A social gardener

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.


  • Claire, your words are beautiful, poetic. I can almost visualize your gardening becoming a novel filled with people and plants experiencing and enjoying the social. Write it!

  • Lovely post, Claire…
    Recently, I was in an online discussion where people were sharing memories of a tragic event. One post-er asked, “Why do you people DO this every year?” My response (and I’ve done a lot of thinking about it in the weeks since) was that ever since humans developed the ability to communicate, we have told stories and shared experiences ’round our cookfires, dining room tables, and any other place where we gather. The internet is the biggest campfire ever, and our stories will go on….
    I’m so happy to be part of your garden, from halfway ’round the world!

  • I had never thought about the social aspects of gardening but that makes sense. It is certainly one of the factors behind my buying club participation. Will think of you as I pick my tomatoes today!

  • Oh dear Claire what a beautiful written piece and how poetical touches of the words and thoughts… There is a lot of things to learn from your gardening. Makes me excited now. I mean in the garden of our new house, I want to make something maybe not same as yours but I am a learner now 🙂 Thank you my dear beautiful soul, friend, dear Claire. Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

  • Claire, this is a wonderful post…beautiful writing, glorious photos and a truly grand message! I’m so glad you’re out there…gardening and socializing with us. Thank you!

  • This is such a lovely post Claire… your words really do flow, and I can feel your reflective mood. I hope you have had some sunshine today too – it’s a cool but sunny autumny day here. 😀

  • A very heartfelt and tender post Claire! We all started our blogs in a bubble and the bubble burst wide open with our stories and photos. As one of your loyal followers I can say I am very glad to be part of your garden journey!

    • Deb, ye the bubble has burst wide open and as one of the first people I connected with it’s so special, even more so when you consider we are all still here a year or more on !! Oh and I’ve been sorting the seed packets out for you 😉

  • Claire, Your words and pictures have struck a chord in my heart strings. Thank you for giving words to a life process that is even more wonderful when shared! God bless,

    • so kind of you Shenandoah, so kind. And I have got your email, I’m just massively behind dealing with things !!! But I did have a wonderful day off today, back to work tomorrow, and responding to correspondence 🙂

  • Social gardening is not what I’m familiar with as, from my background, the primary goal of gardening was to get food on the table or to grow crops to be sold to others. In pouring rain or searing heat, necessary tasks were completed in response to the plants’ needs.

    I know that my father took great pride in the produce/vegetables he grew in our home gardens over the years. I can still remember him walking by a particular specimen, admiring its colour and size, removing discoloured leaves that may have prevented the sun from reaching the burgeoning fruit and tying back plants onto supports so that they could grow as high as possible. Two years ago when he passed his garden was left fallow and I still regret not being able to keep it up.

    For my mother, flowers were a particular favourite and she couldn’t abide seeing a stray weed in her walks out of the yard, especially when we were on our way somewhere. My mother just passed away this past Sunday (Sept 16) and her love of gardening was one of the many things celebrated by her friends and family.

    Thank you for reminding me of our two family gardeners and the encouragement that your posts give me to do a bit more myself.

    • thank you for sharinng such special memories. Of your dad and mum with their different pleasures and pride in their garden. I’m so sorry about your mum, but I do believe that its those memories that both make and sustain us. It’s many years ago since my mum died, and I stil use her trowel and hand fork, and hope to always do so, but it’s the memories which are truly precious.

  • Well said. Yes, gardening is solitary and social, and far more satisfying if you have both elements. I don’t garden in an allotment, but I meet lots of neighbors, and their dogs, while working in the front yard garden beds. We garden to create something beautiful, but we want that beauty to be appreciated by others. It’s even better it it can be appreciated by those who are equally passionate, and I think that’s where garden blogs come in. Thanks for the post.

    • I’f forgotten to mention our friends, family and neighbours seeing our efforts first hand, so thank you. I miss having a front garden, we only have steps and then stright onto the pavement, you always get chatting to people when you work in the front, it’s such a lovely excuse to stop and chat isn’t it!

  • Wonderful post, Claire. I love the solitude of gardening, but I love the community too. Common ground–literally and metaphorically–where we put aside vast differences for a great love. Makes the world a better place.

    • It does make the world a better place, we need it, I think more than we realise or give credit to.
      I find gardening good for solitude, some time to myself, for thoughts, for day dreaming and drifting off, for putting the world to rights in my head or working through a problem – so on the one hand I’m lost in my thoughts but on the other being sociable – a great balance !

  • Truly a beautiful posting. It’s surprising just how social gardening can be. That creative urge reaches out and touches everyone else and inspires. Something about a garden always encourages people to stop and talk and ask questions.

    • Hi Nancy, lovely to hear from you, and thank you! I’m with you on this, I think gardening gives people a great excuse to stop and talk, there’s an instant common ground isn’t there, something neutral to start a conversation going. Hope you have a wonderful weekend !

