The One Who Gardens


All gardens are a form of autobiography. –Robert Dash

I have always moved around a lot, living so far in 24 places in 54 years, in 18 towns, in 6 states. I never thought about gardening until I was 30 and found myself living in a newly built suburban home in Maryland, with a one-acre yard empty of all but a green lawn, a few foundation plantings, one red bud tree, one plum tree (those all thanks to the contractors) and a bit of a meadow in which we sometimes saw ring-necked pheasant.


Of all the living objects in gardens, the most easily transplantable is the gardener. –Author unknown

In the 26 years since then, I’ve gardened on 4 properties in zones 4b to 7a. I’ve used a pick axe to dig out rocks the size of a small woodstove, at least 30 times. I’ve learned heaps of botanical and common plant names and yet I consistently forget the names of wild plants I see every week or two on local hikes. I’ve learned which plants attract bees, wasps, monarchs, swallowtails, hummingbirds, aphids, deer, chipmunks, songbirds, and me. I’ve spent countless hours just looking at my plants, at the insect and bird activity on, in, and around them, and appreciating both the simplicity and complexity of habitat.


There is no “End” to be written, neither can you, like an architect, engrave in stone the day the garden was finished. A painter can frame his picture, a composer can notate his coda, but a garden is always on the move. –Mirabel Osler

Lately, I am learning about permaculture, a way of gardening similar to the ecological gardening of the 60s and 70s (and probably centuries before) but adhering to specific principles that guide not only gardening but the whole of life. My particular favourites are Observe and interact; Design from patterns to details; Integrate rather than segregate; and Use edges and value the marginal. The ones I struggle with are  Obtain a yield and Produce no waste.

“I’m not really a career person. I’m a gardener, basically.”

— George Harrison

4 Comments on “The One Who Gardens

  1. Sorry if you end up with two similar comments from me – my system did a bit of a hiccup but basically I wonder if I could copy an article of yours for my students who I am teaching to blog?

  2. Just one comment appeared, Helen! Of course you can, with attribution to the blog URL. Thanks for asking.

  3. I’m in a similar space in my gardening. Permaculture just feels right. I’m learning about soil biology and composting options. I’ve been rebuilding hard Georgia clay into perennial gardens with pathways defined by water flow paths.

    Just found your blog and am enjoying your detail. That’s the wonder part. You couldn’t dream it up.

  4. Debbie, lots of clay in my yard as well. Plants with deep tap roots help to break it up but it’s a process. Would love to see your pathways built where water naturally flows.

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