The wonderfully therapeutic benefits of pottering in the garden


Finding a quiet moment to ground and contemplate takes me straight into the spiritual arms of the Goddess.

There are few things in life that I find more enjoyable than pottering in the garden.  Yesterday I got back into it, and it felt sublime.  Doubly so, because the past two years have been very tough on my garden and have cut out a part of my life that I have long relied on to ground and centre me.  Getting back to my “roots” was doubly delicious; here is what kept me away:

First, COVID kept me from my garden.  It is hard to tend to plants when they are in one country, you are in another, and travel has been squelched.  Rain and nature can only do so much for a plant in a pot.  I lost many cherished plant friends during that time.

Second, work has kept me away from my gardens, as it has had me on the road so much, that it has been hard to make time to do the necessary.

And finally, my current move from a house with a large garden to one that has a very small one, has reduced the scope for this…and since my SO hates watering plants, there is only so much I can ask for when I am not here.

Still, yesterday was a day of uncommon joy as I found myself spending several hours tending to my plants.  To accommodate the change in living arrangements, all of my plants are now in terracotta pots.  It is pretty, and replanting from one pot to the next as they grow is an enjoyable excuse to spend time with them.

It is also nice to have a riot of flowers on our front steps and lining the walk up to our door.  I went a bit bananas and we have hundreds of flowering pots at our entry, with enough in reserve off in the wings, ready to be swapped in as they come to flower whilst others fade away.

It amazes me no end the power of dead-heading.  You cut off the spent blooms leaving a plant seeming nude of its bright colours, and a few days later it is once again covered with fresh flowers.  Why?  The desperate need of the plant to go do seed, to secure its future through genetic immortality.  Sound familiar?  

I’ve been writing a lot about that lately.  It just reminds me that pretty much everything having to do with life is about sex and procreation.  Given that procreation is the meaning of life, and sex is the enjoyable path to getting us there, it is amazing that we expend so much effort as humanity in trying to hide away sex and sexuality.  It is not only the most beautiful thing there is, but it is the essence of what we have to give.  It is exhausting to think about.

That takes me back to the garden.  Wandering from plant to plant, looking at its needs and caring for those needs, is very grounding.  It is healing and calming to be with plants.  Indeed there is evidence that supports this.  A recent study by UNC Health has found that:

  • Gardening builds self-esteem: by growing things we develop a sense of accomplishment.  It is also very healthy for children to learn and experience this at a young age.  In my own life, my mother learned a passion for gardening from her father, who grew all of the fruit and vegetables for a large family in his little garden plot behind the house.  She instilled the same into all of us children through our community allotment garden.
  • Gardening is good for your heart: there is hard work to be done in the garden, and this is good for your body and your health.
  • Gardening reduces stress: it is a very quick and easy way to take your mind off of things that may be worrying you.  It is proven that gardening reduces cortisol levels (a stress hormone) even more than reading a book.  Tending a piece of land, no matter how small, making it into a haven, is in itself a meditative act.  Being out, breathing fresh air, getting some sunlight, creating beauty, are all parts of wellness.
  • Gardening has explicit health benefits through exposure to sunlight, increasing levels of vitamin D, boosting your immunity, and strengthening your bones.  This is particularly true as we age.
  • Gardening can make you happy.  Indeed, there is proven scientific benefits in playing with soil.  Apart from taking your mind back to carefree times as a child blissfully uncaring about getting dirty, working the earth exposes us to M. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that we inhale and ingest and which increases our serotonin levels and reduces our anxiety.
  • Tending your garden is the essence of farm-to-table.  Delicious food, locally grown, is better for you and increases your appreciation for what is on your plate.  Bismillah.

No wonder I was having so much fun.  Right?

Yesterday, one of my big activities was to propagate cuttings from hydrangeas.  A young hydrangea costs about £40/$40/€40—it’s funny that.  But the plant is very amenable to growth from cuttings and responds well to plant hormones and a coddled existence for a few months.  In this way I hope to have some 200 plants in a few months’ time that will be ready for potting out, and by next summer, ready for planting out.  The budget savings titillate me.  The sense of accomplishment fulfils me, but best of all, covering a hillside with them is a kind of fantasy I couldn’t live without this simple process.

