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Falling in Love With Gardening

Gardening season is in full force and, in recent years, I find myself reflecting more deeply on my garden. What I want from it in the coming season, how my relationship to it has changed, and what this space means to me. It is through this reflection that I have been able to see how greatly this modest, unassuming hobby has changed my life. My hope is that by sharing some of my own insights from gardening, I can also show you how digging your hands in a little bit of dirt can be vital for your health and wellbeing.

My relationship with gardening certainly did not begin with love at first sight, though.

Growing up, I would spend summers at my grandmother's house in the country where she had a beautiful English style garden.

My grandma was my best friend and as a kid with not many friends, ADHD, and a huge amount of anxiety---this bond was sacred to me.

It was in these summer days that I truly felt at peace. I realize now, a huge amount of that Peace could be attributed to breathing in the fresh country air and being out of the crowded city. But, at the time I wasn't thinking about the why, I just remember feeling happy.

Despite loving my time in the country, I found the inevitable gardening component to be just plain BORING. I didn't understand how my grandma could spend dusk till dawn digging up dirt and pruning dead flowers. I would complain and complain and complain about what a waste of time it was and how I hated it (yes, I was a brat).

One summer, my grandma said if I helped her participate in an Ontario tree planting initiative, she would buy me a trampoline. I REALLY wanted a trampoline, so that trumped my dislike of gardening and I begrudgingly helped her plant hundreds of trees. In fact, we were out there for so long that multiple helicopters flew by over the course of the weeks and my grandma recently reminded me how she convinced me that they were monitoring us because they thought we were growing weed.

Before you get ahead of yourself, no...tree planting did not change my perspective on gardening. In fact, I think it made me *hate* it more because after weeks of hard work, I did indeed get my trampoline. A trampoline that only a couple weeks after purchasing blew away in a twister. One of life's great tragedies.

Despite not enjoying gardening myself, I couldn't help but notice how much my grandma loved it. It was as if her garden and her existed as a single entity. Hours would pass and to her, it only felt like minutes, often looking at her watch in astonishment that it was almost time for dinner.

She was, and still is at 91 years old, in love with her garden. She taught me that bees wont sting you unless you provoke them, but they will pollinate your flowers and make them big and beautiful. She taught me that you are always 6 feet away from a spider, but that is a good thing because the spiders will eat the scarier, meaner bug.

"It's just a way of life for me. Caring for things and watching them grow. I will always just love the flowers."
-Frances Hazell, Grandma

Most importantly, and perhaps the insight I have grown to hold closest to me in adult life, she taught me that being close to nature can have significant effects on your mental health.

It was no coincidence that as soon as I got to the country I no longer needed to take my ADHD medication and my anxiety symptoms decreased tenfold. Of course, there were a lot of other factors at play here; being away from the kids who bullied me, not being in stressful environments and OF course, it being summer vacation. But, I believe the capital T "truth" was that being in nature was my medicine.

In fact, more and more studies have been putting data behind what was always just an inexpicable feeling for me. Researchers have found that children with ADHD function better in the woods than in a built setting and that nature therapy can actually reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Seth J. Gillihan's Psychology Today article "10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening" is a great short read that delves into some more of the mental effects of gardening.

As I started to see the benefits of gardening for myself, interest increasingly grew. It started with buying herbs from the corner store, then looking into organic seeds from farmers markets, then listening to gardening podcasts, buying books, starting my seeds inside, tracking my flowers growth, and on and on and on.

So, 20 years later, after the initial rocky start, it finally clicked and I, like my grandmother, have fallen in love. And, like any forever love story, my relationship to my garden continues to be gradual, intentional, and ever growing.

The best thing about gardening is that you don't need a farm or even a backyard to do it. You can have a tiny balcony or even utilize a windowsill and achieve so many of the same incredible benefits. I wanted to compile some of the gardening resources, accounts, and products that have helped and inspired me the most throughout my gardening journey and hopefully can help you too.

I also have recently begun offering gardening consulting if you are looking to really take that leap, but don't know how to best utilize your space.







The traditional wiingashk, or sweetgrass, braid tells the story of how mind, body, and spirit are connected and mutually dependent. To follow the way of the sweetgrass would mean that we give thanks to nature's abundance and use our gifts to nurture the world, thus nurturing ourselves.

This book is a piece of literary wonder capturing how critical it is to nurture our connection with the more than human world. More than anything, this book is poetry and really showcases the spiritual necessity of being connected to nature. If you are going to buy one book from this list, this would be the one.

