Gardening season is upon us. As the ground thaws, gardeners across Maine are thumbing through catalogues and beginning to frequent the local hardware store seed and garden tool displays as they envision the future-growing season. Many gardeners, including this columnist, enjoy introducing a new variety of vegetable or herb to our garden each year, gauging its success in the fall harvest and watching its performance during the growing season. Many of us in Maine have also learned the value of companion planting to help combat disease and pests. The combination of flowers, herbs and vegetables together in growing beds or a tradition garden structure often creates, in time, a beautiful array of color that paints a soothing picture for the gardener to enjoy.
Perhaps it is the poet and musician in me that often sees comparisons to the human condition in the plants that I tend. I find that certain qualities and emotions can be easily typified in the variety of God’s creation. It is in His creation that so many lessons can be learned, if we are willing to look.
Take sunflowers for instance. I call them the “children” of a garden. They burst with vibrant color and energy. Anyone that enters a garden where they are present is immediately captivated by their presence. Sunflowers are visually demanding. Your eyes are quickly drawn to them. I am surprised at how the first response I receive from those who visit my gardens is without exception, “Oh, look at those sunflowers”, despite how few I may plant. Everything about them shouts, “Look at me, I’m here, I want all your attention right here and right now!” Just like children.
Green beans are the engine of a garden, the young adults. They hold the promise of a future harvest. They are the workers. They are compatible with just about anything in a garden and very easy to work with. They are almost unstoppable. But if their fruits are not utilized they stop producing. Hmmm, think about that.
In a garden, flowers and herbs provide a unique service besides their beauty. They combine their scents to protect the vegetables from devouring pests. It reminds me of the wisdom of the older generations passed down to the younger to protect them from the many pitfalls that life presents. Scattering members of the onion family and various beneficial flowers throughout your vegetables is great way to chase away bugs and stop disease. The wisdom of our fathers should never be ignored, both the bitter and sweet. Experience, in all its forms, is for our benefit.
There is one herb that is a problem all its own. Fennel is a very striking in its looks. It has its own unique taste that makes it great for certain dishes. The problem with fennel is that it doesn’t get along with anything in the garden. You can’t grow this alongside any other plant. Why? Because it is too demanding. It takes so many nutrients from the soil that other plants cannot survive and produce well beside fennel.
In this Easter season, we are braced by the example of our Savior who was willing to give of himself so we could live and be free. We see today big government stubbornly doubling down on bad policy just to satisfy its own agenda. We see opponents of this abandoning the moorings of civility at times to achieve their ends. Jesus Christ was the ultimate in a revolutionary. He wasn’t quiet and meek, as some portray. He even called the political establishment of the day hypocrites and snakes, amongst other things. But in the midst of that revolution he was willing to give his all for his fellow man. We all want change for the better. Have we counted the cost? Do we truly want those around us to grow better or do we demand all the life be given to us? What is your function in the garden of life?