Gardening is an activity – a thing you do. You mow the grass, you plant bulbs, weed the weeds, sow seedlings, trim hedges and if the gardening has been good to you, you pick flowers, fruit and vegetables.
You may garden in a small town garden like I do; I can sometimes see or hear my neighbours beyond the walls and fences, around the trees. You create a few patches of privacy in your garden, a spot where you can sit and relax, to unwind or just simply sit and survey your leafy land.
I garden on an allotment, where I have my own plot but as there are another 100+ plots on site I garden communally. That has it’s bonuses as well as a few drawbacks. The positives outweigh – the learning from others, the helping hand or getting to know your wider community. Let alone the spare or unwanted plants of this and that left near the gate, free to the first person to pass to give them a new home.
Humans are social beings, we live together, we learn together, we work together. We don’t live in splendid isolation, but once we shut the doors to our homes, and wander into our gardens, our terrace or onto our balcony, we can be somewhere else altogether. Our own Eden if you like. Within that social hubbub, we also practice solitary acts, we need time alone or away. And within all this there are those who are isolated, alone yet in amongst us.
I look at the plant world, with weeds competing for space, trees and shrubs competing for light and water, flower heads reaching higher, strawberry suckers growing out on and on to find a new patch of ground to settle their roots into. As I consider all this competition in the natural world, I turn to look at humanity in the garden and I see the creative. Humans have a desire to create, to express themselves like no other animal. We create gardens of Tropicana, Cottage, Italianate, Persian, Cactus or container. We build arbors, rockeries, ponds and water features, arrange planting combinations to please our eyes, or accept what nature decides will grow where, we create paths to lead us down and round, trees to shade us, roses and jasmine planted amuse and arouse our scents.
We write about our gardens in poems and novels, we paint and draw what we see, whether it’s interpretative, literal or figurative, we photograph, we film, we sing a song of praise or mourn, we sculpt and we create.
We are connected to our gardens, public or private, we communicate our pleasures and frustrations, we dream about improvements, we learn from our mistakes, we celebrate our achievements.
Call it a social desire, to garden. Originating from the basics of gardening and growing to feed our families throughout history and on through the ages and technological developments, through travel and exploration, through science and art to the here and now of the 21st century.
It all leads me to think about the humanity of gardening, of the social; I’m a gardener at heart, I’m a social being, a dweller of this planet; as a human I have the need to create and beautify, the need to express myself. I also have that luxury, I live in the UK, am safe and sound, have my health and education, have my friends and family.
I started the blog in a bubble, a vague idea to capture gardening and seed saving; using technology to show-and-tell, a diary if you will and as it progressed I realised there was a need to capture and express, something that had been buried deep from years of working and simply living. This desire was there, fuzzy, out of focus and un-recognised, to share my love of gardening and all that it can bring. To enrich my life and maybe touch others.
Technology enables me to be a much more sociable gardener; yes I may do the actual gardening by myself, alone on the garden or in a community on the allotment, but the show-and-tell element is purely social.
And as I sit down at my computer this morning, a cup of tea to my right hand, I realise I still have plenty to say, the words flowing from my mind to my fingertips; too much really for one post so I’ll follow up on the sociable gardener later, I want to think about technology and creativity, the human and the artist, the need to feed and the need to create.
As the seasons change, I seem to be in a reflective mood, as vines die back and bean pods fill, as meals are made of beans and the late summer crops, I hope you indulge me in my reflections.
Wherever you are today I hope the sun shines for you and that you manage to see and enjoy some greenery in your life too.