by Jarad Johnson
I’m currently laying in bed sneezing my brain out after accidentally putting my face in some ragweed yesterday. One of the things I’m really bad at is sitting around. I. Can’t. Stand. It. I always have something to do or a project to complete (or a blog post to write!). But as I’ve been sitting here, seething as I see all the things I need to do, I’ve been thinking about some things. Specifically, what my priorities are. I guess that’s normal for someone my age who graduated from college and is searching for a job. You wonder what is important to you. And I realized that I haven’t really wanted to touch the garden for a few weeks for a few reasons. Firstly, sometimes life gets in the way. When there’s a lot going on around you, I sometimes just don’t want to brave the heat. Secondly, I’ll have to move before the year’s done, and tending a garden that won’t be yours for much longer feels a tad defeatist, although I still try to keep all the weeds at bay, but I certainly wouldn’t plant anything new. Although the garden design part of my brain is begging for some hydrangeas in front of the house. That’ll come in time, in a different house, of course.
So, you can probably tell, the garden is a priority for me (books and writing are major priorities also…but this is a garden post. We’re gonna talk about gardening). I feel as though it’s a part of me, and not having that piece has worried me at points, although it probably won’t be for very long. And houseplants exist. I need a new orchid anyway.
This is a bit of a radical shift from my priorities four years ago. You can blame Julie for that. It is most definitely her fault that I got into gardening. I’m actually quite a different person than I was back then. I’ve changed or the better. I think. But, if you had told me then that my ultimate goal would be to have a house where I could garden to my heart’s content, I would have said you had the wrong person. This is the reason I never plan anything to carefully. There’s always a surprise around the corner.
I guess the first thing I love about gardening is the connection to the earth. Yes, I am a tree hugging, patchouli wearing hippie (I just like the smell, I swear!) and I feel that connection. We all do, every single day, because we are a part of this vast planet, whether we consciously think about it or not. I think that it is so very important to foster that connection, because, honestly, we treat the earth like shit because we do not respect it. Humans in general respect money and industry and status. We are self-involved (including myself at times) and arrogant. We view ourselves as the rulers of nature rather than a facet of it. Gardening has simplified my view on life in many ways. I find when I get too involved in other things (as much as I love you makeup, you are on this list) I get stressed and not as happy. I guess that’s putting too much value in material things, rather than appreciating the elegant simplicity of mother nature. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with enjoying nice things, but once it becomes a marker of status or a part of your identity, you have a problem.
Secondly, gardening has taught me so, so much, and to persevere through failure. If you garden, you will kill plants. Try again. You might kill it twice, but you must (or, at least, I must) try again until I learn what I need to in order to keep it alive. I like to learn new things, and even when I am old and grouchy, there will be plants I’m not familiar with or a new thing I’ve never heard of. That excites me, because it will never be dull. For example, recently I’ve become interested in medicinal plants and how to use them, but I’ve also started reading about the opposite of that, i.e. poisonous plants, and the crossover that occurs between them.
In the same vein, it’s taught me patience, and that there is a cycle to everything. To appreciate the seedlings that emerge in the spring, and the brown stalks that follow in the winter. Gardening is not a one season endeavor; it is an all year-round cycle. I think it’s important to work within that cycle, rather than subverting it.
It’s also taught me that I have a certain style. I used to want to plant everything, and I sort of still feel that way, but there are colors and patterns of planting that I prefer. I like the cool tones- the blues, pinks, purples, and white. I also love the darker flowers, but orange and red, while they’re beautiful, tend to not be what I go for. I like a more relaxed, free style, with a hint of structure to ground it. Think cottagey with a few hedges. I don’t like overly structured or tailored gardens. Well, obviously tailored. Topiaries and the like just aren’t me. I think how someone gardens shows how they approach life, and I don’t like lots of rules or constrictions.
I supposed I’ve rambled on enough today. For the moment, I’m going to huddle under the blankets with a teacup and a cat until the hay fever passes. After that, back in the flowers!
Jarad recently graduated from college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He is a fervent gardener and is fascinated by all related topics and has spent several years writing about this passion. He has been gardening for 6 years and believes that Nature is our greatest teacher. He majored in English with a concentration in literature and plans to pursue and master’s degree in Ecocriticism.