Imperfecting the Perfect Garden

The other day I was reading a blog post at Gardening 4 Dummies about the decline of gardening as a pastime, which made me think of another blog post at Calendula & Concrete I read about schools having gardens. I think that both of these posts are related and I think it has to do with the increasing amount of “Keeping up with the Jones”.

A little while ago, I overheard two mothers talking to each other about cooking. One commented that she does not cook because it messes up her kitchen. My brain skipped a wave while trying to comprehend that statement. This wasn’t even a case of “I don’t like to cook”, which I could understand. Had the appearance of the kitchen become more important than the enjoyment found in cooking a meal? Apparently, in some circles, it had.

In this world of bigger houses, bigger cars and my clothes are cooler than yours, I think that gardening has become an unwitting victim of this mentality. I think that many people have adopted a line of thought that tells them that they should either have a perfect garden or not bother.

It’s hard not to have these thoughts. Gardeners are bombarded with garden porn everywhere they turn. Every magazine we read, every show we watch and every talk show we listen to makes us feel that we really should be experts and that we really should have every blade of grass and flower in its place.

We even do it to each other. Some gardeners will sneer at gardens that are acts of love rather than acts of design. Or will chide a fellow gardener who does not wholeheartedly throw themselves into their garden. These attitudes work towards dampening the excitement a new gardener feels for their garden.

This trickles down to our children, too. I learned my love of gardening from my mother who in turn learned it from her parents. I have to admit, I hated helping my mother garden when I was child and it wasn’t till I had my own apartment that my love for plants finally bloomed. But without the foundation my mother gave me for it, would I have even tried it?

And here is where the schools are stepping in. With the decline of home gardeners, many schools are building school gardens so that children can literally learn where their food comes from. The number of children who do not even know how a carrot grows is absolutely frightening.

The lessons learned in a garden go beyond watching a seedling grow. Food is not an easy thing to grow, beauty is not an easy thing to truly appreciate, back breaking hard work is an act that is becoming increasingly hard to come by and world diversity is not just about human beings.

These lessons give us insight beyond the garden plot and into the greater world around us. More and more, these lessons are being crammed into a few days at school spent in the school’s garden. All because we are too afraid that our neighbor’s yard may be just a little prettier than our own.

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