I have just returned from my early morning stealth mission to the garden, making rounds of my plants, hoping to experience what May Sarton called the “sequential joys” of gardening, and I was not disappointed. The time of year has arrived when changes can be seen every day, or even every few hours in the garden. After all the toils of preparing the soil, and nurturing little seedlings along, exciting things are happening. This morning there may be one sweet pea blossom, by tomorrow three or four, and in a few weeks, actual peas ready to harvest. Each new development leads to another. And though I know what should come next at each stage, the wonder it inspires in me is new each time.
While my own record as a gardener has been trial and error and hit or miss, with emphasis on the errors and misses, my enjoyment in the practice and rewards of gardening has been nothing but a success. My efforts are repaid many times over by the sight of a jaunty squash blossom peeking out from under the vine, the whiff of a creamy white magnolia blossom, or the regal sway of a lavender hydrangea bloom in the breeze. Flowers are magic. And if I cannot become one, I will surround myself with them.
I think I realized the not-being able-to become-a-flower aspect when as a small child I went through a short lived phase of drawing people with flowers growing out of the tops of their heads. Why did all the neighborhood chidren laugh ? I thought they were perfectly lovely! But it was clear to me that if I were to suddenly sprout flowers out of the top of my head that I would surely be a laughingstock.
I make no claim to being a knowledgeable gardener, only an ardent one with lots of appreciation for the forgiving nature of the hobby. Growing up in the suburbs, we had lawns, shrubs, and flowerbeds. Not tomato plants. The Daddies typically mowed the grass while the Mommies ironed clothes in the house, and some unlucky children such as myself were required to rake and sweep. Since I am extremely allergic to newly mown grass, these chores did not endear me to the natural world. Achoo!
However, as an adult I have discovered that I simply must grow things to enjoy and to incorporate into my life. Each season, wherever I have lived I have tried to increase my arable land, which now consists of part of a small back yard and some flower beds. Here is a brief visual history of the journey of the mostly vegetable and herb section in recent years.
Gardening gives me so much more than I could ever put in. Besides the obvious and not inconsiderable gifts of flowers, herbs, and food, gardening nourishes me in other ways. It helps me laugh at myself. It teaches me patience. It shows how to value old friends, such as rosemary and coneflower, and how to gracefully deal with overeager ones such as primrose and bee balm. It makes me a part of the circle of life. It makes me feel a kinship with others who appreciate the beauties of the garden. It grounds me to the realities of life.
The late poet and author May Sarton, one of my favorite garden writers, was not a deliberate garden writer. But her journals, which chronicle her creative journey as she aged, have many references to the joy she took in flowers and plants, and their meaning in her life. I read her journals again and again for her honest insights and lovely prose. You are correct. May, in your assessment of the sequential joys of the garden. Here is more she had to say,