Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Tangible and Intangible Benefits of Gardening



    Most people who know me know that I love flowers. What many of them don't know is how much I love to garden. There are so many benefits to gardening and it's not just the frugal benefits of cheap food and the green benefits of organic produce. There is a less tangible quality that gardening gives me. It just makes me happy. I love the smell of the dirt. I love watching seedlings sprout. The time I spend sitting on my patio drinking coffee with my plants while watching the bird feeder with Daisy is my favorite part of the weekend. I'm so glad it's finally spring!
      I think I caught the gardening bug when I was young. My mom loves to garden and she always let us help. She taught us the names of flowers, the difference between perennials and annuals,  and how to care for them. When I was about seven she let each of us pick out our own rosebush from the nursery. Mine was a pink Queen Elizabeth rose. I loved it. When we moved out of that house when I was 19 it was taller than me.
       For someone who loves memorizing facts and minutia gardening is a perfect pastime. There are literally millions of plants to choose from. I'll never forget my first extended trip at Academy to Colonial Williamsburg. I walked around pointing out all of the different plants to the children. My boss was shocked that I knew all of the names. It was fun to see the kids start to identify the plants on there own.
        Summer is my favorite time of year. I love picking fresh basil for our pizza and spaghetti sauces. Baked potatoes just taste better with fresh chives. Flowers bloom and the serenity of my small porch garden is sublime. It truly is my happy place.
         I'm not trying to imply that the life of a gardener is all sunshine and roses (though that is a big part of it!). Last year's tomatoes grew as tall trees and were attacked by bugs. Our attempt at blueberries was a failed effort that ended in a mildew infestation. But I still love to plant things. The hope and excitement outweighs the risk that things will go wrong.
         Someday, Rob and I will have a house where I can plant and grow things until my heart's content. Until then, here is my top list of plants for container gardening:

  1. Sweet Basil- easy to grow from seeds. Has a beautiful aroma, tastes great, and does well in pots.
  2. Chives- I grew these from seeds in a container and this cold winter couldn't kill them. They're back and better than ever.
  3. Epipremnum aureum aka Devil's Ivy- an impossible to kill hanging plant. It actually removes toxins from the air. I love hanging plants but they can be finicky. This one is not. I have forgotten to water it, left it outside every winter, and pruned it back to its base but it always comes back and grows over ten feet long every year. It is also very easy to propagate from cuttings. Here is a great site for information on hanging plants.
  4. Impatiens- love shade and make great container and border plants. They come in a variety of stunning colors. They do need a lot of water.
  5. Calibrachoa aka million bells- a petunia like plant with cute little flowers. Great for containers because it will hang over the edge. This plant needs to be fertilized.
  6. Bogonias- another easy to propagate plant that does well in semi-shady areas.
  7. Mint- great for tea and mojitos. It is also invasive so it's hard to kill.
  8. Pentas aka star flower- very pretty and colorful. They do need more sun than some of the other ornamentals listed. A bonus- mine came back for several years before it finally died.
Ultimately, it is the intangible feeling that gardening gives me that keeps me coming back. I love having fresh herbs and flowers but it's the way I feel sitting on my porch with Daisy and the connection to my mom that really drives me to dig in the dirt.

2 comments:

  1. Love it! Great post! I miss the smell of dirt and planting seedlings :*( I had some good oak trees (6" -8") growing in my Boston dorm room in college! Hahaha!

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  2. I enjoy gardening, but I have such a black thumb lol I only seem to be able to grow peppers & lettuce and only from plants ... from seeds my plants grew big & tall but no fruit ... oh well, so this year I'm growing what I'm good at - peppers & lettuce! Cuz I love to watch them grow & of course, eat the fruits of my labor! :-)

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