Lessons From The Garden, So Far

The garden is full of lessons, just waiting for us to learn them.

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.


  1. My twenties taught me that gardening is hard, sweaty work. But so worth it, of course;)

    My thirties are teaching me that control in the garden is an illusion. Rather humbling.

    Christine in Alaska

  2. What a delightful and thought provoking post, Carol! You, and your ideas about gardening have come a long way. Thanks for sharing that knowledge with us. :-)

  3. You're lucky to have discovered the joy of gardening so young. Oddly enough, I was surrounded by gardeners my whole life, but I never even gave it a passing thought. I didn't start gardening until I was in my 30's, and I love it so much. Now in my late 40's, it consumes my days, and I can't believe I wasted so many years NOT gardening.
    What a wonderful post!

  4. So many lessons, so little time which is relative. Maybe by the time we are in our eighties we will feel like 'real gardeners'.

  5. I look forward to hearing your lessons in your 60s, 70s, and 80s!

  6. Carol, What a delightful read! I followed along shaking my head in agreement, mulling over my own experiences as a gardener. You've said it well~We grow through and with our gardens. gail ps I use the garden as a metaphor with clients all the time

  7. The more I learn the less I realize I know about gardening...it truly is an outside classroom.

  8. Isn't this the truth. I am looking forward to so many more lessons in the garden.

  9. Very insightful Carol! Quite possibly the best take on gardening I've ever seen! :)

    My gardening theory has always been that as the garden grows, so does the gardener- always reaching for more [learning].

    Soulful it is.

  10. There is always more to learn about life, and gardnening makes it easier to learn it.

  11. I once heard someone say "Learn as if you will live forever". The garden is an amazing classroom!

  12. What a great post, and what a great topic! I also think gardening teaches you that sometimes, there are no shortcuts. The benefits of hard work. The virtue of patience.

  13. Hello,
    That's why I love to be in my garden, because I learn every day something new.

  14. what a very lovely post, including the disclaimer "my very early fifties"
    In my twenties I learned what a pain in the behind I was to my parents when I was a toddler-harvesting the vegetables at the baby stage etc.

  15. Hi.

    All your comments as well as the post make this post interesting and enlightening. While I do enjoy my garden, I guess I don't see it so much the way you all do. Some days it's just work and others, it's pure therapy.

    My best experience is that it is a great teacher of patience. The closer it gets to harvest, bloom, or ripening, sometimes it's like time slows down.

  16. Very insightful post. I think that's what I like best about gardening - there's always something new to learn. Sometimes the lessons are painful, but it's worth it when the next lesson is a sweet one.

  17. I enjoyed your insights, Carol. What do the next decades of gardening hold for us all, I wonder?

  18. I began gardening at the age of eight on thirty foot city lot. You can imagine how small it was but I planted corn, rhurbarb and carrots around the catch basin. My dad said they were the best he had ever tasted.

    I was hooked after that and still a continual garden learner.


  19. I envy those of you who learned to love gardening young. I always associated it with just weeding, which I hated as a child. I didn't get my first garden until I was in my mid thirties, but was immediately hooked by the feeling of earth between my fingers and the excitement of watching plants I had chosen grow and develop, transforming a wasteland of field grass into a garden.
    I was in my forties before I discovered growing things from seed, and learned to love that even more than choosing plants from a nursery, and that home grown produce tastes so much sweater for the effort you put in to "bringing it to term". I still struggle to learn gracefully from the failures, but have learned to love the role of serendipity, most recently teaching me a whole new set of lessons about colour. Hopefully all this learning will keep us gardeners young in mind and flexible!

  20. What a lovely post. It too feel that with gardening you never top learning.

  21. A great, thoughtful post, Carol. I learned as a child and as a teen that gardening (mainly vegetables) was hard work, though the rewards were worth the effort. Having come back to serious gardening only in the last five years, I'm learning all the other lessons as fast as I can, trying to make up for lost time. But most of all, I've realized I'll never learn all there is to know about it:)


Post a Comment

Comments are to a blog what flowers are to a garden. Sow your thoughts here and may all your comments multiply as blooms in your garden.

Though there is never enough time to respond to each comment individually these days, please know that I do read and love each one and will try to reciprocate on your blog.

By the way, if you are leaving a comment just so you can include a link to your business site, the garden fairies will find it and compost it!