The Essence of a Garden
Are you a "lawn mower man" or a "garden steward"? 

May 14, 2010
John Stuart Leslie
 

A garden serves a purpose for most gardeners who care to spend time in them whether it be for growing plants, admiring the flowers, building structures or just maintaining its appearance. But can you lose sight of what's really important, the real essence of the garden?

What kind of gardener are you? Does your garden reflect your attitudes in life? Take a look at what you call your garden or landscaping and see how much of it you intentionally created in order for it to look that way. What things did you do to create certain feelings that you knew you would get while experiencing the garden?

mona lisa lawn

Do you have a garden because it came with the property and you are simply maintaining its appearance so it doesn't become unsightly? Do you appreciate its natural beauty, its plants and layout? Do you spend time in the garden just sitting and contemplating the sights and smells?

Many people claim they want to get back to nature and enjoy more of the natural landscape as a wondrous miracle of sheer beauty we all call the "environment". Our gardens can be that Nature, that miraculous scene filled with wonder and awe. Nature itself is the essence of most gardens. It is what draws us outside to commune with that force, that creation that is far superior to us as humans living within its order.

With supreme power and control over the environment in which we live, Nature does what it wants and we are at its mercy. One day we may experience thunderous storms and winds and the next day absolute tranquility and singing birds.

A garden's appearance reveals your attitude towards nature and a reflection of your personality as well. People that like formal, well maintained manicured gardens fall into the category that (in my opinion) that man has dominion over nature. That nature is there for man to conquer, to use for His purposes. The expansive lawn is a reflection of this type of garden ideology. Now if your property was denuded of all natural vegetation when the house was built, you certainly have all options available to do what you want with the landscape.

People that prefer more informal type gardens with an abundance of plants typically value Nature as a source of beauty and have a greater sense of reverence for Nature. They see the connection they can get to Nature through a single plant, a single flower or leaf. They enjoy digging in the soil, nurturing their plants, observing the growth of their little contribution to the greater wholeness of Nature.

All humans have a natural reverence for nature, its just that some people view Nature as something that is not sacred, as though there is a right to manipulate it and harvest its resources. Such people see mountain tops as something to climb and stand on top of as though claiming they are higher, and thus closer to God than the mountain itself, although for a brief moment. Or it could be that they are challenging themselves, in reverence to Nature. They may feel upon their achievement, grateful and feel a soulful connection  because it requires an intimate knowledge and understanding of Nature to be able to ascend the mountain without injury or failure - as though Nature gave them permission, and thus they feel privileged.

This reverence for Nature along with a recognition of its sacredness and sensitivity to being destroyed is a reflection of how we see ourselves a part of Nature. We try to offset our destructive tendencies by setting aside wilderness, open space, sanctuaries and forests, but we tend to neglect the environments we live closest to.

We tend to only value what is literally in our "backyards". So as we recreate our little slice of heaven in our backyards, we can recapture our inherent connection with nature by treating it with respect, by nurturing its growth and development of that which we plant.

If you see your garden as an "outdoor living space", maybe its time to get more value out of it and start to look at it as your own piece of Nature and something you are here to take care of as the Garden Steward. Perhaps you will not have to go so far to get back to Nature, because your attitude will take you there immediately.

Related article: The Soul of a Garden

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