What The Garden Teaches

Coleus 'TrustyRusty' is at its best.

At the end of every gardening season, we take away from our experiences certain insights.  As days grow shorter and shadows lengthen in the garden, I’ve reflected a good deal about the lessons my small garden offered me this summer.

Patience“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes, plants you’re ready to give up on (like the coleus above) turn out to be some of the most beautiful in your garden.  A few weeks after I planted these Trusty Rusty coleus, I was ready to pull them and toss them on the compost.  But I didn’t, and left to their own devices, they turned into one of the greatest successes.  Their autumnal colour is a bright spot in this small bed.

SimplicityBe content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

Often the fanciest blooms and most striking colours aren’t the plants that do best.  My stalwart geraniums, as always, have been the stars of the show and are still covered in unopened buds.  If the weather cooperates, they should continue to bloom until the first heavy frost.  Other flowers I planted, such as a beautiful, burgundy verbena, withered and died in the heat and wind of July.

These orange geraniums are loaded in buds -- the cones, a gift from the surrounding pine trees. The grass hasn't browned, by the way...that golden colour is from pine needle fall.

Persistence —  “To create a little flower is the labor of ages.” – William Blake

Lobelia, scraggly after weekend wind, but blooming again.

After a serious haircut, these lobelia and the ageratum have come back with a second flush of blooms.  I’ll remember, another year, not to be so quick to give up on a plant.  Persistence pays off.

These tiny buds may not come to bloom, but they're trying.

The garden also teaches us what works, and what doesn’t.  For example, a simple strip of tin foil has kept Mr. Pee Cat away from our door for the entire summer.  It worked very well when many other remedies did not.  And I thought I had the ant problem in our hummingbird feeder solved with a generous gob of Vaseline on the pole, but that was an abysmal failure.  The ants still somehow found their way to that sugary goodness.

Always turn your face to the sun.

But I believe the most important lessons we take from the garden are those which teach us something about ourselves — those that teach us our connection to living things.  The garden, if you let it, quietly teaches us how to see, listen, feel and smell again by providing us with colour, the buzz of insects, bird song, the sigh of warm breezes, the warmth of the sun on our face, the miracles of butterflies.  It also shows us how to feel with our hearts, and reminds us that the Earth needs us to take care of her, so that we can both go on living…and gardening.

What lessons did your garden teach you this year?