Living Better through Horticulture

Flip open any magazine, read any newspaper, listen to the radio for a couple hours, or browse the internet and inevitably you will find a section about how to live a better life. What makes a better life? Living longer? Spending more time with friends and family? Acquiring more wealth? Losing some weight? Creating more security? Decreasing anxiety? It seems that everyone has their own set of ideas as to what would make life better for them, and their own set of priorities in regards to achieving this goal.
Often in our store, we hear testimonies of how gardening and the exercise of horticulture have increased our customers’ quality of life. Gardeners, whether newbies or professionals, share wonderful stories of their green thumb successes (and sometimes failures) with not only the garden centre crew but also with other gardeners shopping in the store; lasting friendships between nature enthusiasts are frequently created under the panorama of sky that the greenhouse glass provides. Last week, while chatting with an 86 year old friend (that I met the first time she visited our store 10 years ago as a customer), I finally realized what exactly it is that makes gardening such a life improver: it is gardening’s ability to forge connections.
Connections exist in all aspects of our lives: connections to the people around us, connections to the business world, connections to the environment, and connections to religion/ spirituality to name a few. How beneficial or detrimental these connections are seems to have a substantial impact on how we view our quality of life. The pursuit of horticulture and environmentalism in the larger sphere all serve to improve one’s quality of life through several connections; here are a few of the more obvious ones:

Personal Connections – One of the best moments of my day is when I get out my mister to water the seedlings in our production greenhouses. Warmth of the sun through the greenhouse glass, pleasant music wafting through the air, encouraging and optimistic thoughts of the beautiful plantlets trying to push through the fertile soil, childhood memories of playing in mud puddles, and the physical exertion of bending to move plant trays and pulling the hose through the greenhouses all bring me back to myself. In a world full of busy-day tasks and never-ending responsibilities, gardening simply gives my mind and body the opportunity to contentedly work in quiet unison.

Interpersonal Connections– Gardening also brings us back to each other. Forget the pressures of your job or your mortgage or even your waistband (am I the only one to pack on 10lb over winter?!), spending time chatting with others about your garden or yard projects is usually time well spent. Along with stress-busting venting about the weather, bugs, and whatever else is the horticultural beef of the day, there are many other topics of discussion that serve to enlighten and uplift us. Perhaps you are planning a deck for your back yard, or you just saw the first bunch of this spring’s daffodils in a supermarket, or you have finally gotten the slip you took off of your neighbor’s philodendron to root, or you are thinking about growing a few plants to introduce your kids to nature; whatever the discussion, the interaction and sharing of ideas between people with similar interests is good for the soul.
Community Connections – In the greater societal sphere, no man is an island. We all rely on each other to some degree in our daily lives. The news reporter, the restaurant operator, the street sweeper, the child that delivers the weekly flyers: all contributing members of society work together to make a community vibrant. The wonderful contribution that horticulture makes to community is undeniable: vibrant communities around the globe tend to be ones that have a strong mandate for horticulture and are replete with gardening clubs and urban beautification groups. Giving back to your community by participating in one of the many horticultural initiatives is a wonderful way to ensure your neighborhood and town/city remain as attractive and inspiring as you want them to be.

Financial Connections – One of the first lessons of economics is that numbers don’t lie: one plus one always equals two, just as two plus two always equals four. Gardening can make your grocery bill much lighter; a single apple tree can produce in excess of 30lb of apples in a season, a pack of pea seeds can produce 4lb of peas, a pack of beet seeds can produce 30lb of beet roots, etc.: add it all up and an average family of four can save over a thousand dollars on their grocery bill over the course of a single growing season! This added to the fact that home grown produce is substantially better for your health, and the prospect of growing a few tomatoes and cucumbers becomes a lot more enticing!

Environmental Connections – This is horticulture’s ace in the hole as we are connected to the Earth and all of its wonder through the environment. From the highest point of elevation in our atmosphere to the lowest depths of the oceanic trenches, plant life reigns supreme as it has evolved to utilize all that our earth, seas, and skies can provide. Seeing that humanity is dependent upon the many forms of horticulture (particularly food plant production) for survival, it is only in our best interest that we protect the environment. What a wonderful truth that we are all connected to one another through the Earth; equally wonderful is the opportunity that we share to make this world the best and healthiest that it can be, together!

In this pursuit of cultivating soil and growing plants, we all belong. Horticulture doesn’t discriminate or exclude; even with the gardening challenges of the day, the wonderful connections we make as a result of our horticultural pursuits are life-affirming and sustainable. When we embrace the opportunity to try our hands at growing a garden, planting a tree, or helping a neighborhood initiative of urban/ rural beautification, we invariably find that the quality of our lives improve. From enjoying increased inner peace to having a more vibrant social life to operating with a fuller wallet to enjoying cleaner air, our personal reward of living a better life is balanced by our equal contribution to society (allowing others to also live a better life…it is a terrific circle of renewal!) Practicing horticulture makes our neighborhoods better, our towns and cities better, and our success in the larger provincial, national, and international demographic is increased. So why not fill up your cup this spring? Roll up your sleeves (okay, maybe your pant legs too…and invest in some rubber boots…trust me, they are much more fun than they look) and try sticking a trowel in the dirt!

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About the author

Tricia Ingram

Tricia Ingram

Owner Cobblestone Garden Centre, designer, hort grower, writer, & educator. Language enthusiast, sports fanatic, music & arts lover, volunteer, youth advocate

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