here today.

What I appreciate immensely about Monty Don (who I know I have talked about more than frequently in the past couple of months on the blog) is his approach to gardening. He casts aside perfection, seeks to learn and explore and in so doing becomes our teacher, someone who not only has done the research and homework, but through his easy, calming manner, inspires us to give it a try, whatever that “it” may be.

So below are 10 reasons to give gardening a try.

1.In life, we each need to find the soil that works best for us to grow and live to our fullest potential.

As I alluded to above, even though we may wish to grow tropical plants, or in my case magnificent magnolia trees, the reality is, based on the climate we call home, we simply will not be able to be successful if our climate is not what is best or required. And nobody wants to kill a plant. Rather we want to enable it to grow where it was meant to be planted so that it can thrive. Such a powerful life realization for ourselves and others when we realize the gift we give and receive when we discover where we best shine, where we best feel at peace as well as know we can grow well.

Each of us has a temperament, something that is innate within each of us and will not change. Our personality is influenced by our exterior world and can be molded to adjust, but not our temperament. Figure out what your true temperament is, and feed it, nurture it, thereby allowing yourself to thrive.

2. Cultivating the skill of patience welcomes the best growth and reward

To all of my fellow first-time seed sowers, it can at first be hard to believe that such a beloved and beautiful and much desired plant, vegetable, herb or bloom can emerge from such a miniscule seed, but it can and will with patience and proper tending of soil, water and warmth. Ah, the grand life lesson from such a petite item – a seed!

Educate yourself on the subject you wish to bring to fruition into your life – a skill, a career move, a craft, a journey – then set about a path to welcome it into your life. All the while understanding a snap of your fingers won’t make it so, but rather practiced patience and trust.

3. Healthy, well-mainted borders creates respected and appreciated boundaries

Whether if we create borders in our gardens to create sections for different items we wish to grow or a separation from the grass, or privacy from our neighbors, when they are well kept, we not only appreciate them, but our neighbors appreciate them for their beauty and the privacy it provides them, but the plants and/or grass (whatever is designated and designed to grow in its particular section) are better able to grow well.

What a wonderful lesson for living well in our daily lives both personal and professional. When we regularly tend to through clear and respectful and direct communication with others what our boundaries are – where we can bend, where we cannot (read a detailed post/episode on this topic) – we provide an opportunity to build healthier relationships and also discern who we can and cannot welcome into our lives based on whether or not they respect said boundaries. Primarily, people simply need to communicate well with each other so they know what they can or cannot do otherwise they will act as they have been able to act with other people. Each one of us has different needs, and while these needs may change over time (understandably, some may not), ever-evolving care and attention is required, just as a hedge needs seasonal pruning so that it does not grow out of hand and can continue to thrive. So too do our relationships however platonic or intimate they may be need regular and respectful attention and care.

4. Weeding is work but offers great reward

There are shortcuts to weeding, just as there are shortcuts in attempts at weight loss, but effective weeding, weeding that does not ruin or destroy or threaten other entities around it in the process requires more work, more time, more regular attention if we want the garden we seek. The same can be said for regular, vigorous, healthy exercise. It requires a determined dedication, a regular habit and willingness to invest, but the result is tremendously worth it. And even if you do have a few weeds here and there and can never get rid of them all entirely, it means your soil is healthy, and that is something to celebrate. 🙂

5. Differences make a beautiful, much appreciated difference

Don’t get me wrong, multiples of the same bloom in the same hue are extremely powerful; however, if you pair that row of daffodils all in their exquisite shade of buttery yellow with the brilliant green boxwood hedge or white blossoms from a cherry tree all in bloom, the effect is magical.

Having different varietals planted next to each other whether they reach their zenith of maturity at the same time during the year or follow one another so as to fill the color void after one is done blooming, the variety is the strength of a good and healthy and long-lasting garden.

Whether it is the variety of ideas, variety of cultures, variety of foods, variety of ages, you get the idea, when we keep an open-mind and an open-heart we can learn an abundance about how to live well and thrive as a community whether simply in our neighborhood or our country and yes, especially our world.

6. Good nutrients and good support make a strong and beautiful plant

From providing stakes before the peony needs it so that it doesn’t droop or topple over from the weight of its stunning weighty heads of blooms to providing the right feed each week to your potted plants, trees, herbs and more, knowing what our plants need as they attempt to grow while they have the ability to grow or during the winter season so they begin their growing season at their fullest strength is the skill of a seasoned gardener.

Acquiring such knowledge takes time, but it can be found if we seek it out. So too, when it comes to our own health both physical and mental, we need to remember to seek out the knowledge that may not have voluntarily been taught to us or modeled to us by our family. The information is out there, and it will make a powerfully positive difference in the quality of your life.

7. We don’t all have to speak the same language to respect one another and see the humanity in each other.

If you have ever had the awesome opportunity of visiting and touring the Butchart Gardens near Victoria, Canada, you do not have to speak one common verbal language to appreciate the beauty and the cultivators’ efforts to make magnificent to all those who visit the many gardens no matter what the season. We all know and can revel in its stunning natural artistry. The same can be said for any other innumerable public or private gardens.

