At night when I can’t sleep, I engage in a bit of garden dreaming. Instead of counting sheep, I wander through the everlasting garden in my mind. While meandering, I push away thoughts of garden work because just the images of all I need to do in spring might keep me up all night.
This is about joy, not work.
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When I close my eyes, I see my garden as it was last spring, summer, and fall. The seasons are fluid and usually feature whichever part of the garden is at its best at any given time. There are no limitations of time and space in my mental garden.
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The garden of my mind is perfection. It is a foretaste of heaven. Bees, hoverflies, and butterflies flit from flower-to-flower gathering pollen and nectar.
I envision the golden tummies of my honey bees filled with nectar, and I trust they are well. Flowers unfurl their petals to welcome their beloved with scent and color. I may stop to smell a rose or run my hands through the tall ornamental grasses as I walk. Wherever my mind leads me, that’s where I go.
Birds sing in the trees. No one is eating anyone else. Not even the praying mantises. No caterpillars are being devoured by birds or wasps. In the garden of my mind, all is well, and no one needs to eat anyone else to survive. Not logical, you say? Perhaps, but this isn’t reality. It’s better.
There are times when the garden I visit is in its winter state, receptive for longer days and moisture from the heavens, but most of the time, it’s spring, summer or fall. I like those seasons best so that’s when I visit.
If it’s spring, I see daffodils, tulips, and my favorite blue plant, Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon.’ In the garden of my mind, there are no voles to eat tulips, no moles to tunnel beneath and upend plants. There is no disease or drought. Instead, the garden of my mind is a cacophony of color. Flowers, grasses and leaves dance and play in the breeze, and the sun is warm on my back as I bend to examine a flower or insect more closely.
After all, I have all the time in the world, and there are no weeds in the garden of my mind.
It is supposed to take the average person twenty minutes to fall asleep, and in that time, I can wander quite far. I usually start on the back deck, walking down the steps and opening the gate. My tennis shoes hit the gravel paths crunching beneath my feet. I then turn and look left to the three-tiered borders. Usually, the roses are blooming. Most of my David Austin roses are here, including ‘Darcey Bussell,’ ‘Graham Thomas,’ ‘The Lady Gardener’ and ‘Olivia Rose Austin.’ among others.
After I stroll the back garden paths, stopping to gaze at my favorite Japanese maple, ‘Tamukeyama,’ I turn left, walk past my little she shed and then climb the hill to the potager where tomatoes are neatly staked, ripened peppers hang on stems in bunches, and beans climb a trellis with basil and lavender planted beneath.
All this vegetable bounty makes me hungry so I spend a moment or two planning meals around everything ready and waiting. You see, in the garden of my mind, there are no specific seasons or limitations. I just go to that part of the garden I love most in the particular season I love best.
I love tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, green beans and basil so I visit the potager in its summer months. However, it’s the perfect temperature. Just right for vegetables to ripen, but not sweltering so that I’m begging for water and shade. My greenhouse sits just beyond the potager, so when I choose to visit it, it’s winter.
Snow is gently falling on the roof, and I look up to see the snowflakes as they fall. The kumquats are ripe, and I pluck one off and chew it tasting first the tang of the fruit and then the sweetness of the peel. I have Meyer lemons and oranges too, but they aren’t yet ripe. Both ripen later than the kumquats and while I can be in any season, my mind seems to acknowledge that everything has its season so all is harmonic and peaceful.
If I’m still not sleepy and want to wander, even more, I may go out to the bed that faces the street and check out the pink muhly grass. My faithful and beloved dog, Maddie, is there. I’ll then go walk over to the cutting garden beds and see if the zinnias are still going strong.
Here, they bloom with the sunflowers and other annuals to give the pollinators more to eat while also gracing my table with flowers. I may take scissors in hand and cut a bouquet. Suddenly, I’m back inside arranging the flowers. If I see a flower spider, I’ll gently blow it back outside on another flower. I do this in my real life too. I don’t usually kill insects unless I must. Although, in the garden of my mind, no one eats anyone else, we know that birds, snakes, lizards, and other insects must eat to survive. Over the years, I’ve learned to let everything exist pretty much in balance unless something gets way out of hand. Then, I do occasionally intercede.
Usually, by this time, I’ve drifted off to sleep where I may continue to stroll grateful to God that I have a garden in which to go. I’ve spent the last eleven years on this blog, and years before in articles and in garden talks, teaching people how to garden.
If I could give you one gift, it would be this.
One day, I may no longer have the strength to toil in the dirt, but I will still have the garden in my mind.
Please remember, gardening isn’t only about the practical things like when to sow, plant, water, and harvest. It’s also about the garden that resides in our souls, in our dreams. As you drift off to sleep, try thinking of these.