Words: Confessions of a Non-Gardener

This week my wife, Leabeth, is filling in for me and writing this gardening column. I always enjoy it when she does, for I get a week off and I get to read her thoughts.

If you are a faithful reader of this column, you may remember my shocking confession the last time I filled in for Jeff. You know… how I neglected the one plant he gave me before we were married until the poor thing pathetically withered up one day and died. So, you may wonder (1) how I could possibly have anything to write in a gardening column and (2) why you should bother reading it? Well, to put it quite simply and to answer both questions…I would like to devote this week’s column to an ode to gardeners. I can do that without really being a gardener myself, can’t I?

Actually, as an English teacher, I must be honest and admit this is not technically an ode. You see, an ode is a lyric poem, usually expressing some grand emotion, and what follows is merely prose. But I can assure you the emotion expressed here, if not exactly grand, is overwhelmingly grateful.

The event that specifically inspired this gratitude was a slide presentation my husband gave to a gardening group in Lufkin this last Thursday evening. Jeff has been solidly booked with speaking engagements of late (after all, spring is just around the corner), and I felt my only chance of spending any time with him would be to join him at the meeting.

I often attend these gardening groups to whom Jeff speaks (if once every two years qualifies as often), and the people I meet there always inspire me to better the world by digging in the good earth and planting glorious flowers in my wake. If you detect a note of sarcasm here, it is not towards the gardeners I meet but rather towards my lofty and thoroughly unrealistic expectations of myself. They may leave the world around them more beautiful; but sadly, I do not.

These gardeners come in all ages; three generations were represented at the group in Lufkin, and always these people are some of the most cheerful and optimistic I have ever met. I guess they really have to be. After all, their ‘hobby’ (if that is what we should call it) is pretty much rooted (pardon the pun) in hope. Plant a seed in the ground and it will miraculously grow into something beautiful.

But it was neither these gardeners’ cheerfulness nor their optimism that prompted the desire to write this ode. No, rather it was the sudden realization that they bring great beauty to my world…and I am thankful.

As Jeff clicked picture after picture of marvelous gardens we have visited, sharing with the group the different things that inspire him to garden, I was impressed afresh with the importance of beauty in our surroundings. And natural beauty, beauty that comes from a living, viable landscape enriches our lives and increases our well-being.

To those who create and maintain such rich and beautiful gardens, I am grateful.

To all who are feeling ‘antsy’ right now to be out in their yards, preparing their flowerbeds for spring, I am grateful.

To the many who will overspend in the gardening departments of Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, rushing home, arms laden with new plants of brightly blooming flowers, I am grateful.

To each of you who have muddy knees and dirt under your fingernails from pulling weeds and setting out seedlings, I am grateful.

And all to whom this ‘ode’ addresses- don’t set out your cold sensitive plants just yet. Typically, our last frost is not until after March 15th.

Oops! I bet you could tell that last line was not from me, but from Jeff. He just couldn’t resist putting in something that was ‘really’ gardening information.

Image caption

This cheerful gardener, gardens in Northern Italy. She told us when we visited with her that she wins the Village prize every year for the best window box. All who pass by benefit from the competition and her gardening skills.

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