Beauty inside

The garden is a place to restore and ground us, and nurture our spirit

THE 19TH CENTURY POET Minnie Aumonier once wrote: “When the world grows weary and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden. It turns out that slightly sweet sentiment, found on countless garden mugs and Pinterest boards, is rooted in a deeper truth, one that UK-based psychiatrist, psychotherapist, researcher and gardener Sue Stuart-Smith, explores in his 2020 book, “The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature.”

The book, a meaty volume combining personal interviews and social science studies, reveals how connection with nature nurtures and grounds us, instilling a sense of shelter and security even if (when) the world around us is charged. Stuart-Smith begins with a look at maintenance and examines how the process of gardening, even the tedious routine and weeds, helps restore our physical, emotional and even spiritual balance. “A long sitting in the garden can leave you feeling dead but strangely renewed inside – as if you’ve worked on yourself in the process,” she writes.

Chapter Two, “Seeds and Self-Confidence,” contrasts the implicit faith of sowing seeds in expectation of a harvest and the “creating power of illusion,” the heady role we take on, however subordinate— it, in the fulfillment of a moment of beauty. in a garden. The author observes: “Shaping a bit of reality is empowering but, especially in the garden, we are never completely in control.

No kidding.

In a chapter entitled “Radical Solutions” (Stuart-Smith notes that the word radical is derived from the plant world, referring to the roots), the author describes a variety of community organizers around the world who feed their neighbors by planning, planting and caring for small plots of free food – a patch of rosemary, sage and thyme outside a butcher shop; apothecary beds filled with lavender, echinacea, chamomile and other supportive herbs planted around a health center; or an urban curbside planting filled with healthy produce. It seems so obvious and convenient as well as perfectly delicious.

Join the live webinar

On Saturday October 1, 2022, the Northwest Horticultural Society presents a live webinar with Sue Stuart-Smith and her husband, renowned British gardener Tom Stuart-Smith. Full details and registration information are available at northhort.org.

Busy schedules and crowded conditions are mentally and emotionally draining us – not to mention a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. It’s a lot. Chronic stress leads to burnout, which increases the risk of depression and contributes to other physical disorders.

In a discussion of dealing with our “emotional landscape,” particularly loss and grief, Stuart-Smith writes: “The cycle of life [in a garden] can help us, because in the depths of winter, believing in the return of spring gives us something to hold on to.

I keep coming back to a chapter, heavily marked with yellow highlighter, titled “Garden Time.” “The garden is a place that takes us back to the basic biological rhythms of life,” says Stuart-Smith. Not only are we forced to slow down to “plant pace,” but with the promise of another growing season, we always have another chance. Or, as Stuart-Smith eloquently put it, “The structure of seasonal time has consolations.”

During those oh-so-strange years, a growing wave of new gardeners eager to get their hands dirty and develop a relationship with plants led to a surge in houseplant interest and sales. booming in nurseries. It’s a beautiful circularity: the maintenance of the gardens is good for us, which helps us to take care of each other.