What brought this chance to play with plants on?  Mistress did.  She shares a passion for plants and gardening and has asked me to help her track down some plants for her that cannot be found near her and which I have access to.  Finding them and growing them until they are strong enough to be turned into cuttings is a wonderful way to stay connected to her and to think about her and to serve her.  And I also like that I am learning about plants I didn’t know anything about because of this, doing things that I might not have done were it not for this connection (you can read about our visit to the Giardini Hanbury for instance), but most importantly of all, it is permanence.  There is a durability to plant life, a need for a different sense of time and rhythm, one that requires patience.  To bring a plant into my garden, to love it and tend to it so that it might thrive and grow, and so it might in turn then be given to Mistress as a cutting is a delicious way to serve Her.  Made all the more so by how long it takes, the patience it requires, and how often I will be able to savour it, to savour that this love I am showing for these plants is a reflection of my love to Mistress.  It makes me feel that she is here in my garden, with me, with my family, a part of life…and so too, does it feel when she plants things from me into her garden, that I am there, cultivated by her, growing in ways to please her.

The other thing I did yesterday was rig up a crude irrigation system using a variety of hoses and valves and clamps.  This is so my SO and children can water the plants in my absence with far less effort.  As I did it, I was having immense fun. And it took me back to my childhood.  I used to love putting our garden hose at the top of our garden and letting it run down a series of channels I had dug to water the plants.  Indeed, waterways, irrigation channels, canals, have long fascinated me.  My very first memory of beauty occurred over just such a system observed as a very small child in Japan.  Functional art, natural and useful.  It struck me thus even then.  Indeed, to this day, a formal Japanese garden moves my soul like few others.

As an adult I have had the joy of working on irrigation systems on an “industrial scale”, supporting gardens and water systems that please millions.

The threads that bind me to gardens and gardening are lifelong, intimate, and therapeutic.  I love that my relationship with Mistress is able to grow in such a fertile landscape and am blessed that the therapeutic benefits of gardening are now tied to someone who heals me and feels me in ways that are fulfilling in ways that I don’t understand, and shall perhaps someday stop trying to, and just feel.  After all, that is what the plants do.

We have joked and talked about me taking various forms in her garden. All manifestations of a spiritual reality that is flowering in my life.

6 thoughts

  1. I LOVE gardening. You mentioned hydrangeas… when you have a chance, google “alice oakleaf hydrangeas” (if you aren’t already familiar with this variety)…this is the variety that I have planted and I absolutely love them. I am glad to hear that you are experimenting with an irrigation system. I am building a new one now and it makes it so convenient when one is traveling. You can get a timer for it too…that way, your SO doesn’t have to do anything but enjoy the pretty flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just did. We have those here at the garden centre. I have never known what they are called. I have a very large-headed flowering type that came with the garden of our old house. Hydrangeas are very easy to propagate and so darned expensive, so I started taking cuttings and replanting them. I have a few small plots of land for gardening where I have already planted some fruit trees, which thankfully take care of themselves, or at least with the occasional help of a gardener. I will send you a separate photo offline of the view. from the garden, which is to die for. It is a little too revealing of location, so ask that you would keep it to yourself when I do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Smiles. Please only send me what you are comfortable with, my friend…and no, I would never reveal anything about you to anyone. One of the reasons we can all be so open in this community is because we are all anonymous! I am loving that you love hydrangeas too 🙂

        Like

      2. I am on the West Coast of the US (in CA) and hydrangeas are not as common here as in New England. While I have a few of the traditional variety, I LOVE my Alice oakleaf hydrangeas…they bloom spring-fall here.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. And for your suggestion about an irrigation system, I think you are right. I have set up something that is very simple, uses houses, etc, but my SO said yesterday, “don’t count on me to water anything. I”d just as soon see it all dead.” So getting an automated irrigation system is likely on the cards.

      Liked by 1 person

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