Of Writing and Gardening

By: Anne Corke

Jun 16 2011

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Category: Gardening


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I like to garden and I like to write and it occurred to me that there are many parallels between these two diversions.

I have dabbled far more in gardening in the last 10 plus years and I have learned a few things. First of all, you will never know everything there is to know about gardening. You may be a fancier of perennials, those old favourites, those faithful friends who appear every year. Or perhaps you prefer annuals, bright and bouncy, blooming themselves to death in one summer! Or maybe you’re a tree hugger admiring the longevity and the majesty of a centuries old oak. Or could you be one of those very rare vine people, a fan of the vertical garden? Whatever your own personal bent, you will never know all there is to know. The incredible volume of  flora in our world will keep you researching, acquiring knowledge, for the rest of your days.  Similarly, you will never know all about writing, whether you write prose or poetry, whether you take courses or read all the books about writing, or study the most famous authors, writers, like gardeners, are always learning. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.

Different people garden for different reasons.. different people write for different reasons.
Some people garden to relax, to relieve the stress of the daily rat race, finding solace in pulling a few weeds, working out their frustrations breaking up clods of clay (of which we have plenty in the Peterborough area!), indulging in a little aromatherapy, pushing their noses into the cool, silky tresses of their lilac bushes on a fresh spring morning or inhaling the sweet cloying scent of stocks on the evening breeze, getting in touch with Mother Earth as they labour in the glorious dirt!

On the other hand, for some people, it is the gardening which creates their stress, for instance, when the squirrels eat their expensive parrot tulip bulbs, or when the grass which struggles to grow in a shady part of the lawn happily invades their flower beds, or when the neighbour’s bindweed migrates to their property, or when those God-awful red lily beetles ravage their fabulous Scheherazade! Oh no!

Some people write to relieve stress, to understand themselves, to make sense of the world, to work through their problems. Some of these people may even consider it their duty to document the events unfolding around them. These are the journallers and the events they record in their daily diaries, the events in their own personal life and in the world around them , are , in fact, their own little slice of history. They capture a point in time, a snapshot of the world, which in years to come, will be of immeasurable value to local historians, and priceless to their own descendants, many of whom will never have known the author. However, writing, or attempting to write, can also cause stress. Witness  the pressures put on the newly discovered author to produce a sequel in six months, or the daily deadlines which newspaper journalists or television videographers must meet. While stress has always been part of these jobs, the immediacy of today’s media has certainly cranked it up a notch or two.

Some people garden to impress their colleagues and neighbours, to show off their perfectly manicured lawns and stunning formal gardens, to let people know that they are important, that they are in control. Poor deluded fools.. as if anyone is in control of Mother Nature! Others prefer the wild abandon of the wildflower meadow or a casual English cottage garden where reliable, old-fashioned favourites with endearing names, such as dame’s rocket, larkspur, love-in-a-mist, and bishop’s hat, jostle for their moment in the sun. These people know who is in charge and are more inclined to work with Mother Nature than to try and rein her in!

Some people write for the prestige of being an author, for the notoriety of being one of those creative types! Some people write to be published, wanting nothing less than their name on the spine of a bestseller. These people may be our most learned, our most focused, our most creative writers… perhaps. Other people write for the sheer joy of writing, the satisfaction of choosing the most appropriate form for their piece, selecting just the right words to create the desired mood or atmosphere, savouring the sounds and rhythms of the phrases they write. My high school Latin teacher (I’m really showing my age now!) was the most enthusiastic teacher I ever knew. He relished this ancient language and loved to show his students how you could paint a physical picture by the way you arranged the words on the paper. For instance, when writing about a walled rose garden, he would place the words describing the wall artfully around the description of the rose, creating yet another dimension, indeed painting with words.

Some people garden for the challenge – the challenge of growing rare plants, such as the blue Himalayan poppy, trying to create just the right conditions to nurture them. Others like to push the boundaries of the established growing zones, coddling and fussing over some rare tropical plant which was never meant to grow in the cold north. Similarly, some people write for the challenge. Perhaps this is best exemplified by the thousands who, every November, attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. This is Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month. I have made two attempts. I lasted for only a week. Obviously, I do not write for the challenge! I will settle for our local CAA branch challenges which I have some possibility of accomplishing!

I’m sure you can think of many more parallels so I will leave you with these words of wisdom: Whatever your motivation, both gardening and writing are creative, rewarding pursuits which will bring new knowledge and fulfilment to your lives. But don’t ever take them, or yourselves, too seriously. The joy is in the doing, not necessarily the completing. Happy gardening, happy writing… oh, and by the way, the garden is an excellent place to write and an excellent subject for your writing!

Copyright 2011 Anne Corke

2 comments on “Of Writing and Gardening”

  1. I am enjoying becoming familiar with your blog and love your reminders to not take myself, my gardening or my writing too seriously! I have recently relocated to my home State of Wisconsin where I will be creating yet another garden next spring. The last couple of years I seem to create them and then have to leave that home or area for one reason or another leaving behind a little of me at each place. I’m hoping to enjoy this one for a long while and that it will be an ongoing creative project, one I will hopefully write about! Thank you.

    • Hi Mona, Glad to hear you’re enjoying my blog. Sorry yesterday’s post was a more sombre one but trust me, the next one will be happier. The gardens are looking pretty bedraggled now but it’s been a great growing season and I’m looking forward to next year. In the meantime, I can sit and ponder what changes I would like to make in the spring! Cheers, Anne. P.S. Have you read Des Kennedy’s book Crazy about Gardening? Very funny and oh so true!

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