Gardening with Soul
by Teresa Watkins (twatkins(at)mail.ifas.ufl.edu)
I am a gardener. You can ask my family, my neighbors, my friends and fellow employees, my constant companion, Sheila, a wheaten Scottie, and even my three cats, Pitter, Dribbles, and Kitten, a 17-lb Siamese. They will all tell you, "Oh, yes, Teresa is a gardener". Well, the cats will just purr. I garden from within. My inner feelings tell me what and where to plant. My gardens show what a complicated human being I am. They are always in transition, constantly changing, and I'm spoiled. In a good way, that is. Looking for hours through gardening magazines or watching HGTV, I see gardens that set my passions afire.
Unfortunately, I have a hard time hearing the word "no" or "you can't grow that here." That is why I have a variety of garden beds. You can meander through the flowers and shrubs, walking on stone pathways and alleés that keep the gardens separated. I have some with color themes. Others have unique qualities like fragrances, specific flower types, and sun requirements like a shade garden. There are redbud trees, roses, Italian and Arizona cypresses, wisteria blooming on a arbor, bird sanctuaries, rock walls, two goldfish ponds and a gazing ball circle for the fairies to romp in during a full moon. There are esplanades to various gardens, such as a cottage garden, a rose garden, and a rickety wooden gate leading to a secret imaginary "Crape Myrtle Lane".
My children, when they were younger, would call them the "Ooh Aah" gardens. When guests would come over, it would be a ritual after dinner to walk through the different avenues and point out Mother Nature. As you walked through, you might see a royal purple tibouchina in full bloom and say "ooh". Then as you turn a mysterious corner, you espy a birdhouse. Peeking inside quietly, you see a mother towhee inside waiting patiently to hatch her eggs. The feathered creature is so close, it takes your breath away, and you say "aah". Mind you, she is, also breathing a sigh of relief as you leave to carry on in your adventures. As you walk through your yard, it is your persona that you are revealing because gardens define an individual. This site will be about how to make a garden become a reflection of you, your home life and your own distinct style.
By gardening in Central Florida, I have learned a lot from schooling, and from working along side knowledgeable people, but experience in my own gardens has been the best teacher. Just getting my hands dirty and seeing what grows. Every garden is unique with a multitude of choices in soils, plants and themes. Finding your garden theme is as easy as seeing what brings a smile to your face. Try it the next time you walk through yours' or a friends' garden. Think of some of the questions you should ask yourself. What kind of personality does the garden have? Does it have a vitality that emanates even when you are not there? Does it make you feel peaceful or energetic? Does it bring a smile to your face? Does it fill your heart with joy? Are the shrubs maintenance-simple, (no plant is maintenance-free) that only bloom once a year or do they have multicolored blossoms that require frequent deadheading to keep blooming? Are the hedges aligned in straight rows or is it rambling, scattered here and there with the flowers blooming in between, where the birds and squirrels wanted them? Are the colors exciting or are they monotones that soothe the spirit? When you find what you would like to have in your garden, then you can start planning and designing.
Finding what brings peace and joy to your heart is important after a hard day at work, or just living in our intense world. Walking through your garden at the end of the day can rejuvenate you. I wonder if God, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva, Gaia or whatever Supreme Being you have come to know, looks down on the Garden that He or She created with all the different varieties of life and "oohs and aahs "? It is a curious thought, but I think so.
Gardens revitalize your spirit. They can be a harbor for silent reflection or a gymnasium blast of energy to enrich your life. The possibilities are endless. In future articles, I will be talking about designs, helpful gardening rules of "Green Thumb" to follow and a plethora of plant possibilities and choices. Gardening can be whatever you need it to be for your spirit. And a rejuvenated spirit is good for your Soul.