Gardening a virtuous pursuit..

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow  Audrey Hepburn

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In almost every garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener. – Robert Rodale

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When I reflect on the past few years of  growing a new  rose garden, I often wonder, after a full day of being scratched by rose thorns and exhausted by the heat, why it is I love it so much? 

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Outside in the elements all day I’m windblown and aching from digging, pruning, staking, and deadheading blooms so it is a far cry from a pleasant day sometimes. What I have found in nurturing a rose  garden though, is that the experience surprisingly, does far more for me than I had anticipated.

I have always thrived on hard work having inherited the trait from my parents. It is not difficult for me to plunge into a project with determination and perseverance.  I don’t like the thorns, the pests and diseases though that a rose grower has to deal with. Then there is the watering, pruning, mulching and nurturing them through our Australian hot, dry summer and cold winter.  All these factors aside, by planting roses and in order to nurture the plants, design the garden, prepare and improve the soil  one does quite naturally learn deeper skills and virtues like more patience, humility and care.

The wonderment one feels as the garden flourishes after all the hard work is so uplifting. I don’t think anyone gardens to feel this way. But it is an outcome over and above the obvious results of engaging in a healthy outdoor activity. The rewards of exercise and we also gain the fruits of our labours in beautiful roses or flower blooms, herbs and vegetables, dependant on what we choose to grow in our gardens.

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The first skill established from gardening  would have to be ‘Patience” as anyone who plants seeds, bulbs or bare root roses will tell you. The other skill gardeners seem to  have in spades is the aspect of “Vision”.

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Gardening gives us a chance to look to the future and to realise that hard work is, in its own time, going to reap many rewards. To successfully  make the right plant choices, design and implement all of the stages of preparing a garden through the four seasons will develop vision and foresight.

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Gardeners are unwittingly developing all manner of other virtues too. Consider responsibility, optimism, tenacity,  perseverance, self-discipline and on the flip side reverence, trust, gratitude and acceptance. Acceptance is a hard one to learn when the birds have eaten the seedlings, the wallabies eaten every green leaf  on a rose bush or the frost has wiped out all the new annual plants.  Rose growers in particular are also highly passionate about their roses and possess confidence in their tasks because they don’t mind the thorns.

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Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. – Alice Morse Earle, 1897

Gardening is not a flight for the just the imagination although one does need imagination to design a garden and to persevere each day. On the other hand we can also use gardening as a stress release for pent up feelings of frustration and anger. We have many destructive tasks to do in the garden that can be very therapeutic. Hedges to trim, roses to prune, weeds to yank out and loads of cutting and hacking of overgrown plants.

After all the skills we’ve developed, virtues gained and stress released we can happily contemplate the cycle of renewal and growth, sit and smell the roses and enjoy time  in our gardens knowing that we are all the better for it.

Photos taken by Di Baker in the ‘Rose Garden of Alhambra Palace Spain’

Header Image ‘Paul Cezanne’ Rose in my Garden in NSW

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