In my first decade of life, I learned that gardening is enjoyable. I watched my Dad enjoy working in his garden, growing red geraniums on the front porch and a garden full of vegetables and flowers in the back yard.
When I was in my teens, I learned that I liked gardening - that I loved gardening. I loved to sow seeds, to plant, to water, to be in a garden. I loved going to garden centers and greenhouses. I loved looking through the seed catalogs and dreaming of someday having my own garden.
When I was in my early twenties, I learned the science of gardening - how plants grew, why they grew, what grew where and perhaps as important as any lesson, how to ask questions and find answers in a garden.
In my late twenties, I learned that we don’t always get to see our harvest at the end of the season or see how big the oak tree we planted would grow after 50 years. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plant it anyway, for others to enjoy.
When I was in my thirties, I learned to appreciate the rhythm of gardening. It suits me to follow a pattern. Sow peas on St. Patrick’s Day, plant the rest of the garden in late May. Enjoy the lilacs in the spring and the brightly colored foliage in the fall. Savor the restful time of winter, and don’t sweat the trials of a hot summer. Repeat each year.
When I was in my forties, I learned that gardening is not always a solitary activity. I started a blog and began to share my thoughts on gardening. I found kindred spirits. I made connections with other gardeners that I could not have imagined earlier in life, that will now last for a lifetime.
Now in my fifties, my very early fifties, I continue to learn about gardening, about plants, about what it truly takes to make a collection of plants become a garden. I’ve learned that if you mix in a bit of humor with the dirt and give in to your eccentricities and idiosyncrasies in the garden, the garden will truly be yours.
I’ve also learned that you can’t possibly learn all there is to know about gardening in one season. That’s just laughable. Even after five seasons or even ten seasons, many people who enjoy gardening are reluctant still to call themselves real gardeners. They realize they have just scratched the surface of the vast array of lessons a garden can teach us and they have so much more to learn.
The garden is always teaching us, even after we have spent decades planting, nurturing, and coaxing it to grow. And there is no rushing it. Each lesson from the garden has its own time and place and has to be learned by doing, not be reading about it or imagining it.
So perhaps the most important lesson to learn about gardening is really quite simple... that the lessons are out there, in the garden, waiting for us to learn them.