Monday, August 3, 2009

The Garden: It Nurtures the Soul as Well as the Body

I grew up with a father who loved the earth. He was a tree surgeon and became a gentleman farmer when I was about nine years old. We had a small farm on a piece of land my family purchased that allowed him to have both his business equipment on location and acreage for a garden and animals for feeding the family.

My father died of a congenital heart disease when I was 12.

What a life I had for the first three years we lived there! With farm animals, a field to play in while learning about the natural world was simply a delight for me. Nothing could be better for a curious kid and the imprint this part of my childhood played on me has proved quite strong.

When I entered high school, the opportunity to go to the local Vo-Tech was given to me and I decided I wanted to go for horticulture/floriculture and learn about being a florist so I could be near flowers and plants for the rest of my life. This department shared a building with the agriculture program and we all became Future Farmers of America.

When the school attempted to put both the horticulture/floriculture and agriculture programs together in my senior year, we all balked. How could we flower girls even attempt to repair a small engine? It wasn’t what we signed up for!

I’m amazed how farming has touched my life these past 30-some years. If only I had been open-minded and fixed that small engine, I’d be more adept at tuning up the tractor and fixing the weed eater when they stop running today.

Thankfully, my love of flowers has endured and my thoughts of farming and farmers have never changed. The work is noble and hard. I know; I’ve been fortunate enough to have done some of it myself as a real job. Today, I’ve been able to garden and bring in some veggies on a small scale to help feed my family, but I always grow some flowers.

When in school, I thought violets were my favorite flower. As I’ve grown, roses were often favored, especially the old style blooms. Peonies give that same look and a vase of them minus the ants have always been wonderful to look at. The scent of lilacs in spring is what heaven must be fragranced with, don’t you think?

However, it is my love of bright, sunny zinnias that really cheer me up in the middle of a hot, humid summer, just before tomato season happens. Mix them with the blooms of the Queen Anne’s lace and garlic chives and a few willowy stems of butterfly bush blooms and a bit of basil and you’ve got one gorgeous flower arrangement.

This year, I planted about eight zinnia plants in my vegetable garden. The variety is cut and come again and wow is that true! I’ve started collecting lab glassware and have several conical shaped beakers that I’ve used as vases and put them on the top of my stove and on a shelf with my cookbooks.

There’s just something about fresh cut flowers from your own garden that is satisfying. They not only give bursts of color, but they also provide nectar and pollen for attracting the bees which in turn help to pollinate the vegetables.

A true reward once the bean picking and cucumber and tomato harvesting is done for the night. Pick a few flowers and put them in a jar of water as a centerpiece for the dinner table makes me smile and helps nurtures the soul just as the beans and tomatoes nurture the body.


  1. טוב תודה לך נושא יותר נפלא

  2. And don't forget the hummingbirds! I know they like the trumpet type flowers but I have one who visits them all. As I was approaching the garden over the weekend I heard that little helicopter sound and there he was. I stopped to watch him as he stopped to see me- perched on the tomato cage for a few seconds. Then off he went...zinnia, zinnia, zinnia, a tiny sugar snap bud or 3, then to the Hibiscus. Passed up the zucchini flowers though.

  3. The comment above in Hebrew is my first international comment and I have had it translated by a dear friend who is a Rabbi. She tells me:
    It says, roughly, "Good. Thanks to you. Post more amazing things."
    Thanks Lionel! I'll try!