Garden Virtues

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

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? 

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 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 and continue quite passionately until completion.  I don’t like the thorns, the pests and diseases though that a rose grower has to deal with. The watering, pruning, mulching and nurturing them through our Australian hot, dry summer and cold winter can take its toll. All these factors aside, in order to design the garden, prepare and improve the soil then nurture the rose plants, one does quite naturally learn deeper skills and virtues. For example more patience, hope, humility, perseverance and optimism.

The wonderment one feels as the garden flourishes after all the hard work is so uplifting. I don’t think anyone actually gardens to feel this way. But it is an outcome over and above the obvious results of engaging in a healthy outdoor activity. As well as the rewards of exercise 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.

“Patience” is the first skill developed when gardening 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”. Gardeners are visionaries and are always looking towards the future with optimistic eyes.

To successfully  make the right plant choices, design and implement all of the stages of preparing a garden through the all seasons will develop foresight, reverence and gratitude as well.

Consider also the attributes of optimism, tenacity and self-discipline and on the flip side trust, responsibility, acceptance and purposefulness. 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 your favourite plants. 

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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 either, 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. There are 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 developed, virtues gained and stress released, gardeners can happily contemplate the cycle of renewal and growth, sit and smell the roses and enjoy the time in the garden, knowing that we are all the better for it.

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

Header Image Dom Perignon Private Garden in Epernay at Moet Chandon

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