Nicole Burke's garden may have been the first *aesthetic* garden that really inspired me to be able to use my tiny space to make something big and beautiful. Her book is super informative with practical advice on how to turn your space into a beautiful, abundant kitchen garden. She also has a blog, big social media presence, and just started offering courses!

Erin Benzakein presents a beautiful gardening book and guide to growing, harvesting, and arranging gorgeous blooms year-round. Her way of arranging and capturing the beauty of flowers is unparalleled and it was actually through her book, before knowing anything about flowers that I discovered which flowers I wanted to grow. This is one of my most used gardening book for both beautiful photography and useful information.

American Wildflowers: A Literary Field Guide collects poems, essays, and letters from the 1700s to the present that focus on wildflowers and their place in our culture and in the natural world. There are rural writers with deep regional knowledge and urban writers who are intimately acquainted with the nature in their neighborhoods.

I love just reading a poem or essay while sipping on my coffee in the garden. It is a book that you don't have to read front to back, but simply when you wish to be inspired. It can may not teach you the how-tos of gardening, but it will show you the insights and teachings that gardens have had on generations of people from all around the world.

"So one day, deep in the foggy season of winter in Germany, I embarked on a new journey of collecting and recording the endless stream of memories and moments of our life. In words, and images."

Thuy Dao is probably the most inspiring YouTube gardener for me. Between what she did to her tiny balcony and how meditative her gardening practice is, I absolutely adore everything she puts out in the world. She is truly a wonderfully refreshing online presence. In fact, I CURRENTLY have her videos on repeat in the background as I write this post because her videos are such a visual feast.

Joe is like a kind uncle or neighbour that just wants you to succeed. He is a master of his trade, but is also open to learning more and being a forever student. Anytime I have reached out to him with gardening questions, not expecting a response, he has always answered me with super helpful tips and suggestions. His podcast, though rather scientific at times, is still palatable for those of us who may not be as versed in that side of the garden. Joe is such a talent at also chosing his guests, who are always masters of their subject matter.

His passion and excitement for gardening is infectious. I've been a listener of Joe's podcast for over two years now and I always learn something new from him.

Laura LeBoutillier is the creator of Garden Answer and one of the most followed online content creators in gardening! She has 2.7 million followers on Youtube and 3.8 million followers on Facebook.

And for good reason. She is like a flower encyclopedia and her garden will genuinely take your breath away. I can spend (and have) hours watching Laura walk through her garden and talk about her plants. I love any of her garden tours and specifically love her vegetable garden tour.

Monty Don may be the most famous gardener around and he has more gardening resources out there than probably anybody else, most notably his TV show Gardeners' World. Monty Don has advised the royal family on their gardens as well as a number of other celebrities and high profile individuals, but he also spends a lot of his time tending to his own garden in Herefordshire. In many ways, Monty Don is the original celebrity gardener and for good reason. He is charismatic, inspiring, and knows all the tips and tricks that only come from years of practice. A couple years ago, I went down a serious rabbit hole consuming everything Monty Don and a lot of that informed my love of gardening today.

So this one is a little different. Megan of Well Co., isn't entirely focused on gardening practices like the other resources, but there were a couple of posts that were really really helpful for me early on when I started gardening. Where Nicole Burke's garden inspired me visually, Megan shared some super critical information that was sort of my guiding star when I was first getting into gardening.

Below are some posts that really kick started my gardening obsession.

Finally, the best thing to come to TV in recent memory for me. Clarkson's Farm is gut-wrenchingly funny. Typically, at the expense of Jeremy Clarkson and his ignorance towards farming, but behind the hilarity is an important message. The message being that farming is expensive, difficult, and the odds are not in its favour, but it is the most fundamental aspect of modern civilization. I promise you, watching this show will inspire you to integrate a little bit more green into the world around you and will have you laughing from beginning to end with Clarkson and his team at Diddly Squat Farms.

At the risk of hyperbole, I believe my garden saved my life. It gave me purpose during my depression, it calmed my anxious body, and it became my mindfulness practice for my neurodivergent brain that can't find stillness in sitting still.

Mainly though, I wrote this for my grandmother. The woman who inspired me to fall in love with my garden. Thank you grandma for teaching me about the birds, the bees, the spiders, and the trees. But most of all, thank you for showing me how digging my hands in a little bit of dirt can bring me closer to inner peace and stillness.


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