I have a garden for many reasons. Besides the obvious reasons of sustenance and of enjoying the pleasure derived from being surrounded by beauty, nature, color, texture, and fragrance, gardening fills the senses and soothes the soul.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 19, 2007.)
Basket of Freesia, Louisiana Iris ‘Black Gamecock,’ and Manglietia insignis
Why I Garden
I have a garden for many reasons. Besides the obvious reasons of sustenance, and of enjoying the pleasure derived from being surrounded by beauty, nature, color, texture, and fragrance, gardening fills the senses and soothes the soul. It seems to fill a need which can’t be filled by anything else. There is a sense of accomplishment when one creates something that wasn’t there before, whether one creates a vegetable garden from a previously vacant piece of land or plants a small tree started from seed which will reach great heights in the years to come. There is also a sense of self-sufficiency when one harvests the fruits of one’s labor.
I feel closer to God and to His creatures when I am in the garden. I feel a sense of peace when I am surrounded by plant life and by other life forms. I enjoy the solitude that I often find there. Gardening can add meaning to one’s life, and its end result is often to make the world a better place. It provides food and shelter for body and soul for human beings and for the well-being of many other life forms. It is an act of giving to the earth and to one’s surroundings, but the benefits received in return are tremendous. A beautiful garden is inviting and rewarding for all.
Michelia x alba flower, Michelia figo var. skinneriana, and Hedychium hybrid
What I Don’t Grow
At first, I wanted to grow everything and anything. That wasn't a good idea. But like so many things, gardening is a learning experience that is ever changing, and there are often limitations such as growing space, money, time for proper care, and climate.
I am blessed to live in a favorable climate which does not freeze, and I can grow many things in the ground all year long which cannot be grown in many parts of the country, with the exception of South Florida and Hawaii. My area is not considered tropical, and whether it is subtropical is probably debatable.
One of my first lessons in gardening was this: just because you can grow it, doesn't mean you should grow it! There are many plants and vines which can become invasive in climates which have mild winters - and other areas as well. A few examples of this include: Ipomoea indica (Perennial Morning Glory), some Passiflora species (Passionflower), Campsis radicans (a type of Trumpet Vine), certain species of Lonicera (Honeysuckle), Schinus molle (Pepper tree), and Sapium sebiferum (Chinese Tallow tree). Some of these can be grown safely in containers and confined spaces.
Here's another lesson I learned: if it pops up in your garden spontaneously, it is probably invasive and shouldn't be kept! Keeping an invasive and aggressively self-propagating plant or tree or vine in one's garden can create an endless amount of work for you and others. Been there; done that!
Dalechampia discoraefolia with Bougainvillea, Dichorisandra thyrsiflora ‘Blue Ginger,’ and Brugmansia x candida 'Duchess'
What I Do Grow
Fragrance is a high priority in my garden, although I choose plants for their beauty, too. I have a lot of blue and purple flowers, with others of yellow, orange, and white for contrast. There is something about this color combination which is soothing to me. I also grow many flowers which will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.