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In the Garden

Garden-purple-BTThere is magic in a garden. In them, on rare occasions — when the moon shines upon a poppy revealing its gold interior, when a jasmine’s dance diffuses its dulcet aroma, when the music of stillness is a susurration of leaves — I sense eternity. 

Garden-stem-BTI seek out oases of greenery wherever I travel. I daydream in them. I unfocus my gaze upon the climbing vines of a morning-glory, I stare into the folds of a camellia and feel the universe pulling me towards its center.

Garden-flower-BTPlaces of reverie are becoming more difficult to locate, but when I discover them the thrill of their memory lasts. I recall entering a botanical bower framed by ragged mountains in Cape Town. I remember stumbling upon a secret garden in New York City. I continue to reminisce about a floral cornucopia in Cap Ferrat.

Garden-pepper-BTGardens have been my teachers. I have learnt patience while tending to vegetable, shrub, and tree. Cultivators have educated me to plant deep for sturdy root growth. Landscapers have shown me how to proportion soil and moisture for robust nourishment. I have acquired the language of flowers from cuttings in my neighbor’s yard: rosemary for remembrance, violets for innocence, gardenias for joy. In my great-aunt’s plot I have dabbled in the botany of herbs: yarrow as astringent, hawthorn as digestive, anise as expectorant. Every parsley sprig I have watered, each cucumber shoot I have mulched has taught me a life lesson.

Garden-bee-BTI tussle with the dichotomy of gardening: our innate need to manipulate our environment versus our inability to control nature. I have helped kill slugs with pesticide, destroyed seedlings because they were considered undesirable. I have felt the mania of power while grafting, wept in frustration watching leaves wither from blight. I have slashed and burned, tugged and ripped all in the name of propagating a suitable horticultural framework.

Red-Rock-cactusGardens have fueled my inspiration too. I have taken notes on color combinations, sketched parterre patterns for design ideas. The romance of rose beds hanging from a Mediterranean hillside has spurred my imagination. The composed poetry of raked gravel at zen courts has enlightened my meditations. The evocative blossom of a desert xeriscape has nurtured my creativity.

Garden-yellow-BTI remain in awe of that liminal space between the wild and the artificial in a garden. The boundary between our aspirations and nature’s process is forever shifting, altering how I perceive that which is untamed. My favorite gardens are the messy ones where the architect’s plan has given way to feral creepers grappling for dominance. Amid the overgrown, helter-skelter of tangled branches resides an ecosystem too intricate to comprehend. Why do certain varieties thrive on neglect while others wilt? What constitutes a weed? Is a geometric lawn more aesthetic than a bramble mayhem?

Garden-pink-BTIt is alongside such general contemplations of a garden’s beauty and resilience that I also discern individual complexity. The open-faced disc of a helianthus cradles not one but a thousand flowers. Dandelions attract more butterflies than hothouse blooms whose fragrance has been bred out of them in lieu of showy petals. A hydrangea’s hue changes with the acidity of its loam. All gardeners know that the perplexities of plant care are innumerable, yet I would not have it otherwise. There is so much beauty in the bewilderment. I have come to accept that I will never fathom a garden’s workings. In spite of this I abide by strict pruning schedules, juggle fluctuating nutrient levels, manage proper drainage hoping this season my efforts will bear fruit.Garden-orange-BT


A single teaspoon of soil contains more than six billion microorganisms all of whom play their part in the foundation of life. To protect this fragile matrix from herbicides and pesticides gardeners apply organic mulch, weed by hand, and use companion planting techniques.

Do you have a favorite garden or plant? Would you like to share any gardening tips with me? Comment below.

132 replies »

  1. I clicked on the box with the California poppy and was brought to this garden post. My favorite photo is of the bee on the zinna — but all the photos are stellar. Thank you!

  2. “I remain in awe of that liminal space between the wild and the artificial in a garden. The boundary between our aspirations and nature’s process is forever shifting, altering how I perceive that which is untamed.” That’s the key, isn’t it? The constant change in that wild/tame mix is bracing, bewildering, magic. 🙂

  3. You have beautifully and poetically described the needs of the garden. I also don’t know why, as if it is necessary, we should stick to the rules of mankind and not to the laws of nature !? The more you let nature take its course, the better it becomes. The more we get involved, despite our good intentions … The worse it is with nature! I have enjoyed both your description / story and the images … 🙂
    Warm regards, Heidi

    • Thank you Heidi, for your own poetic thoughts regarding nature. Humans have always wanted to possess and reformat and place their mark upon the environment. Though we are a part of nature, we often do not feel this to be true. I too hope, however, that we can realign ourselves a bit more to thinking in the ways of the earth.

  4. Oh, how you must harden your heart to destroy seedlings.
    Now I am well enough known in my neighborhood that people line up on social media for my fabulous cast offs…but it is so hard to yank my flower babies when they get out of line.

    • You’ve clearly got the gardener’s gift for growing. At least you can be happy knowing that your errant plants are going off to good neighborly homes where they’ll thrive.

  5. I’ve often grappled with that same question, what constitutes a weed. I don’t know. A flower is a flower. A plant is a plant. Lovely photos.

  6. I too, love your ‘travels’ through the garden, These are thoughts to inspire all of us who garden, leaving a ‘garden gate’ open to enjoy the countryside outside as well. Thank you.

    • It’s been a pleasure to have so many gardeners and fellow garden lovers share their perspectives. I very much believe that gardens can be our portal to a better relationship with nature, and so I love your advice of “leaving a ‘garden gate’ open to enjoy the countryside.”

  7. I loved all the photos in this post, and your thoughts on gardening make me wish that I had a place to plant a garden again, as I learned the same lessons that you did through gardening.

  8. I live by the river and spend time trimming more than planting. I nurture what grows naturally. I like to use a small pair of hand clippers rather than any type of motorized tool. It takes forever to clip down each vertical sapling that sprouts from the exposed cottonwood roots each year. It’s much gentler to cut each cleanly rather than shred cut with a power trimmer. My neighbors probably think I’m crazy. But in the hours I see and hear birds and of course enjoy the riverside instead of enduring an hour loud buzzing, shredding and grinding and feeling I’ve destroyed something rather than learning its nature.
    I do some planting each year by watching the columbines (a favorite of mine) for when the seed pods are ready. I then spill them directly into the garden by the others to thicken the growth instead of letting them disperse willy-nilly. I also collected some from the back yard and scattered them in the front garden and have been thickening the growth there for several years now. They spread on their own as well, of course and instead of pulling up the ones that grew outside the rock border, I’ve adapted to borders to include the area they prefer most. I have a gorgeous, I would say riotous display of blooms each year to enjoy.
    I especially liked your line: There is so much beauty in the bewilderment. That’s indeed what I like best about growing things.

      • Yes, I guess I look at gardening and yardwork as being a steward of what’s growing rather than the ‘playing god’ aspects you spoke of. It does make my yard of the more free-flowing type, and I’m sure some would consider it weedy. Though I try to maintain borders and sections to give some sense of order. Thanks for the reply to my comment.

        • 😲 Wow! The “vegan athlete’s” garden was amazing! Thank you so much for the link. This was such a treat! I haven’t visited too many edible gardens, so I’m intrigued to look into this further.

          • My pleasure, I thought it was pretty incredible myself! ..and it looks like he lives in a neighborhood. I think that’s somewhat even more appealing, and kind of more doable for us regular people 🙂

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