By Michael Leach
Plants star as Thanksgiving Day traditions. From cranberries to pumpkins, flora rivals fauna when it comes to menu musts on festive dinner tables.
Gardeners value flora for more than traditions. Those of us who grow vegetables and fruits savor homegrown flavor unrivaled by competition in stores. Anyone who grows flowers, knows their fragrance and color bring a smile.
Besides the obvious, there are subtle, subliminal harvests that come to mind during this too-short-season of deliberate gratitude.
Be thankful for the family members, friends, neighbors and others who introduced you to gardening and nurtured you along the way. I think of Grandpa Leach and his furrows straight as laser beams. Mom, my mother’s mother, who grew a higgledy-piggledy collection of all sizes and colors of plants in her small backyard. My garden’s appearance meshes the laser sharp and come-what-may of their poles-apart approaches.
Perhaps the most important people are my mother and father, who allowed my little sister and I to have our own plot in the large backyard surrounded by flat, farm fields stretching to the ends of the world. Grow what you like we were told. For me, it was some of Auntie’s zinnias and marigolds, plus a couple of small lilac starts.
The latter continue to hang on despite the dense shade of a sycamore tree, once a mere sapling pulled up from a back woods creek in Adams County, Ohio. Little did I realize this souvenir from a marvelous autumn afternoon hike with a friend would tower so high, so quickly. (Well, it has been almost 40 years since the young sycamore was planted here.)
Numerous gardening friends have shared plants that make amiable companions with family heirlooms.
None of these people share Thanksgiving Day with me anymore, though their memories return when walking through the backyard. They come alive when I see their favorite plants in my garden or those of others. They live again whenever I share how-to moments with those new to gardening, always hoping my enthusiasm is as contagious as theirs was to me.
There are subconscious effects of plants. A “host” of dancing daffodils brought the poet Wordsworth more than visual pleasure on a sun-filled spring day. Wise gardeners know what he meant when he wrote,
… What wealth to me the show had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
Perhaps your dancing partners are violets, roses or lilies. No matter. Simply gaze at them, inhale their fragrance, let their beauty flow deeply into your heart and mind. Recall the memory as often as you like. Be a part of nature, not a mere photographer or observer, and thank God for a world filled with such treasures.
In a way, I suppose all of our planning and planting is a subconscious (primal?) attempt to reclaim Eden, the place of beginning. Perhaps this is why sitting in a garden, beside a shore, within a forest or along a flowery meadow brings such peace. An ancient need is met, drawing us ever back to nature and its Maker.