“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, a place to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.“ John Muir
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a birthday party in a beautiful private garden. The weather was perfect, the flowers in bloom and joy filled the celebration of a special person and friendships of many years. The host of the event is a passionate master gardener with a sense of style and an eye for beauty. She has gardened in this small space (30’ x 45’) for over three decades. In that time, mixed among jobs, laundry, children, pets and life’s obligations, she has cared for her garden. During those years she was always thinking about her garden as she looked for ideas in magazines, on garden tours and in her travels. She generously shared her garden with others opening it up for community garden tours.
The colors in this garden are based on black, white, and green with a sprinkling of silver for accents. This season the garden annuals are all in white. Black & white pillows on a chaise lounge provide a place to relax. Nestled among the plants there is a fountain adding music of falling water to mix with the bird songs. There are hanging baskets, window boxes, and in-ground beds filled with flowers and trailing vines. A lady banks rose covers the back fence and blooms in white. A large black buffet under the covered patio is used for entertaining and on this day held tea cups and spoons. Bistro tables and chairs provide a place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea. A collection of silver balls add sparkle to the setting. Strategically placed mirrors expand the space and large Ficus trees add shade. From every angle one sees a beautiful touch.
A garden like this encourages conversation, laughter and storytelling. Relationships are strengthened and gratitude for life’s simple pleasures is increased. For the gardener all the work done over the years has compounded like interest in the rewards of sharing such a beautiful experience.
So many times I hear people dismissively say “gardening is a lot of work.” But I see a beautiful garden as work of the heart. The fantasy of TV gardening entertains us with a magical designer who illustrates your perfect garden with the wave of a wand and transforms bare ground into full beauty in less than three days. It is a fantasy equal to winning the lottery to fund your retirement. Saving for retirement is hard work requiring a bit of effort every day. You must make choices, pay attention and take action. Growing a beautiful garden works in the same way; it requires a bit of effort every day. The returns in both efforts can be wonderful. But the results of investing effort in your garden comes much earlier than retirement and it can be shared so easily. And as with a retirement plan, expert help may improve results and provide additional assistance to reach your goal, a passionate gardener seeks similar advice and help.
If your garden is a passion, you walk onto that patch of earth you hold dear, the place you live, you look to see what is growing and blooming, what is fading and spent. A morning coffee enjoyed on a bench inspires a burst of creative planning. A plant is moved, a new pot placed just so, a small figurine tucked into place. Each day a gardener nurtures, discovers, edits and enjoys the work of a garden. When a garden is your passion you bloom as it grows. It is your special place to begin and end your day. It gives you the best table in town to share a meal with people you love. You have a special place to celebrate life’s moments, be they very small or the memorable transitions worthy of great note. The butterflies, birds and bees will join you. You will get regular exercise and you have your own private spa retreat to relax afterward. You, in the words of John Muir, have a “place to play in, a place to pray in” and your view of the world will be framed by nature’s beauty because we do “need beauty as well as bread.”