This is the month of garden tours

During my lifetime, I’ve frequented many garden tours. Some were wild gardens; others were sculptured. Some were in cities; others were in small towns.
Some were lush vegetable gardens with lots of sun; others were in old neighborhoods with huge shade trees. Some were “secret gardens.” One was on a riverbank, and one was planted by Thomas Jefferson.
But all of them, in some way, reflected the personality of the gardener. And the same is true for my daughter, who is on the garden tour this year.
My daughter has a wild garden and one of her favourite garden books is “The Wild Garden” by Violet Stevenson, which also happens to be one of my most treasured books. Years ago, I fell in love with its thriving, luxuriant garden pictures.
When I first came to Kansas 40 years ago, I tried to grow the same vegetables and flowers that thrived in upstate New York and Edmonton, Alta.—peas and asters, roses and spinach, cabbage, and my favorite flower, carnations.
I soon learned that my spinach bolted and my peas dried up in the heat. My cabbage had to be sprayed with toxic substances. My exotic roses were hard to care for, my asters were smitten by mildew, and my carnations were scrawny.
After years of mildly disappointing gardening, I gradually renewed my interest by reading books like “The Wild Garden” and “Forest Gardening” by Robert Hart.
I found there was another alternative—growing native plants and others that really want to grow in Kansas, like coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, Swiss chard, and beautiful dame’s rocket
In other words, gardening with the environment, instead of against it.
In his book “Green Nature/Human Nature: The Meaning of Plants in Our Lives,” Charles Lewis writes, “When gardening is considered as a partnership of person and plant, a symbiotic relationship that benefits both organisms, its human importance becomes apparent.”
Lewis, who is an award-winning horticulturist, has researched people/plant interactions for 30 years. And he believes there’s more to gardening than cultivating tomatoes for lunch and beautifying your yard.
Gardening can be therapy—physical therapy and emotional therapy. Gardening is wonderful exercise, from digging holes to picking beans. It uses all of your major muscles.
And best of all, it’s cost-effective, requiring no expensive equipment.
But what is most important is the emotional component—the personal relationship with nature.
“Gardening is loved not only for what is produced in the soil but also for the joy with which it rewards each gardener,” said Lewis.
“The difference between gardening as an activity and gardening as psychological experience is the difference between what the gardener does and what the gardener feels.”
Gardens grow people, not just plants.
So regardless of your age, why not plant a garden. It doesn’t have to a big plot. Just a little flower garden by your patio or even a window box will do.
Grow a tomato plant or your favourite flowers, and reap the rewards of gardening.
And always remember what Lewis said, “Gardening is loved not only for what is produced in the soil but also for the joy with which it rewards each gardener.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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