The Benefits of Gardening

Laurie Van Zandt
Ogden Valley News, Volume XII Issue III

Very often when I sit down with homeowners to discuss their landscape design needs, one of the first things they say that they want is “no maintenance”. That being ruled out, they will compromise with “low maintenance”. While there are planting schemes that can be considered low maintenance, it seems that what they are really saying is that they are not used to enjoying their gardens, and they therefore don’t want to be in their garden any more than necessary. A wonderful, joyous garden will beckon you out into it. You may discover the gardener within yourself, and all the wonderful benefits that that brings.

I love being in the garden; I walk my garden every day, weather permitting, and even sometimes not permitting. I touch, I smell, I observe, I listen, I worry, I rejoice. Yesterday I saw the very first buds unfurl on my crabapple tree. If I get close enough, I can inhale the sweet scent of the Mount Hood daffodils. The lilacs are ready to explode at any time, and while the daffodils are waning, the tulips are waxing! There seem to be so many birds this year, with so may voices raised in song. In my garden, I feel connected to the natural world. It satisfies a creative, nurturing urge to tend living things, to breath in the open air, and to enjoy physical activity. My garden is me.

Very often the state of my garden seems to parallel the state of “me”.
When we garden, we cultivate the right hemisphere of our brain, which is primarily concerned with aesthetic appreciation and intuitive thought. Gardens give us a higher level of mental, spiritual and physical well being. Gardening has long been recognized for its therapeutic powers. Many hospitals now have ‘healing’ gardens. They are used in treatment for rehabilitation and the physically and mentally disabled. Retirement homes regularly encourage their residents to help with the gardening chores and to cultivate a plot of land. Numerous experiments have shown that people are not only happier when they maintain some contact with the nature, but also demonstrably healthier. Even getting dirty is good for you. Bacteria in the soil triggers the defensive immune reactions. And while stress is not new; it is a part of the human experience; what has changed is that we rarely get a chance to escape from it. Gardening slows you down, brings you peace of mind, and gives you time for reflection. It serves as an escape from feelings of tension, anxiety and alienation.

In the garden, we learn very important principles of ecology – that everything is connected to everything else. In healthy gardens we will see an abundance of birds and beneficial insects. We learn about the cycle of life, and will take care to not destroy part of the ecology on which all life depends. In gardens, where nothing is hurried, we learn patience. We learn to appreciate the daily and weekly and seasonal states of flux that are inherent in gardening. We gain self esteem for gardening triumphs, and humbleness from knowing that we are not in ultimate control. By being an active participant in the garden, we become aware of problems before they get out of control.

We express ourselves in the way we design, plant, tend and use our gardens. By creating a garden that reflects you, it will evolve as you evolve. As it evolves, it will provide private pleasure as well as become a gathering place for entertaining friends and family. I encourage you to discover the healing, restorative power of the garden.

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