There are so many gifts our gardens give us that we wanted to take a moment to give some of them a bit of attention. What gifts do you get from your garden? Here are some of ours:
Beauty – One of the greatest gifts from the garden is its limitless beauty. This beauty is delivered to us in a variety of ways to appreciate even if one or more of our senses is impaired (think scent and texture gardens for the blind). It is as limitless and infinite as nature itself, waiting for us to enjoy it all.
Color and Shape – The brilliant colors of flowers, from the palest pastels to the deepest jewel tones; the various shades of green found in foliage, grasses and evergreen needles; the twinkling of fireflies at night; the iridescent brilliance of butterflies; the endless variety of shapes, from thick, lush shrubs to delicate, wispy perennial grasses – the garden opens our eyes to the richness of loveliness that surrounds us each and every day.
Fragrance – The scent of pine on a winter’s day, the heady fragrance of lilac on a warm spring afternoon, the sweet aroma of jasmine on summer’s evening. The garden awakens and engages our sense of smell in so many ways, from a whiff of just-cut grass to the tantalizing aroma of fresh picked basil.
Texture – Velvety Lamb’s Ear, waxy Stonecrop, feathery perennial grasses – the garden gifts us with endless textures, inviting us to touch, to feel, to connect physically with nature, whether it’s the sharp stab of a thorn or the soft silkiness of a flower petal brushing against our nose as we inhale its lovely fragrance.
Sound – Awakening to the sound of birdsong coming from the trees, hearing the soft brush of wind through the leaves, or the howl of a storm’s gale rushing through bare branches, the crisp crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, the quiet hum of bees busy gathering nectar from flowers, the chirp of crickets, the staccato beat of cicadas on a hot summer night – the garden gives us a symphony of nature’s songs if we’re willing to listen.
Taste – Fruits, vegetables, herbs and even some flowers offer us both sustenance and flavor, but on a deeper level, the bounty we harvest from the gardens we grow ourselves connect us profoundly to nature and its rhythms. The soil we cultivate and nourish to house and grow our seeds and plantings, watching and caring for plants as they grow and thrive inextricably connects us to our food. We revel in the sweet, flavor-packed taste of sun-warmed tomatoes, the fresh peppery bite of home-grown arugula or the intense scent and flavor of mint or basil picked and rinsed within minutes of being added to our dinner or beverages.
Connection – Our connection to the natural world enhances our connection to others, whether we gather with friends and family in a lush, beautifully manicured yard or simply at a kitchen table in view of a windowsill garden. Edwin O. Wilson wrote of our innate tendency to connect with nature and other forms of life in his book, The Hypothesis of Biophilia, – defined as “a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms.” Even the simple act of watching a bee or butterfly alight from one flower to the next, pollinating the plants that feed us, reminds us of our interconnectedness and dependency on other living beings.
Health – Tending to our gardens is a healthy and healing activity. In fact, studies have shown there are microbes in the soil that help abate depression. Vitamin D – often in short supply in our northern climate – is an added benefit to being outside in the sunshine working in the garden, and the exercise gardening offers is wonderful for the heart, for reducing stress and easing anxiety with additional benefits from knowing how and where your food was produced.
Serenity – Simply being in nature is healing. Hospitals are incorporating garden views in rooms in which patients recuperate and “forest bathing” – a health practice popular in Japan and catching on here in the U.S. – involves simply immersing oneself in a forest for 2 hours, just being in nature, unplugged and focused on the sounds, scents and sensations amidst the trees. This simple act has documented profound impact on health, from reduced heart rates, blood pressure and cortisol levels to increased serotonin levels and easing of anxiety and depression.
Enchantment – As human beings, we have a need for wonder and awe in our lives, and there ‘s no better supplier of this than nature. It can come from observing the beauty of sunlight illuminating the garden, or watching the cycle of life play out in the changing seasons or planting a seed and watching it grow, produce food, and regenerate with seeds it has produced on its own. Enchantment is infinite in the garden.
Creativity – Nature is often the source of inspiration for many a creative endeavor – paintings, sculpture, home design, clothing, music – you name it. Our gardens are an endless source of creative possibility, one that cultivates patience and focus as well as delights us with unexpected surprises and results. The act of creation is life-affirming and gardens offer a non-stop show of nature’s boundless creativity to emulate or simply just enjoy.