This week I want to take a break from writing about all of the cool plants that I am surrounded by each week to reflect on what it means to be a gardener. When I use the term gardener, I am using it loosely to describe anyone who passionately associates themselves with a garden as their career. This weekend, I turned 42. Do not ask me why this birthday felt so monumental and has caused such a reflection on my life. By reflection, I don’t mean “mid-life crisis” kind of reflection. I will never have “a mid-life crisis” because I generally have one every 3-4 years. During our 16 years of marriage, Carrie and I have had 4 kids, moved 9 times, I’ve had 5 different positions, and found a couple of years in there to squeeze in a graduate degree. My point is: why should I have a mid-life crisis? Our life has been nothing but constant change, some expected and some unexpected – i.e. the twins, but the two constants have been our marriage and my profession.
A couple of weeks ago, the national conference for the American Public Gardens Association was in Denver, Colorado. This is the one time per year when colleagues at gardens across the country are able to come together and share stories and ideas about working at a public garden. This is also a time when we are able to see how much we enjoy gardens and plants along with how much we enjoy other people who work at gardens. There is something about those of us who choose gardening as our profession and passion. We love being outside, working with plants, and sharing that passion with others who visit our gardens. I love the example of Fergus Garrett, head gardener and director at one of England’s most famous gardens, Great Dixter. Fergus will sometimes go for weeks without responding to a single email. He once said that he makes sure that he checks email at least once every two weeks, whether he has to or not. He would rather be out in the gardens, working on the plantings, training his staff, and interacting with the public face to face who will travel across the world to see their garden rather than responding to someone electronically.
I believe that any profession that one is passionate about is their true calling. You will find that most gardeners do it for the long haul. I have yet to meet a gardener who says, “You know, I was going to be an endocrinologist but I unfortunately, decided to become a gardener.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an endocrinologist, as a matter of fact, I am glad there are people passionate about this field. I am trying to say, once you choose the path of working in a garden, it is hard to leave. Yes, there are better paying jobs. Of course, there are jobs in an office where you can be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But for those of us in this field, none of this matters in the big picture. We look at plant blogs over breakfast, we talk about gardens over lunch, and we dream about visiting the Chelsea Flower Show in our sleep.
The other wonderful part of our calling is the physical aspect. I see friends talk about CrossFit on their Facebook pages. Big deal. This thing they call CrossFit is for us, a day at work. What they do for 2 hours, we do for 8. To top it all off, if there are extra vegetables and fruit, we actually get to eat part of our work! How cool is that?
Thanks for reading about why I love being a gardener and working in a garden. At this point in my life, I look forward to the years ahead of raising our children and growing our lovely garden here in Maine. No more moves, no more big changes. Well, maybe, someday, we would like to get a boat. But again, I am a gardener with four kids so a boat might be in the retirement plans.
Do for me a favor. This week, please visit a local garden in your area or wherever you might be on business or vacation. Seek out the people who work there and talk with them about their garden and the plants they grow. I hope you will see the passion light up in their eyes.
Images: Rodney Eason