Winter cools the garden. Growth slows. The garden changes to reflect the new reality. Time to contemplate what has done well, what is left to do and what new hopes lie ahead.
In so many ways, life in the garden is a reflection of our own lives. The same rhythms, seasons of growth (and death), change and hope. So why do gardeners spend so much time and effort cultivating this alternate reality? What is a garden really for?
These were questions I posed to a number of local gardeners and friends. The responses illustrate the diversity of reasons for gardening from pragmatic to philosophical.
Matthew Dolley is a young gardener from Pittsworth. He is unusual in that his passion for gardening came early when he was around 15. He regards his garden as “being his passion, his addiction and his relief from the world”. Upon reflection he credits his garden with building his self-esteem as the satisfaction of seeing a plant grow, an idea succeed and a vegetable garden become productive. The move towards “grow your own” fruit and vegetables has opened up gardening to a younger generation of gardeners like Matthew. The hook has been to produce healthy food, with the more spiritual aspects, and personal growth an unexpected bonus.
Hampton gardener and writer Justin Russell gardens to produce food and as an “affirmation of life”. As well as being a useful physical activity, Justin contends that gardening represents the beauty, simplicity and the good side of life. By this he means a connection with the food that we eat, the soil and climate that produces it and the seasons that mark our lives. By choosing to spend his time with his family in the garden it affirms his life in a positive way. This author suspects that many people who spend time in the garden perhaps feel the same way without expressing it quite so well.
Sue Short is a gardener and garden traveller who reflects that, “Time in the garden is good for the soul and the beauty of it is unsurpassable. My outdoor garden is like a ‘welcome home’ each time I drive into the carport.” A garden turns a house into a home. Sue regards her garden as “a combination of ideas from my past, things I have seen in other gardens around the world and also as a connection to friends and family who have passed on cuttings and plants”. The rise of green walls, roof top gardens and balcony gardens in units and highrise apartments around the world reflects this idea that nature, plants and produce are integral to the concept of home.
It seems that gardeners garden to create their own space to express a sense of home, to grow food, to find peace, to nurture their creative instincts and to appreciate nature. Something to contemplate as the days get shorter and the nights colder.
Words and Images by Brian Sams