Gardening reminds us that no matter where we grew up, in what culture we were raised, what language(s) we understand to communicate, we all can recognize beauty, and if we choose to, recognize and appreciate the effort even if the gardener wishes it could be “better” or if there were hiccups along the way. Similarly, if we try, we too can remember that we are all human: people who need sustenance, sleep and community in our own way, to be seen, to know love.

8. Each “Oops” made is an opportunity to learn and apply forward for greater success

One thing I continually hear from long-time gardeners, including Monty Don, is gardening is a course in continual learning so long as you see the oopses as just that, opportunities.

As much as I may want all of my sweet pea seeds to pop up out of the soil, even the packet says they are only 95% viable or likely to succeed. Of course that means, I as the gardener am responsible for doing my part and putting them in the right soil, making sure the watering is right and they receive enough consistent heat, but not too much heat. So when 11 of twenty pop up, I am celebrating this, taking notes in my head and often in my gardening journal of what I did and how, if I can, improve or do it different.

As any of us who are curious and love learning, gardening is a wonderful classroom, and the opportunities to learn new and unexpected lessons happens regularly and often. 🙂 Be sure to see the oopses through this lense and gardening will become all the more fulfilling and enjoyable, and so too will our daily lives.

9. Being present provides peace

When we are gardening, fully giving our attention to what we are doing, making sure the plant is placed deep enough but not too deep in the soil according to what it needs, making sure we find all of the completed blooms are deheaded so that the flowers can continue to give their energy to more blooms rather than spreading their seed, our full attention is needed. It may to the outsider seem a simple task – weeding, deheading, planting, etc., but when done well and with an understanding as to why we are doing it, it enables us to be fully present and all the more appreciative of the process.

So too in our lives beyond gardening, when we are present we are not worrying about the future or fretting about the past. If we want a good life right now, in this moment and in every moment moving forward, we cannot be letting our mind wander behind or ahead, we need to give our attention fully to the now. In so doing, we are able to savor and drink up the awesome pastime that is gardening and all that it gives through our efforts, continued choice to educate and learn more about what we love and wish to grow and move well through the seasons.

10. The gift of a life in motion

Plants need seasons. Granted each plant based on what terroir it favors will need more or less temperate or significant changes when it comes to the seasons, but plants need time to rest, to strengthen, so that they can emerge successfully, push up through the soil, proceed through the maturation process and offer their gifts. Ah, so too must we allow ourselves to move fluidly through our own lives of learning, application, outcome, assessment, learning, application, outcome, and the cycle continues but between these moments, we need rest as well. While we need the regular rest just as the plant need the evening and necessary watering regularly, we also need longer periods of rest to gain clarity for the direction and choices we want to make moving forward so that we can indeed move forward well.

While directly, this post was not solely British-inspired, I wanted to share it this week as so many of us think of gardening when we think of Britain. Maybe that is only me, but before I had the opportunity to take my first train ride out into the Devon countryside, all I could imagine was the rolling green hills, the plentiful, seemingly easy to grow blooms and gardens as the rain would and offers its abundance regularly. When the opportunity came to finally see and witness it with my own eyes, the reality did not disappoint. Yep, rolling green hills, blooms even in November, and oodles of rain. Mother Nature and Britain have been dancing beautifully together to offer us the gifts gardening can bring into our lives for centuries, and oh my goodness do I have so much to learn. However, along the way, I am confident my life will be all the better for welcoming this pastime into my life and I know it can be for you as well however you wish to do so.

Wishing you may happy days seasons and years of gardening. 🙂

~View more Gardening themed posts in TSLL’s Archives


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7 thoughts on “10 Things Gardening Can Teach Us About Living Well

  1. Wonderful observations Shannon. Gardening is very much a journey just like life. Best of luck with your plants this year…can’t wait to see how things turn out.

  2. Yes to all of this! Plus if you have children, even young ones, gardening is such an excellent practice and way for them to learn and cultivate peace. My son is 1 and he helped me plant my small garden when he was only 7 months old. He LOVED it! We water together everyday and he absolutely looks forward to it. I think he will be a lifelong gardener someday!

  3. Such wonderful observations on gardening as metaphor for life, Shannon! I relate to each of your heartfelt points. Gardening has been not only a solace but a new adventure for me this spring during these crazy times of pandemic.
    Monty Don is a treasure as well. I have ordered his latest book and the Beatrix Potter one too. I can’t wait to immerse myself!
    British Week is so comforting and inspiring for home and garden.
    Thank you for all these lovely posts!

    1. Cannon, thank you very much for your comment. It has been its own source of comfort and mood uplifter during these times for me as well. Thank you for sharing how you have been enjoying being in the garden. I do think you will enjoy both books. Thank you again for stopping by. ?

  4. Love the garden post, we can all relate to the detail you’ve given.
    My daily ritual is to look at my plants and tend to them, potter in the garden -here in Britain as it happens, with a shower of rain last night to help the blooms along, now tying plants up against the breeze we have – all part of Mother Nature XX

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