  • Oh what beautiful beans! It’s that time of year isn’t it, when you can’t help but reflect a little on the way time passes and how it changes things.
    (I always thought that I would be afraid to garden in an allotment because everyone would see all of my miserable failures…)

    • You know I think it’s been great for me to garden on an allotment, it makes me realise everyone has failures, yes some plots are “better” but maybe they’ve been digging that plot for 20 years, are retired but even those plots experience difficulties, lose things to a hard frost or slugs. There’s a great big leveller going on !

  • Beautifully spoken Claire! The natural world and this human social one are more lovely for the gifts you freely share. We’re grateful. and we’re inspired. Thank you Claire!

    • Hi there Spree! and thank you foryour kind words. You know sometimes the kindness I receive here is overwhelmingly gorgeous, amazing and totally unexpected – I think I should bottle it up and share it out! Thank you my friend,

  • I have a talented and wonderful friend who is able to write a beautiful, lyrical and in places poignant post. This isn’t the first such post nor must it be the last.
    Please keep sharing your thoughts, photos, successes and failures in things grown, ramblings (around the plot or your head:-)) as, it must now be obvious, everyone wants to have the joy of you sharing them with us.

    • I can only imagine California in Spetember Sharyn, but a blue sky and a breeze sound perfect to me! The weather is changing here, I had to wear a jumper today, all day…..

    • Thank you, it seems I’ve loosened up a bit now summer is over, so my mind is wandering! The red beans are Borlotti – amazing Italian shelling beans, such a bright vivid red-pink, makes picking so wonderfuly easy 🙂

  • What a beautiful post, Claire. You may be more introspective because of the shifts and change of seasons, but whatever the inspiration, I’m so glad you shared. You’ve given me a fresh perspective on how lovely it is to share not only the gifts from the garden, but the communal aspect of sharing the experiences. You do that so well, Claire. Lovely indeed! D

    • Thank you Debra, it’s odd how the thoughts come to you as you sit down to write a post, not really knowing where you are going with it, or what will be written. usually I have a photo that kicks start a post, but this time my thoughts had been wandering and rambling ! thank you for taking the time to read and coment, as always its so very much appreciated 🙂

  • Enjoyed your reflections… but couldn’t help thinking that try as we may, ultimately, we know ourselves so subjectively… how could a spider know what we saw in a chance pool of light passing through his well developed web… or an oyster know of our appreciation of pearls…

  • Words that so aptly describe that wonderful feeling of creating and then enjoying the fruits of our creation, whether they are the visual beauty of flowers and trees or the edible delights of fruit and vegetables. Or merely watching the cat sit in a patchwork of sun on the balcony because he likes to be close to whatever it is we are doing, another sociable creature 🙂 A lovely post to start the day and more to come too.

    • Thank you for your words and thoughts, the picture you paint of the cat in a patchwork of sun to be close to another sociable creature captures it perfectly. Thank you again !

    • Thanks Tanya, it’s shelling bean season here! Well if I coul dget to the plot through the deluge we had today, which means it’s beans and digging season 🙂

  • This was a very interesting post to read. I live in the countryside and I’ve always wondered how it should be to have an allotment in the city. I thought there should be more envy and competition but instead you showed me collaboration and sharing.
    You seem to have quite a collection of beans, don’t you? When did you sow to harvest now?

    • Interesting what you say Alberto, Ithink there can be envy and jealousy but if it happens I don’t notice !! I just get on with what I have to do, and give praise where it’s due – there are always going to be othe rgardeners who do things differently and maybe better, in my eyes that means I can learn!
      I sow in May to plant out in early June – sometimes earlier if the weather is being kind or I cover them with cloches and material to keep them warm for the first few weeks. The shelling beans need a long season, lots of warmth in Sepetmeber always helps. And yes I started harvesting a few weeks ago and will continu eup until about mid October, before the first frosts

  • beautiful post claire, yes, gardening is a social activity like life, and you have the gift to share it with the online social world! we have justnfound a map of shared gardens in paris …. a little project for our last few days here 🙂

  • Lovely reflections here, Claire! I have often wondered at the mystery of creating and the connection with growing food and it’s fascination for all of us here. You’ve really made me stop and think today:) xx

  • What more can I say except to add to the above… lovely post.
    I’m excited to be planning a new plot for next year. And I already imagine how I want to share it physically with friends nearby and globally with my virtual friends. Virtual being a bit elusive as I feel I am in some way developing new friendships… but with people I have not and may never meet face to face. What a new world. It can be beautiful.

    • How exciting to have plans and to be able to share them. There are times when I am up on my plot and I picture my virtual friends and think of what I’m going to say on my blog, and at the same time wondering what everyone else is up to 🙂 And thank you for your kind words, we keep on encouraging each other – us bloggers – and it’s a fabulous new world!

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