Let your garden nurture you now and then

By Michael Leach | January 20, 2016
by Michael Leach
January 20, 2016

This week’s gardening guest blogger is Michael Stewart Leach. A gardener since childhood, Michael helps people cultivate better health in their own backyards through magazine articles, blog posts and events. He is an award-winning journalist with nearly four decades of experience, including 14 years as garden reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. In recent years he has freelanced for The Christian Science Monitor, Country Living (Ohio based), Columbus Monthly and Columbus Business First. He blogs at the Midwest-focused Heartland-gardening.com, consults at http://www.enjoyyourlandscape.com and he occasionally comments (usually about gardening issues) on Facebook. To help spread the word of the benefits of gardening, he: helps find speakers for the Columbus Dispatch Home & Garden Show; presents programs at the show and garden clubs; and reads gardening articles on Voice Corps, central Ohio’s radio reading service for the blind. He was a master gardener volunteer for six years with Ohio State University Extension. Gardening is the passion that fuels all these activities. He resides in the family someplace and tends nearly an acre of mixed borders and a small vegetable garden.

chair1Putting the white Adirondack chairs on the cozy, brick-paved patio symbolizes spring for me, almost as much as sunny daffodils and fluttering kites in blue skies.

Sooner, but usually later in busy springtime, they’ll be thoroughly scrubbed. Even before they are ready for visitors, these chairs do nicely for breaks from the lengthy, early chore list. In recent years I’ve found that getting out of the chairs becomes harder and harder. Age isn’t solely to blame.

I suppose Auntie Mame, the zany subject of a novel, movie and Broadway play said it best, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” We green thumbs can replace “life” with “the garden”. Most of us are starving suckers because we spend all our time nurturing the garden rather than allowing the garden to nurture us.

Some gardeners claim they can’t sit in their gardens because they always see something to do. I learned a few years ago to turn a blind eye. Only the area around the patio is regularly groomed. This allows me to use the space (weather permitting) whenever company comes, a break is needed, or I simply want to enhance morning coffee or something cool to sip in the evening. Patio time brings peace and pleasure, not a guilt trip.

Garden furnishings are much more than decorative focal points or accents. Besides the patio, the maple-shaded picnic table is the site of al fresco breakfasts, lunches and dinners in clement weather. Friends who come for dinner, linger long at that table. A small, nearby cedar tree is strung with tiny white lights and a couple of tabletop candles create an inviting glow that’s hard to leave.

A cast aluminum bench under the sycamore serves as focal point “” and inspiration point. From the sunporch my eye is drawn to the bench every time I look outside. Zen travel someone told me. But when I walk out there and sit down, I see another vista. This one takes the eye up the gently slopping back lawn to the house framed by branches and borders. This is a special place to catch a breath or rejoice in prayers of thanksgiving.

Granted we gardeners are blessed. What many consider drudgery, we delight in. Science shows all sorts of mental and physical benefits of being among plants, something we’ve long known in our hearts. Letting go of weeds, watering cans, trowels and pruning shears isn’t easy because we derive intense pleasure from tending our little Edens.

Too often, however, we obsess over details no one sees “” unless we stupidly point them out. Those gorilla-in-the-picture studies show it would take a thistle bigger than King Kong to attract the notice of visitors. If you have the reputation of plant nerd, they might praise you for such a towering horticultural achievement.

Dormancy is natural, going all the time isn’t. Not that I’m giving you permission to plop down for the whole garden season. Not hardly. A friend who gardened well into her 90s always advised, “Never let the rocking chair get you.”

She lived almost to 102 probably because she knew that rest is not a dirty, four-letter word.

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