Country Roads
Country Roads

Growing a garden is much more than just landscaping your home. A garden is a form of self-expression, it's an artistic endeavor, and it's an act that can bring inspiration to many other parts of your life. Recently, we've been reflecting on all the different ways that gardening can influence one's approach to living.

Growing a garden can help you eat better. Once you start growing some of your own food - veggies, fruit and herbs - an amazing thing often happens: you want to eat it! Barbara Kingsolver wrote a fantastic book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that captures a year she and her family spent eating only food they grew or raised, or that was grown and raised locally. Her descriptions of the food they grew and the processes they went through to do so are incredibly beautiful, and you can really appreciate how the act of gardening and of farming really inspired a significant lifestyle shift for her entire family.

You don't need to run out and get a huge plot of farm land to make this happen. Growing just a few cool-season veggies (spinach, broccoli, eggplant and chard, just to name a few) in pots on your patio can be all the inspiration it takes to get you cooking more, eating healthier and feeling more connected in general.

Growing a garden can inspire you. When stuck on a certain aspect of work or an art-related project, I'll often go work in my own garden, trimming, pruning, cleaning, planting. There is something in that motion, in that act of creating, that really helps you work through other parts of your life where you might feel a bit "stuck." Gardening is a creative act, much like cooking and knitting and so many other activities that we take for granted. The process of designing a garden can seem intimidating, but really, it is no different than doing some sketching or painting in a worn notebook: Yes, a few pages might not turn out all that great, but you can always go back and fix it, change it up, add to it, or amend it. Nature is remarkably forgiving! Figuring out what plant will grow well next to other plants, playing with color, texture and shape, and even fragrances, is an incredibly creative process that can inspire and influence many other aspects of life.

Growing a garden can lead to new hobbies. I was reading the blog of author Susan Tomlinson: It's a fabulous blog centered around her garden, but is really more about her teaching, her cycling, her travels and her writing - all of which spring from what she creates in her garden. She has written a fantastic book, How to Keep a Naturalists Notebook, which is full of reflections and observations on nature, sketches and the like, all of which, again, came from this passion for gardens.

Recently, a friend and I were out on an early-morning bike ride on the path in Long Beach, when we encountered a large group of people standing together using cameras with telephoto lenses. We asked them what they were up to, and they excitedly told us about the rare seagull they were hoping to spot that morning. We were struck by the passion they had for what they were doing, and the appreciation they had for the beauty of this bird they seemed to covet. Bird watching might not be your thing, but there is something to be said about living a life with your eyes open, and noticing what happens all around you. Gardens are great places to figure out how to do that, as they change every day, with subtle hints given to those who look closely.

Often times, we overlook those opportunities that lie right before us. I like to apply this philosophy to my physical surroundings as well. What opportunities are in the ground, in little plots of land waiting to be planted, to act as a springboard for creativity, or to grow food or to inspire? Somewhere, we all have a garden that is waiting to be planted!

Brande Jackson is the owner of Johnnye Merle's Gardens, located in Country Roads in Old Town Orange. She is also an art teacher and offers classes on art, creativity and gardening.

204 West Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92866 / 714-532-3041

Published in the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Brande Jackson

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