I was watching the video of Beth Chatto conversing on her garden, and she said something which struck such a chord with me, that I felt it expressed not only why those of us garden, but why someone should garden. It was a type of summary of the basic reward of gardening.
Asked about a remark in one of her books, that gardening is like bringing up a family, she said this:
For all of us who are gardeners, and those who would be gardeners, we can’t all go on having babies, but we can go on growing plants… More plants, different plants, new plants, cherishing the ones we already have. It’s the creative urge in us, to encourage life. It’s what we can do in our gardens, and I think that is why it is such a wonderful hobby; and more than a hobby, a life. ~ Beth Chatto
Perhaps for many who build a garden it will not mature into a passion that becomes “a life”, but for many it does. Perhaps for all who garden it satisfies the urge to create at the most basic level, as well as give appreciation of nature and the abundant creativeness of that world around us.
Gardening for me is restorative. I can’t always go to the mountains, or the ocean, or sit quietly on a warm beach, but I can go out into my garden. There, I can see how nature teaches, thrives, and sorrows. I can partner in the multiplying of good plants, and the eradication of pestilent ones. I can change things for the better, right my mistakes, and make something beautiful in my small space of the earth. I can grow flowers to brighten someones day, even if only my own. I can bring beautiful, round, red, tomatoes to my table, and slice them open to give forth of the sunshine and earth that made them so delicious. I can serve fresh green lettuces, and sweet summer strawberries that were grown, tended, and harvested by my own hand. I can look into trees that speak of the passage of time, and mark the change of the seasons of life. In the garden is possibility and hope, and there are times I desperately need that message.
And as Beth Chatto said, it is the creative urge in me that finds a place which responds to the work of my hand… not always successfully or with vigor, but often beyond my best imagination. And part of what is wonderful is that element of surprise. It both encourages and humbles me, in the way that makes life better… and makes me better.
Beth Chatto – of all the beloved garden writers I have read (and which include illustrious names such as Gertrude Jekyll, Margery Fish, and Mrs. Chatto’s contemporaries such as Christopher Lloyd, Penelope Hobhouse) is the most inspiring when it comes to color and combination of plants. She really has a genius for putting together design and creating original ideas in the garden. Reading her books illumined me, I believe.