The Transformational Power of Gardening


by Guest Blogger Lois De Vries


Come with me on a typical garden tour. The sky is partly cloudy, the
temperature is in the mid-80s, and we’re hauling around photographic equipment
that weighs about 25 pounds. We have to hit seven gardens between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm and, if we’re lucky, three of them will be suitable
location scouting. When we get to the second garden, one of the hostesses asks, “Have
you seen the Trousseau’s garden? Everyone is just raving about it!”

That’s our cue. Whether it’s number three on the tour, or number seven,
that’s where we’re heading next. When we arrive, there are more than 75 people
walking through the Trousseau’s modest garden. This is going to take a while.
The hostess runs off to extract the homeowner from a circle of ten excited
visitors who have been peppering her with questions about this plant or that

But I’ve thought of some more questions and seek out the gardener. We’re
supposed to be taking descriptive shots and plant information, but something the
gardener said piqued my personal interest and I want to know more. As we look
around for her, I notice that 90 minutes have evaporated. I also notice that
some of the same people who arrived when we did are still here, even though the
garden is no larger than two acres. They could have seen everything there is to
see in 15 minutes, but no one wants to leave.

There’s something in this garden
beyond what meets the eye. I call it the transformational power of gardening, a kind of x-factor that emanates from both the garden and the

Some gardeners are able to establish a symbiotic relationship with their
gardens, in which even as the gardener is acting on the garden, the garden is
having its impact upon the gardener. In such places, garden guests can feel a
palpable transfer of energy and emotion that arises from both the gardeners and
the works they have created. Time just flies by. Visitors have a reluctance to
break their tie with the feeling that they have stepped out of one world and
into another.

I’ve met such interesting people as the September 11th
survivor who turned to gardening as a way to normalize his life; a woman who
makes gardening a priority, despite the demands of her five small boys; a man
who flies from Savannah, Georgia to New Jersey to maintain the family garden and
open it to the community every year, and many others.

What makes these gardeners tick? It’s how they approach the gardening
process, how they express their core personalities and creativity through their
gardens, how body/mind/spirit plays
itself out in their everyday activities, and the pleasure they take in
the journey rather than the destination. Whether the garden is extravagant or
mundane, the creation of it has altered the life of its maker.


  1. I don’t know that anyone wants to linger in my garden… yet. But I do know that the creation of it (and the interaction with other gardeners here and at other blogs and forums) is always changing my thoughts in and out of the garden.

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