The lone voice of horticultural reason

Why I Garden Where I Do

 10-16-1997 — “Move here, and you can garden all year ’round,” a gardener once remarked to me as I strolled his lavish grounds on the edge of a tropical island many, many miles from my home.

I attempted to explain to him the concept of the four seasons, to describe the unique beauty of budding leaves in spring, the magic of crocus blooms in surrendering snow, the challenge of gardening in a place where one clearly senses the living pulse of our planet, the quickening-and slowing-beat of the earth.

He wasn’t buying it. Still, I doubt I would enjoy gardening as much in southern climes. The inevitable arrival of winter in our region brings an annual closure to our gardening efforts that I have slowly learned to appreciate. Oh, I suppose practicing my hobby in U.S.D.A. zone 5, 350 miles to the south, would be the best of both worlds; at the very least, a fella would have more than two choices for growing a proper deciduous hedge. But I suspect our winter respite is the absence that makes the northern gardener’s heart grow fonder.

No one chooses to fall in love with gardening. Some of us are blindsided. We love gardening from the start, be it as children, teens, in mid-life or at retirement, immediately from whatever point we first succeed in making something grow.

But for most of us the intrinsic passion we feel for this miraculous diversion develops slowly, casually, in fits and starts, until that long moment never seen when we begin gardening for the rest of our lives.

Women seem to come by gardening naturally, but ever thought why so many avid gardeners are men? To garden is to nurture; planting, growing-creating-allow men to evince this most rewarding, basic human expression safely, with no possible infringement on our machismo.

And the gardener is nurtured and comforted tenfold in return. My garden is my true place on earth, in every sense my ground. The longer I garden the more I see that the garden is from whence I grow. Gardeners learn to be patient, diligent, creative. Ours is a peaceful passion, with infinite reward beyond the obvious material beauty and bounty. As my garden goes to sleep and I prepare to leave it, I smile when I think of the comment made by my year-round gardening friend. He will never know the joy only found after being exiled from, then returned to, a place you love.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener