‘why do you garden?’ nears 100 comments

martagon2ANOTHER POST IS NEAR THE CENTURY MARK, our second in 7 months here on A Way to Garden. The first was Garden No-No’s; now here comes ‘Why Do You Garden?’ to challenge its lead. Why do you garden? Is it for astonishing plants like these Martagon lilies, or for solace in troubled times, or for fresh food to stash in the freezer to get you through a long winter’s nap? All good reasons, but perhaps they are not yours. So what is it? Won’t you tell us?

October 25, 2008


  1. Susan says

    I garden because….
    I don’t know how to paint, sketch, or sculpt,
    My babies are all grown up and I must nurture,
    I am a good steward of my little piece of the earth,
    I love doing garden yoga (Andre is so right on),
    And, quite simply, it makes me happy! So happy, in fact, that when my husband finds me hacking away at the weeds or preparing yet another flower bed, he smiles and with a wink says “You’re having another hoe-gasm aren’t you?”
    Signed, A Long-time-lurker-first-time-poster who finds your blog infinitely inspiring!

    • says

      Namaste, Susan. Glad your career as a lurker has ended, and we finally “meet” officially. Thank you. Don’t make it your last, OK? :)

  2. Linda says

    why do I garden? that’s a good question. I am so obsessed with it that I can’t think of anything but my garden. In the spring and early summer we don’t eat very much, nor do I go food shopping. My husband is a gem. He knows that I am lost in the art of creating, so he is charge of making sure I don’t starve or dehydrate. I often wonder if there is a support group for this all consuming addiction. When I’m not in the garden, my body and soul goes into withdrawal. Does anyone else have this problem?

    • says

      Welcome, Linda, and yes, count me in. :) Glad it’s not just me that feels like that. Hope to see you here soon again; happy holiday weekend.

  3. Olga says

    In the garden I am dazzled by the infinite beauty of life continuously unfolding before me. In a nutshell, I garden for the pleasure, for the learning, for the health benefits (both mental and physical), for the satisifaction & pride it brings me and for the connections it affords. In controlling, cultivating, nurturing and co-creating with nature I have forged meaningful connections with myself, with this place, with the earth, with nature, and at times even with the divine. Natures perpetual creativity, abundance, and receptivity welcomes our human interventions and lets us play along. We engage in a magical, ever evolving dance with her through the seasons, through the years and through the cycles of life that match our own. It is beautiful, and as others have said, our souls need it.

  4. Astrid Bowlby says

    I am an installation artist and my gardening is definitely an extension of this. Currently, I have no dirt in the ground. I garden in hundreds of pots on a parking lot in Bristol, PA. I am constantly renovating, re-planting, and rearranging them. I also grow David Austin roses from bare root stock and sell them at flea markets in Bucks County. This fills in the cash flow gaps between teaching and exhibiting my work. Until recently, I worked part time at a wonderful urban demonstration farm and garden center called Greensgrow. Located in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, it is truly an amazing and unexpected place. http://www.greensgrow.org. If all I had was a tuna can with holes punched in the bottom, I’d put a liitle sempervivum in it and call it good!

    • says

      Welcome, Astrid. “If all I had was a tuna can with holes punched in the bottom, I’d put a liitle sempervivum in it and call it good!” LOVE IT! It sounds wonderful, that movable botanical feast of yours; thanks for sharing the image in words. Hope to see you soon.

  5. karen says

    I garden because I can do it alone, but I can talk to almost anyone about it when I’m out and about. It’s peaceful and rewarding, but it also is a great way to start a conversation. My grandmother is ninety and I’m twenty six, but we can walk around the yard together and talk. I don’t have room for anything but pots at my apartment, but I convince my friends and family with yards to let me garden there. I share my friend’s compost heap, I grow vegetables at my parents’ place, trade plants with their neighbors, pull weeds for my granny. Also . . . I love plants!! (I’m still learning all of the names though)

  6. Astrid Bowlby says

    Thanks, Margaret. I am enjoying reading these posts. I feel that I am among kindred spirits and glad to be here. Olga’s thoughts are beautiful and Karen, I, too, find this common ground of gardening with my sisters and mother, as you do with your grandmother. It is something we all love and can share together even though we are each so different. Thanks, everyone!

  7. Margaret M. Dabe says

    Hi Margaret,

    Gardening fills an empty place in my heart and soothes my soul. There is just something wonderful about soil in my hands, feeling it with my fingertips. GLoves-pshaw.

  8. Margaret M. Dabe says

    Hi Margaret,

    Every year there is always something new to try-Eight Ball Squash or new fruit plants. I was told of an all Green coneflower-must investigate further.

  9. Karen says

    I garden because it’s what turns me on… and keeps me from riding 4-wheelers.

    My husband and I live a “camping” life. When I’m not gardening we are camping in the beautiful mountains of Idaho. He had two 4-wheelers when we got together and he kept urging me to ride “the other one” instead of riding on the back with him as we explored the vast wilderness. I kept saying, “no, I like riding behind you”. It’s not that I can’t handle a 4-wheeler, I can and have many times…it all comes down to the fact that I, eventually, would have a wreck on a 4-wheeler.

    Yes, I’d be wheeling down that mountain trail and get distracted by the heavenly vision of Maiden Hair ferns, hundred of them, staring at me as they seem to bramble down the moist shaded hillside…just a few feet away from me. You expect me to look at the trail…at where I’m going? Are you kidding me? No thanks. I like my ride from behind…where I can drink-in the breathtaking beauty and its intent.

    I garden because it’s what turns me on…and now, at one month away from 50, I make my living by gardening for others…my terms, my time. And I say to myself, I cannot believe I get paid for this. In fact, my clients have to urge me to give them their bill. I truly feel guilty about doing that. It’s kind of like, “working in your flower gardens completes me, now give me your moolah”. It’s an ongoing…uh…weirdness about me and something that I realize must be addressed…at some point.

    Any suggestions?

    • says

      Welcome, Karen. I think that they are probably as grateful to you for your help, and the payment is just an expression of their thanks. So go ahead, offer up the bill — maybe inside a little thank you note if that makes it feel better — and let them thank you in return with their check. :)

  10. Deborah says

    This summer was my second year for my vegetable garden. The motivation was a combination of things: a basic thing to do in an increasingly nutty world and the good taste of freshly grown vegetables. My husband was against it at first because he thought I would lose interest but has become opinionated about what vegetables are planted.

  11. says

    I garden because I have to. I write, draw, make pottery, and cook passionately also, but it is only gardening that I must do. I don’t think about why–I just do it. And when I am doing it, I am grounded in a way that is complete. I hear, see, touch, smell, and move, becoming completely engaged with being alive. I accept I have only one life to live, and I want to live it to the fullest. Gardening opens all the doors to that full life, renewing my senses so I can gracefully continue to the end.

  12. Bibby Moore says

    Last year, 10 women got together to form: Not Your Mother’s Garden Club…or NoYoMo Club. We wrote up a list of what led us each to garden…it resonates with all the above. One I especially like is…not being In Control. We love your blog…now to go out and dig in some aged horse manure.

    • says

      Welcome, Bibby. Great idea, your group. And yes, the out-of-control part is the best lesson of all. Some days I try to be in control still, silly me. But you know how that goes — not so well. :) See you soon!

  13. says

    When I was in kindergarden I toured a nursery and green house and was given a daffodil. That is my favorite flower and my memory of gardening and plants. My parents had a little farm in Ohio and we had very big gardens and raised our food and canned it. I learned so much about gardening from my Dad. I find I can work and clear my head and get to the heart of things by gardening and digging in the dirt. Now my gardening is raising succulents which thrive in my Southern Exposure in Watsonville, CA. I keep finding unique plants I must have. I really liked your thoughts about sedums… I garden because it grounds me with delight!

    • says

      Welcome, Regina, and thank you for a great answer. Love the daffodil story. My first memories center on my garden-club Grandma. Hope to see you soon again.

  14. says

    I started gardening about 10 years ago during a very stressful time in my life. I was downsized from my job and the job hunt process was very long and slow. Gardening became my greatest therapy. My father has always been a gardener, but I didn’t fully appreciate his hard work until I began the pursuit myself. Gardening gave me purpose and taught me patience. I found great peace and serenity spending hours creating beauty.

    An added benefit is that gardening is something my father and I can share. Many of the plants I have started as cuttings from his garden. I hope to share this love of gardening with my new grand daughter (6 months old). I can’t wait till she’s old enough to help her Gigi in the garden.

  15. says

    My gardening adventure began when we purchased our first home 20 years ago. A couple of years trying to figure out what to do with the backyard, I found a peony tuber by accident, had no idea what it was, moved it and it bloomed the next year. I was hooked! Our 80-year-old neighbor, Harry, was always sharing his dahlias, sweet peas. I didn’t even know the magic of sweet peas until then. He taught me how to start them from seed. He also gave me a hydrangea for my birthday … hooked again! Harry’s hydrangea is still growing in my yard and keeps his memory vivid in my mind. Now I have 13 hydrangeas and they make me so very happy.

