The economy sucks and no one knows for sure when it might get better. Global warming could bring huge changes to the way we live. A shift to the right in our local and national governing bodies means new laws that are detrimental to a progressive society. Prices keep going up, and I know I’ll never have enough money to retire. I should just pull the covers over my head and give up.
But last weekend, my wife and I went to several garden shops and bought several hundred dollars worth of plants to put in our garden, including three small azaleas. When you plant azaleas, you have to think long term, because it will take years for them to turn into the large, beautiful shrubs like the ones that used to surround my boyhood home. So even though we don’t even know if we’ll be living here in 15 years, in my mind I can see how they will look if they thrive and grow big.
And that’s why my wife and I spend so much time gardening. It is a sure-fire way to help you have hope and a vision of the future. We buy plants small, or as seeds, and when we put them in the ground it is not an impressive sight. But we know that if a plant likes where it is and we take the trouble to make sure it has enough water, in a few years we will have a striking bed of colorful flowers and foliage that will make us, and everyone that sees it, happy.
When we bought this house 18 years ago, it had been a rental and no one had ever bothered to plant anything, not even some crappy boxwoods. We brought some starter plants from our previous home, including some redbud and dogwood trees, and began transforming the bare landscape into a beautiful garden. This is the time of year when we see all our efforts over the years paying off, as a wide variety of flowers and shrubs put out blooms all at once in the spring rains. Right now, the abnormally warm winter and early spring has really made everything thrive, bursting with new growth and spreading thickly over the once-empty ground.
Of course, my burst of optimism about my garden and the future will wane, as the brutal Tennessee summer sun bakes the earth and causes the once lush flowers to struggle to stay alive as days stretch into weeks without rain. The weeds will continue their steady march into the gardens, as crabgrass sends out runners, the wind deposits dandelion and other pesky plants where we don’t want them, birds poop out seeds, and hickory nuts start new trees everywhere.
But somehow, even though keeping a garden going is a difficult job sometimes, in the back of my mind I know that next year, spring is going to come again. My thick beds of daffodils will poke out of the still-cold soil, and then in April my new azaleas, a little bit bigger, will dress up in their spring finery.
And no matter how bad everything else in the world might look, if you are a gardener, watching your flowers grow is a good reason for hope for the future.