Lessons to learn from the garden

All the gardeners I have known are gentle people, maybe because a garden teaches patience and careful watchfulness.

‘IN THIS way, she would have a living souvenir of all the roses friends had given her.’  (photo credit: PIXABAY)
‘IN THIS way, she would have a living souvenir of all the roses friends had given her.’
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
A publisher once told me that books with racy titles sell best, so I thought of “Beds I Have Known” which, being the puritan I am, would have been about flower beds. But I guess it would have disappointed readers looking for titillation and been ignored by gardeners, so the project never took off.
However, gardens have held a life-long fascination for me. One of my happiest memories is of spending a day with my sister at Monet’s magnificent home at Giverny near Paris, seeing his famous water lily ponds and meandering through paths of breathtakingly beautiful gardens.
People who love gardens are usually very special. All the gardeners I have known are gentle people, maybe because a garden teaches patience and careful watchfulness. You need to be industrious and trusting that the work of your hands will eventually bear fruit.
Over the years I’ve heard some wonderful tales about gardens and plants that I’d like to share, beginning with the quotation, “The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”
I once knew a lady who grew roses from cuttings in an unusual way. Whenever she received a gift of a bunch of cut roses in winter, she would choose the most perfect one, cut the stem at an angle, wrap the bottom in a wet paper towel and place the rose in a plastic bag to keep it moist. Then she would plant it in damp, warm earth, packing the dirt firmly around the rose. Finally, she would place a glass jar over it, twisting the jar into the ground. With a final drink of water from a watering can, she would bid the plant goodbye until the spring. After the fear of frost had gone, she would uncover the rose cuttings that had been protected in their miniature greenhouses.
In this way, she would have a living souvenir of all the roses friends had given her, and in time be able to return the favor, for the best things to come out of a garden are gifts for other people.
When you tend your plants, you learn to become a caring person. They are like your babies. For them to survive, you must nourish them with water and compost, and you must be their protector from weeds and insects.
I HAVE ALWAYS loved the story of a special rose with a special name. A French rose breeder named Monsieur Francis Meilland wanted to create a truly unique bloom. The year was 1939 and war was hovering over Western Europe. By June of the following year, Nazi hordes swept across France, bombing towns and villages, spreading destruction everywhere.
Wanting to save his plants, especially the one on which he was experimenting, Monsieur Meilland took cuttings from all his unnamed varieties and shipped them to rose-growers around the world, praying they would arrive safely at their destinations. They were on the last plane before the Nazis took over the Paris Orly Airport.
Four years later, he received a letter from a rose-grower in America, praising the beauty of one of his roses. It was ruffled and perfumed, with ivory petals tinged with pink. On the day that Berlin fell and freedom embraced Europe, rose-growers gathered in California at a special ceremony to name Meilland’s exquisite blossom. They released white doves into the sky and named his rose that had survived the war “Peace.”
The Bible tells us that life began with a man and a woman in a garden. A.E. Housman, the English poet whose collection is called A Shropshire Lad, wrote that the loveliest of trees is the cherry. He remembered that the Bible allotted us just “Three score years and ten” years. As at the time he was just over 20, he realized that maybe he only had 50 more springtimes to admire cherry trees. The last stanza of one of his poem reads:
“And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodland I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.”

We can learn so many lessons from a garden. People who make us happy are the gardeners who make our souls blossom. And to love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.
The writer is the author of 14 books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah. She can be contacted at dwaysman@gmail.com.