How does my garden grow?

February 26, 2012

Mother Nature is a gentle teacher

I have acquired what I think of as wisdom by observing and thinking about nature, including my co-evolution with my garden.

I grow a lot of native grasses and wildflowers from seed. Each year, some plants take over more ground and some recede. I can choose to intervene and change the mix more to my liking, or I can let nature take its course, que sera sera. I have an overall plan for my garden, but within certain boundaries, serendipity plays a big part.

I like it that way. For one thing, it is a lot easier to work with nature than against it. In the end, nature usually seems to win, but not always. For instance, by relentless pulling of  a certain invasive weed, I succeeded after a number of years of ridding my property of that particular intruder. More often, though, I allow desirable plants to expand their turf if they are prospering, and I simply observe the effects as the mix of grasses and wildflowers changes each year, a garden kaleidoscope. But it is totally within my purview to give a favorite an assist, like when I moved some black-eyed susans so the summer phlox could spread its wings.

Plants that make me happy one year because they have spread quickly become a nuisance in following years when they become overgrown and must be divided and moved.

I learn a lot about evolution, and about life, working in my garden. I have learned that evolution is an iterative process, and that it is not possible to reach your goal all at once, but only through a series of small steps. Moreover, fixed goals are hard to reach in an ever-changing environment. Nature can seem to conspire against you, but sometimes in the end, the results are even better than you could have imagined.

Some of the iteration is between my garden and me. I know a little more each year because of what happened the previous year.  I know which plants flourished and floundered, and sometimes I’ve figured out why. I have a better idea how much sun and shade each spot gets at different times of the day and as the seasons proceed, an important factor that is constantly changing as leaves come and go and the trees grow.

I give unknown plants a chance to show their stuff before yanking. I admit that this policy has sometimes had undesirable results, such as colonies of weeds that must be purged. But the prettiest thing blooming in my yard right now is a wild arugula, returned to its natural state from the hybridized plant I grew in my yard last year.

Vibrant and full of promise in May, overgrown and stressed by the August heat, refreshed with late bloomers and a little pruning in the cool of fall, structural and quiet in the winter, a garden is a cyclical thing. It refreshes me to participate in this natural cycle.

And, as with our spiritual selves, nothing degenerates more quickly than a garden that is left untended.


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2 Responses to “How does my garden grow?”

  1. Beth Says:

    A garden is such a perfect metaphor for our spiritual lives…..especially the way you write about it.

    Beth


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