University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

If you don't garden, why not?  Read on and you may find something you are missing.  If you garden already, perhaps the reasons I garden may help you think of your own, and help you appreciate your own gardening efforts even more.

Being a visual person, I always seem drawn first to the beauty a landscape, even a simple container, provides.  Beauty may be seen in the artistic form of a tree in winter, or a bold bed of annuals. Perhaps you like just the mass displays, or the simple gardens, the natural ones, or the formal ones.  There can be beauty in gardens for any personality.

Paintings appeal to the visual sense, music to the sense of hearing.  Musical plays appeal to both senses of sight and sound.  A sculpture may appeal to the senses of sight and touch. Where most artforms only appeal to one or two senses, and can be totally and intensely enjoyed for the depth they provide to those senses, gardening is complex and offers something to all the senses beyond just beauty.

Consider the sense of taste.  You can eat plants.  Vegetables and fruits have their own beauty as well, and can be designed artistically, or combined with strictly ornamental plants.  Some flowers can be eaten, which most may not realize or try, such as nasturtiums and daylilies.  Just make sure before sampling in your garden you do your research, and know what you're eating, that it can be eaten safely, and that it hasn't been sprayed with any chemicals.

You can feel the textures of leaf surfaces, appealing to the sense of touch.  Raised beds with soft or rough leaves are popular in gardens for the visually impaired.  There is something about plants such as lamb's ears with their white, almost furry leaves, that makes you want to touch them.  Gardens for touch are especially appealing to children.

There is the fragrance of flowers, even of some leaves such as of herbs.  Then there is the sound of gardens, whether it be of grasses rustling in the wind, a water feature, or birds.  I even add further sound in the form of outdoor speakers to play my favorite music to accompany my mood, to enhance the visual beauty.

In addition to appealing to all the senses, gardening is satisfying, both in the process and the end result.  For several decades now, gardening has been used as form of therapy for those physically challenged, as a form of rehabilitation.  This is the field of Horticultural Therapy.

A garden just planted or weeded, under control for however brief, provides a sense of security and stability while the world around may seem in chaos. I often find just keeping the lawn mowed provides satisfaction, a sense of control, a sense of accomplishment when the rest of the day may seem to have been wasted.

Gardening provides a creative outlet. Unlike other creative arts, plants grow and landscapes mature, making them continual works in progress.  You must not only design for now, but also visualize what your creation will look like over the fourth dimension of time.  In this sense you have a continually changing work of art with perhaps a fleeting enjoyment, or an enjoyment which changes with the plants in their life cycles.

Gardening provides education.  You are continually learning.  This is often referred to as the science of gardening, trying various plants in various locations to see how they perform.  If a plant grows poorly or dies, maybe you need to try again over a different season, a different year.  In science we call this "replication."  Or you may need to experiment with the variables of different soils, different light.  Your trials may also involve art, learning which combinations work over time for your own tastes, and which don't.

Gardening provides exercise.  This can be as strenuous or aerobic as you want to make it.  Studies have shown the benefits to the body of gardening exercise.  Just as you can exercise all the muscles in gardening as you can in a health facility, so should you follow similar stretching, warm-ups, and precautions to avoid injury.

So when I'm asked why I have a passion for gardening, I have to answer for the beauty and sensual delights, the satisfaction, the creative outlet, the education, the exercise.   Do any of these appeal to you?

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