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Garden Discipline

When I fell in love with gardening, my passion inspired single-minded dedication. I spent all my time gardening, and never worried about what needed to be done next: I just put one foot in front of the other and the work seemed to flow.

Eventually other loves began to compete, and I had to juggle my time. I discovered I could no longer simply flow through garden tasks; I noticed preferences, and wanted to do those that were easier, or more fun. But they weren't necessarily what the garden needed most just then.

Like any commitment, a garden requires discipline. You keep at it whether you feel like it or not. In the long run, you reap satisfaction far greater than if you follow the whim of the moment.

Each task has its needful time. I got my amaryllis out of dormancy this year in time for winter bloom, but they're not developing any flower buds, probably because I didn't fertilize them last summer. If I don't stop indulging my fascination with studying new plants, and get my seed order in soon, I'll lose the window for winter sowing outdoors, to avoid damping-off. You can buy whole calendars full of garden reminders. But if you learn to watch carefully, and keep records, you can make a better one for yourself.

Under the discipline to accomplish tasks, lies training my mind itself — in what I think of as "active faith," sometimes described as "courage to change the things I can, faith to accept those I can't." Though I plan the garden and work to bring my design about, though I feed and tend the plants, I have to also trust the garden, trust the Earth. Plants will thrive if they're suited to the conditions I can provide. If they don't, I need to let them go.

It's a balancing act between daring to dream and to begin new projects, even to move on and try something else when one fails ... and cultivating the patience to let Mother Earth do her part. Two amaryllis are not sprouting at all, though I water them the same as the others who broke dormancy weeks ago. How long should I keep trying?

The discipline to do what needs to be done, do what I can, and then let go, frees me from worrying about what I didn't do. I enjoy my garden more — indeed, my life.

© Copyright 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 3 February 2006

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