A Garden Is Always Changing

by Gibblet10/4/16

“You make me realize, Gibbett, that it isn’t truly a garden unless it’s a garden-in-progress. A garden is always changing.” — Brad Nelson

There was a song we sang in high school choir, “The River”. It had a haunting legato that brought to mind Washington’s Mighty Columbia River. The lyrics went something like, “Rushing onward, yet ever the same. Reaching outward, yet still to remain constant.”

Can a garden be compared to a river? Perhaps. Certainly it seems the constant influx of weeds can flood a garden if one does nothing to stem the flow. And the Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes I plant definitely do reach outward (15 feet in each direction along a fence last year) with a constant flow of fabulous bite size fruits. I have to call them fruit, not only because technically they are fruit, but because they are so sweet they could be called nature’s candy.

Like a river, a garden has its seasons: its high times, and its low times; its turbulent times, and its calm times. I was eager to get the veggie gardens started this spring, especially since we had an unusually warm and sunny April. However, April was followed by a typically cool May, so I ended up getting to start the seeds twice. So much for misguided enthusiasm. Next year I will stick to a friend’s sound advice to not plant seeds until the rhododendrons start to drop their blossoms (thereby indicating that the ground is sufficiently warm for successful germination of healthy plants). Or, in river terms, don’t head out onto the ice during the spring thaw!

A garden is like a river, also, in that sometimes it changes course. For example, I have decided to convert part of my veggie garden into a nursery of sorts, in order to feed a growing passion for propagating plants. The wellspring of this passion is a Japanese Maple tree growing in front of our local post office.

Ten or twelve years ago I collected from under the tree a dozen little sprouts in a discarded styrofoam coffee cup. I took them home, potted them, and pretty much neglected them all these years except for an occasional watering. Now, having grown from 2 inches to about 5 feet, I feared they wouldn’t survive much longer in the meager dirt allotted to each small pot. So I’ve been distributing these feral upshots amongst relatives (they are after all my babies, and should stay in the family).

Much like a river evokes a sense of peace, even as it changes the landscape around it; a garden is a place of peace and change, not just for the plants, but for the gardener as well. I have realized that the process of nurturing a little start, watching it grow into a viable plant, and then establishing its place in the landscape satisfies some instinct – perhaps in a maternal way, or maybe a similar innate manifestation. After all, the original plan God had for Adam was to maintain The Garden (Genesis 2:15). Though the maples survived their upbringing, I hope to raise new little plants in a more intentional way: giving them good soil, plenty of water, space to grow, and an occasional pruning.

I don’t know what I will do with all the plants when they mature, but I don’t need to worry about that right away. Right now the challenge is to change the course of the garden from the hectic pace of sprouting, struggle, and harvest, to a place with a slower pace where things of a more permanent nature and enduring value are grown. Therein lies the bedrock of my soul.

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