There’s no longer any dispute – gardens are indeed making the world a better place. Even if you don’t do it, someone near you does, and you get to enjoy it. And surely you eat food. The fresher, the better.
Gardens make our towns and communities look quaint and well-kept. They bring neighbors together to trade plants and seeds. Sometimes the nicest houses are not the largest or the most grand, but the ones with the best gardens, the best colors, the best diversity.
Gardening is not just about vegetables, although surely there are some beautiful foods to grow – fruit blossoms, sunflowers, peppers, leafy colorful greens, herbs and so much more.
It’s about captivating the senses. Gardens are essentially just plants you tend to, or encourage to grow. The sky, quite literally, is the limit. Blossoming trees, climbing roses and vines, annual flowers and perennial shrubs can all combine to create colorful aromatic bouquets. It’s an indulgent sensory experience.
But it’s also about aesthetics. Everything looks better with flowers. That’s why we cut them and bring them indoors. That’s why the cut-flower industry is booming even in tough times. That’s why we see them at every wedding and every funeral. Flowers add a beauty and delicacy to an often cold, brutish life.
You might think it starts, and ends, right here. Flowers are pretty, gardens look nice, that’s why professional landscapers make good money. But there’s so much more to it.
Gardeners pour their hearts into their plots. They are out there in all manner of weather, after all, there’s nothing like the smell of a fresh rain, or the peace of a new snowfall, in your private garden. They live for the excitement of growing a new plant and watching it thrive. They take their lumps and learn the hard way when they let something die.
The therapeutic benefits of gardening are pretty well-known by now. It provides fresh air, weight-bearing exercise, sunlight and vitamin d. People who garden tend to be happier. They feel they have an outlet for their free time and energy. They reap immense reward for producing happy plants and food for their families.
Gardening is a tradition that crosses all common divides. Men and women, young and old, rich and poor, you’ll find gardeners among them all. Around the world, people and plants maintain a symbiotic relationship. Many plants won’t grow without people, and likewise, people mostly won’t grow without plants.
This past October, I traveled to Costa Rica for three weeks. It was my first trip out of the country, as I hate to fly. Love to hike, hate to fly. But having a good friend living there made the decision easy. Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, so if ever there was a reason to board three back-to-back redeye flights, this place was it.
My takeaway from my time in Costa Rica is that it’s a gardener’s paradise. With heavy rainfall half the year and muggy coastal sunshine the other half, the conditions are ideal for easy landscaping. Grab a few plant starts, tuck them along your pathways, and watch them spread naturally. The soil is loose and moist, all you need do is scatter a few papaya seeds or a pineapple top, and you’ll have baby trees in no time. Creating your own food forest couldn’t be easier. Shade-loving vegetables grow to amazing sizes here, and the country is known the world over for its coffee and chocolate.
To see the possibilities, to experience a lush and fertile world where the soils are just ripe for planting, it was a gardener’s dream. I am forever grateful for my chance to see such immense beauty up close. And I’m more excited than ever to get started again in my own garden.
First up? A hammock.