Mastering the Gardener

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Styrax japonica and friends in bloom in the front yard

Mary Vaananen’s first Guest Rant on the ups and downs of hosting a garden tour.

After a recent Master Gardener tour came through my little city garden, I have a few rambling reflections and odd bits of thought to share:

Gardeners can’t help but talk plants…. even when you set the focus of the tour on quiet connection with nature. What was I thinking?

All gardeners recognize how much work it takes to create and maintain a garden. When gardeners visit other gardens, they are almost always kind and almost always comparing it to their own. Visiting other gardens can be validating to one’s own efforts, or a blow to the ego.

“That’s our hobby. Some people do arts and crafts. We judge.”~ Carrie Bradshaw

No matter how wonderful a garden is, if it is not yours, it lacks something.

Gardens have a vibe. So do gardeners. It is the feel of this vibe that registers when I enter a garden. It helps to be able to sit a while and absorb the little details. And maybe drink some wine.

Garden gates are portals

Are gardeners able to relax in their own garden? I am hard-pressed to sit for long. It seems the garden will always need another snip and tug. {Pro-tip: Wine enables relaxation.}

Approaching a garden mind-forward…as if to catalogue its many genera and nuances in words and labels…is a shallow encounter perhaps leaving one with a headache and a vague sense of missing something.

In indigenous ways of knowing, we understand a thing only when we understand it with all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion, and spirit.~ Greg Cajete

To really connect with a garden is to recognize its weight…to feel the depth of its quiet. (All gardens have quiet.  Not all quiet feels the same.  The quiet of wilderness is deafening.)

Quality of quiet = Vibe

You and your garden are one movement within the quiet. As you tend and fertilize, the garden is enriching you.

Your skin does not separate you from the world….it is a bridge through which the external world flows into you and you into it.” ~ Alan Watts

When I am giving a tour of my garden, it surprises me which plants catch the eyes of visitors. I often forget common names and do a lot of (Latin) spelling. I usually end up with a headache. (Could be the wine.)

Sculpture by Girly Steel

Keep the names of artists who have created the sculpture in your garden on hand to share. Every garden needs awesome focal points.

When others visit your garden, learn to accept a compliment graciously on behalf of yourself and your partner. You do what you can; Mother Nature’s magic does the rest.

A great garden is not possible without a great gardener. They arise together and are inseparable.

Thank God for the filler plants; the scramblers and re-seeders that stitch a vignette together.

Thank God for the filler plants!

Sometimes a visitor will ask about a plant. “What does it do after it blooms”,as if the plant’s worth is bloom-dependent. I draw parallels to the aging human I am…hoping my après bloom presence still contributes to the whole composition.

I must remember to appreciate the vigor of the body that allows precious gardening to happen year after year.

A gardener is made mostly of quiet.  The garden points this out.

There is nothing higher that I can see, than the deep and full understanding and appreciation of the beauty around you. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Mary Vaananen lives and gardens in Louisville, KY. She is the North American Manager for Jelitto Perennial Seeds, headquartered in Germany. She is made mostly of quiet and obviously enjoys wine.

9 COMMENTS

  1. This is lovely, Mary! I’m the kind of gardener who will be distracted and stop in the middle of what I’m doing to notice the little details (including the weeds and insects). The glass of wine probably helps!

  2. Nice job Mary. I particularly liked this:

    Gardens have a vibe. So do gardeners. It is the feel of this vibe that registers when I enter a garden. It helps to be able to sit a while and absorb the little details. And maybe drink some wine.

  3. I enjoyed reading this very much. I just finished up volunteering for a local garden tour held this past weekend and all your points rang home to me. I can also say, having had my own garden on tour, that it is interesting seeing it through visitors eyes- it forces the gardener to challenge their inherent biases (both for and against) about the garden.

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