    I never guessed that most of the pleasure of gardening would come from discovering the magic of all the seasons. Not to mention connecting with my neighbors … sharing seeds, exchanging flowers.

    When my husband gave me a digital camera, my flowers were my focus. I self-published a little book for myself, called “in a vase” (http://www.blurb.com/books/1464531) and the most fascinating thing I discovered while photographing was the wonder of how the flowers distribute their seeds.

    I found this Sweet Alyssum seedpod remnant that I could hardly see with the naked eye (http://tinyurl.com/4ah2yfv).
    That my garden can be even more fascinating winter. (http://tinyurl.com/4jmslms)

    When I stumble upon something so small, delicate, no bigger then a ladybug, even in the rain and snow hadn’t destroyed it. I felt so fortunate to have found it. (http://tinyurl.com/4k4dvjl)

    The scent. The death. The rebirth. Colors and textures. Seedpods and hydrangea leaf skeletons. Peonies, hydrangeas in the fall, the perfume of honeysuckle and Sarcococca in January are just a few of the reason why I garden. It has made me a more respectful human being.

  16. Stacy M says

    I know I’m a bit late on this post but I just had to weigh in!

    I garden because I can’t help it! I remember being 9 or 10 and asking my dad for a garden of my own in the backyard. He let me have one despite my skills being terrible and only growing forget-me-nots in the whole thing.

    I’ve improved somewhat since then. The need to be growing things of my own, specifically organic produce, hasn’t changed. My uncle says it’s because the family is dutch, but who really knows? I love being able to do something myself, being challenged and learning new things.

  17. Susan Bakewell says

    I garden because it it relaxes me by making me slow down and focus on what I’m doing instead of what I have to do next. There’s nothing like a good deadheading session to put me in a zen-like state. It gets me outside with the birds, bugs, and flowers. It delights me in lots of little ways that I never expect.. It keeps me sane.

  18. Karen says

    Why do I garden?

    The short answer is the solace of wonderment.

    The answer as borne of a lifetime in the dirt is an entirely other matter. Is it the knowing smile of my grandfather as I, breathless with excitement, gaze up into his kind eyes, my apron filled with precious treasure, potatoes still peppered with the soil that hid them ? Could it be the sweet and sour memory of rhubarb puddings crudely fashioned with childhood hands or is it the spiced intoxication as I brush through the lavender and vibirnum? Is it the deep blue pockets of siberian iris that trace the garden or mountains of shasta daisies reflecting the summer sun? Or just perhaps, is it the anticipation of grasping the hand of my own grandchild and toddling together so he can discover his first butterfly, glory in an errant dandelion puff, eat his first warm tomato and just simply play in the dirt?

    Like a pebble in a pond, a garden ripples through all our lives, fortunately those of us who play in the dirt simply appreciate the experience and the lessons learned tending our own gardens.

    I garden because it feeds all of me and all that walk it’s path.

    Thank you for sharing your garden path and providing a place for us all to walk together.

  19. Nadine says

    I am a newbie gardener, having started about a year ago when we moved into a new home. I live in the center of Houston, so mine is a backyard garden, though I’m also growing native Texas plants in the front. I grow veggies and herbs because I love the smells and tastes of fresh food. Farming is in my DNA, as I come from a long line of farmers, and yet at 52 I am just getting started. Watching seeds sprout, watching them grow, harvesting–I love all of it. “excuse me, dear, I have to go outside and fetch dinner.” Priceless.

  20. Jean | Delightful Repast says

    I agree with Nadine. It’s wonderful to “go outside and fetch dinner.” But even more than the harvesting, I love the planting. Digging, preparing the soil, planting the seeds and transplants, labeling where necessary. It’s very satisfying work. Very calming.

  21. Cyndi says

    Being outside and smelling the dirt is an aphrodisiac. It’s the best high I can think of. I give my trees names when I put them in the ground and keep a gardeners journal so I can reflect back on days gone by. A perfect way to air my head out.

  22. Allison says

    I garden to provide beauty to my yard, to provide habitats and food for the birds and other small animals and to perpetuate the species of flora. I garden for exercise, as I have always hated going to the gym. I garden to get outdoors and get my vitamin D and for the satisfaction of completing a task like weeding or mulching. As an avid photographer, I garden to make beautiful blooms to photograph and to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. I garden to maintain my home’s curb appeal.

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