I don’t know about you, but it brings me great peace and pleasure to see a garden beautifully landscaped. I enjoy strolling through the cheerful exuberance of an English cottage garden as much as I do the quiet and disciplined formal grounds. I marvel at the astonishing variety of unique shapes, sizes, colors and textures woven together in a tapestry of breath-taking beauty. There is a feeling of wholeness, of roundedness, of fullness that sinks deep into my bones and innermost, washing away all trace of anxiousness and disquiet.
I marvel too at the skill and dedication of the gardener. How is it that he or she knows what goes where to get the most of the sun or shade, what is planted when, what seedling is weed or flower? From where does the knowledge and experience come to know how to protect from pests, to allow something to remain undisturbed as it goes to seed, or to exercise the extraordinary patience to nurture each plant to its fullest and most beautiful bloom? Which fertilizer nourishes which plant the best? Why do tulips bloom best when they are planted this far down in the soil? How do they know how and where to cut lettuce so that it continues to yield a crop? What is the best technique for pruning a dogwood? They seem to connect with every detail in the complexity of gardening. They are horticultural maestros. Seed whisperers, I call them.
I’m no such maestro, largely because I get anxious and impatient. I anticipate and relish the lush, and my keen undertakings to encourage its realization tend to snuff any future prospect. At best, I tend to oscillate between calm diligence, and eager hurried haste, whether in the garden, or in life. Sometimes I overwater, then underwater in anticipation of what I think the plant must need. Sometimes I fertilize when it’s been weeks since the shoot sprouted with no sign of visible growth, often over-fertilizing and burning its tender leaves and roots. Sometimes I yank it out altogether before it’s even had a chance. Sometimes I honestly forget, preoccupied with what’s happening in my life at that moment, even ignoring its withering to favor procrastination and the consequence of neglect appears. Perhaps a mental picture of my garden is coming into focus! Many a seedling has quivered in fear at the prospect of receiving such distracted, scattered and unreliable attention! If potted perennials could sprout legs and run, there’d be a stampede to freedom beyond my garden’s gate! It’s in all too often times like these that I gather all the strength within me, take a deep breath, deny the cacophony of contradicting advice, and allow myself to relax and take pleasure. Curiously, when I do, there is newfound joy and discovery. You’d think I’d do it more often!
My immature gardener’s character is mellowing. Hopefully.
The character of the Master Gardener, though, is fully mature. Like any superb gardener, He is fully experienced, consistent and persistent. He knows what he is doing. He has a plan. A very good plan. He is The Expert Landscaper and Soil Specialist. He is always filled with eager and ingenuous creativity and lavish joy, focused on His clear and strong vision of coming splendour in His sights as He prunes or uproots, clears for a new plot, transplants or fertilizes, or whispers life into the seed that He tenderly plants and affectionately waters. He is never frustrated, never complains. He is forgiving, looking upon missteps as possibility for fresh starts and new growth. He is reliable and thoroughly relishes what He is doing. He has a sharp eye, a kind heart, and a strong determination to see His project through to its end, persistently training climbers to climb, creepers to creep, and tare roots to relinquish their hold on the lush soil. There is nothing that escapes His notice, and He has a clear view, grasp and control of every detail in the interconnecting vista before him. He is The Horticultural Maestro. Oh the relief!
It has been said that the activity of gardening has a positive effect on us, and can help transform us into better people. I like that, don’t you? I believe the Master Gardener knows it, likes it, and wills it for us too.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29: 11 (NIV)
Soil and Seed