Saturday, January 30, 2010

Garden plans on a freezing winter’s night

I’ve got several streams of thought right now ... and they do come together.

Tonight's temperature will be well below freezing. My plan for this evening was to sort seed packages and look through catalogues. I've got garden dreams. Half an hour ago a co-worker called to tell me one of her best friends had died and to check with me that I'd be able to switch hours so she can take a day off. Of course I will.

This past December, a co-worker's husband died of cancer. In late September another friend died, although that wasn't cancer. A dear friend's mother has ALS, now. All these are gardeners.

A few days ago someone who knows I garden sent me an email about a proposed ‘cancer survivor’s garden’ going into a public park. She thought I might want to comment.

I am a believer in the healing power of gardens, on many levels. There’s even a term and a field of health care, ‘therapeutic gardening', which formalized programs to get people and gardens together. The first time I read the term was in a book written by a Canadian who worked at a treatment centre in Guelph. And there’s a lovely book called 'The Holistic Garden: creating spaces for health and healing' written by a Canadian named Karen York. Therapy gardens tend to be highly interactive. They invite people in not just to look at but to care for plants.

Often, it seems to me, that memory or 'survivor' gardens are too static. They seem to be put in as a place where the main thing a visitor will do is sit quietly and think. I dislike gardens with rows of the top ten favorite plants of lawn control companies (mulched with bark according to current garden styles).

While quiet contemplation may be pleasant, and needed sometimes, I visualize much more for such. I'm all for herbs and scents, medicinal herbs, even a few healthy vegetables to acknowledge the role of good food in a person's health. I want different heights, textures, seasons, and colour.

Also, now I'm thinking, I wonder if this proposed garden will have any ongoing programs so that there is care given by volunteers, instead of a maintenance company. And will 'survivors' be able to contribute plants? We probably all have plants that have come to us from friends or relatives, and we treasure them. I've got two rescued roses over my friend's cat Charlie, who rests near the gooseberry bushes. My cat Mackenzie is by the forsythia, in a lovely shady spot. Memorial gardens should have stories.

There’s a lot of ceremony and joy that could come from a simple ‘pot luck’ of plants being brought to a new garden and planted in whatever arrangement their height and sun requirements bring to the planting event. Let the people who come to the event talk with each other and plan, on the spot and in the moment.

Yes, tonight I'll look through the catalogues.

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