Gardening has given me back all four seasons. I used to snarl at summer, just waiting it out and yearning for cooler weather and the turning leaves of fall to roll in. No more. Now I relish the hot days because they ripen the tomatoes and make the eggplants shiny with promise. I see the good in humidity, and anticipate the tilting earth that creates daylight that lasts until almost ten at night. Summer seems fleeting now, not just something to just wade through in shorts. I measure time not in days but through the waves of blooms starting with brave blue scilla and crocus, followed by tulips and peonies, then cascading pink roses and purple salvia. I long for the flood of daylilies that is followed by the rustling elegance of ornamental grasses and the explosive finale of purple asters glowing in the summer’s twilight.
Gardening allows me to be present. Yes, there is all the planning, worrying and projecting that swallows so much of our daily lives. But the actually doing of it pulls me in, connects me to the earth, to the dirt covering my gloved fingers and the smell of green life. I am shocked to realize, when my children call to me, that the few minutes I intended to spend weeding or deadheading has become several hours. This altered state is addictive and I crave it through the long months of winter.
Gardening is challenging. No one truly masters gardening, yet I’m rewarded by every attempt I make to get to know my half acre better. I now know why hardscaping and the form and structure of plants are just as vital to an attractive garden as the showy flowers and bright colors that were my first garden loves. That delphinium addiction has given way to a respect for the clean lines of juniper spearing the sky, a precisely placed boulder or the way a beautiful pot can provide the exactly right counterpoint in a bed of lacy ferns.
Gardening has made me more observant. I dissect any garden that attracts me. How has the gardener used shape and form? How does this site differ from my own? I practice viewing my own garden up close, and from a distance. What is missing? What plants have done well and should be repeated in another bed? Am I creating the emotional impact that I wanted?
Gardening breeds confidence. Once you know some of the rules, you’re free to break or bend them. Something rated out of your zone? Try it in a sheltered area or treat it like an annual. The “experts” say never plant tall things in the front, but you want to create an air of mystery? Go for it. It’s all negotiable, except for creating good soil. Bad soil is a deal breaker that will ruin all your dreams. Take the time to build a good foundation with compost and good drainage and your imagination can soar.
Clearly, gardening has a lot in common with storytelling.
You knew I would go there eventually, right? When you garden, you’re working with living story elements that sometimes get eaten or grow beyond the bounds you set for them, but you are telling a story by creating a vision of what is beautiful to you. When creating characters or building a world, you need to be aware of the rules but you must trust your own instincts or what you create will be forced and lifeless. Build a solid foundation by feeding the soil of your subconscious the nutrients it needs. Observe and dissect what authors you admire are doing, and then apply only what fits to your own work. Listen, always, to your inner voice. Write from there. No other roses will ever smell as sweet.