Story by Dr. Cheryl Boyer, photos by Jefferson Bryant
It’s not too late to get some plants in the ground or in a container. I’ve found myself scrambling to do my own gardening this year. April’s weather was eclectic and May was jam-packed with all kinds of end-of-school events. I did manage to fill a few containers on my birthday, but my flower beds are woefully empty. I imagine I am not alone in my desire to plant something and I’ve been telling myself that it’s just a matter of time…I’ll get to it. In the meantime, I’ve been admiring the fresh, lush growth of trees, shrubs, and perennials wherever I see them.
Notably, I’ve seen quite a few public planting containers with annual flowers in them. This means that people are thinking about color and about gifting their presence to others who might happen to walk by. Whether they notice or not, most folks feel closer ties to their communities and pride in their public places when ornamental plants are present. Think about it…if there weren’t any plants in your public spaces—at all—what would that feel like? Might it feel just a little harsher, tougher, and less cheerful? Even “big city” folks make an effort to bring landscaping nearer their high-rise buildings. The presence of plants has been documented to increase physical and mental health for people nearby, reduce stress, contribute to healthy aging, improve quality of life, and much more.
So what’s keeping you from planting something? Some say that the term “gardening” isn’t cool anymore. Even though many people continue to be drawn into the love of getting their hands dirty through the desire to grow their own food, they don’t want to be called a “gardener.” I also think there is some confusion about where to buy plants. Google Trends showed me “trees for sale,” “fruit trees,” and “garden plants” as popular searches. If you were looking for a place to purchase a plant, what would you think of? For me, of course, I think of “garden center,” but do you? What about “plant store”? This is an industry-wide question and I/we welcome suggestions from folks who find the identity of plant-related activities, well, lacking. Please, do share your ideas.
As a young person, I remember easily confusing the terms “annual” and “perennial”. It was honestly a mess of jargon for me. Now, of course, I know loads of jargon and terminology and find it easy to forget what it felt like to not know what to call things (uncomfortable and ignorant, in the most innocent of ways—I loved gaining all of that knowledge about plants). For the record, annuals are tender plants that complete their life cycles in one year and need to be replaced yearly (or seasonally—fun!), and they often have incredibly showy floral displays. Perennials last more than one year, often many years. Technically trees and shrubs are also perennials, but we generally talk about those types of plants comparatively—woody vs. non-woody. Trees and shrubs would be called “woody plants” with above-ground structures that are visible year round and perennials are plants that return year after year, but generally die back to the ground (or above-ground portions are no longer viable) in the winter.
Are there aspects of gardening that overwhelm you? Truly, I want to know. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to share my love of gardening with other people. The term “gardener” doesn’t bother me and I’m quite proud to have a lovely garden that everyone walking through my neighborhood can enjoy. They are often amazed that I, a relatively young person with two young kids (Oh, boy, my son turns 6 this month!) manages such a beautiful space. But I do, with not nearly as much time and effort as most people think. I just wish I could make more time to work out there. However, I am content with the time I do get to garden in this season of life with little kids and I’m grateful that I still have lots to look forward to as a “gardener for life.”
What about you? Do you have a plan in place to plant something? You really don’t have to have a plan, just grab what catches your eye when you see it. Find a spot for it and enjoy it.