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Lessons From The Garden

Gardens, gardening, flowers, weeds, bugs, what to put, where and when, never interested me until a few years ago at my last home in Jamaica. There, I found such enjoyment in the garden that I had created and brought to life, and it seemed so effortless at the time that I’ve missed it ever since I left Jamaica and moved to Canada.

Last summer my husband and I bought our first home together and it came with a beautiful garden. Our patio overlooking this garden quickly became our favourite ‘room’ in the house. And since we arrived in the middle of the summer there wasn’t much to do but water it, watch it, and enjoy it until the fall.

And that’s when the trouble started. Having a garden in Canada, it turns out, can be a lot of work! Hey, what happened to the effortless part? I can hear my sister now – my sister who hates gardening, btw – saying how a simple pot with some flowers is quite enough. It’s just that I’ve gone from one growing season to three! (News flash for those not familiar: Jamaica has a single growing season that lasts 365 days!) In Canada, I now have to think about what flower blooms in spring and balance that with having blooms through the summer and into the fall. It’s like having three gardens in one! Did I really sign up for this? Well, ok I did, and I’d like to share just four of the lessons I’ve had in my first year with this garden.

Fall means winter is coming. Yuck! I also, kinda, sorta, knew the garden had to be prepared. As my neighbour so succinctly put it, ‘if you don't do it now, you’ll just have to do it in spring.” That’s when we need to hunker down and try to figure things out. We never, ever, start a new project really knowing what’s actually involved and somewhere along the road we may even wonder why we got started at all. But with the guidance of our wonderful neighbour I dug in, cut down, hauled out, and fell down with tiredness! And satisfaction that the garden was ready. That was the first lesson - don’t procrastinate. What needs to get done is going nowhere so face it, take it one step at a time, and ‘git ‘er done’.

I decided, since we had never seen the garden in the spring, I’d allow whatever came up a chance to show what they had to offer. And it’s been fun. It was exciting to go out in the morning to see if anything new had come out of the ground, grown buds, or bloomed. And by the time summer rolled around I had a good idea of where everything was and what I liked, and didn’t, what I would change, and rearrange. With the help of our neighbour, an avid gardener, I also learned the names of the plants I was watching and admiring. That process was an unexpected lesson. Inheriting a project doesn’t mean you have to overhaul it right away. Sit back a while, observe, make notes, and see what comes. After some breathing space and planning, make your changes.

The changes I’ve decided on, like adding Zinnias for colour, I want to happen now. I brought these beautiful plants with big orange blooms home and days later the blooms were gone and the plant looked half dead! It took weeks for the plant to settle in and produce anything even close to what I was hoping for. My husband’s response to my despair was, “doesn’t the flower have a vote?” Humph, “I suppose so,” I mutter. On closer reflection it’s a lot like having children, or even a pet. You say ‘do this’ but they ‘do that’! Another lesson - maybe our job is really only to offer a firm foundation, filling it with the right nutrients, be it love or fertilizer, then give them the growing freedom which will go far in surprising and delighting.

“But it takes so long,” I think to myself. And yet, with a blink of an eye my babies are grown men and my garden has gone from spring flowering to late summer wilting. And POW! It hits me - enjoy the present moment. That’s where the contentment of life lies. Today that may mean you sitting down with a notebook drawing, planning, and dreaming. Tomorrow it may mean weeding, again. But it you’re constantly alert looking out for what’s to come you miss the joy of now. And that has been the greatest reminder and lesson from my garden this summer.

What life lessons has your garden or favorite past-time taught you? Share your lessons with us, won’t you?

In the meantime, I’m off to see who’s visiting my favorite ‘room’ today!

Oh, before I go, one more thought.

Our wonderful, helpful, most patient neighbour has been my greatest resource. From naming the plants for me, to what I’m to cut down for fall, to answering my dozens of questions the most repetitive one being, “is this a weed or a flower?” Trust me when I say that a mentor is a wonderful blessing. Give thanks for those willing to guide you and share their expertise and experience.

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