The Labor and Life of Gardening

My wife keeps expanding and adding variety to the gardens at our house. For her, they’re a labor of love, rewarding and fulfilling for the work they require. But growing hundreds of different plants calls for constant attention.

The basics demand hard labor. There are the piles of plant remains to be turned and sifted. The compost they yield has to be mixed with top soil, sand and nutrients – to produce a good humus. There are beds to be weeded and mulched, manure to spread. That’s the sort of thing I help with – lots to lift and shovel, wheel barrow loads to fill, push and dump, holes for new fruit trees to dig out.

There are hundreds of plant varieties, each requiring just the right amounts of sun, shade, water, soil supplements and natural pest control. Weather is a constant concern. There is new planting during much of the year, designing gardens to flow with the seasons so there’s always something thriving.

This past year she started a home nursery, adding the intense work of finding and potting hundreds of plants and fruit trees to sell. At her Saturday sales this spring, she’s been meeting lots of other plant people as well as newbies who love her detailed gardening advice.

And I get to thrive by getting a good workout and, more often, writing and reading for my blogs in one of the outdoor rooms she has created. Or I de-stress simply by being in the gardens.

All of this takes minimal money but maximum energy, creative drive, hard work and constant attention to a thousand details.

Oh – and it’s also daily therapy of the finest sort.

Images by permission of Cathy Folk-Williams. All rights reserved by Wild Rubies at Flickr.

6 Responses to “The Labor and Life of Gardening”

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  1. Forgiven says:

    Hi John,
    firstly, may I say what a beautiful garden!
    I have had a similar experience to most people.My husband left me and came up with a list of things I had done, months later.He withdrew,wanted to be left alone and most often ignores correspondance from me.I haven’t seen him for 18 months.
    I have pointed him to this site,as I feel it’s a inspiration!
    He maintains he has no form of depression.
    He wants to Divorce,which I am now in agreement with.I have had to accept,there is nothing more I can do.
    I wondered if you have come across this before?Do we not see similarities when we read,similar situations,or maybe I am wrong,he is not suffering.If you have time your thoughts would be appreciated.Thank you in advance.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Forgiven –

      Thank you – I’ll let my wife know that you like her gardens as much as I do.

      About your situation, yes there are so many similar stories, a great many of them in the comments on this site. You can find a dozen years’ worth at the forum site called Depression Fallout. Depression is poison to so many relationships, and blaming the undepressed partner is all too common. I doubt you’re wrong about his depression – since you know him so well, but he sounds so far from recognizing his own condition that he’ll probably not get any help.

      I know it doesn’t lessen the suffering and pain, especially as you deal with divorce, to know that there are thousands of people going through the same sort of thing. But, in fact, you’re not alone.

      My best —


  2. Matt says:

    What beautiful photos and post. I would agree with Liz that creating a special space is so vital for meditation and as a restorative sanctuary.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Thanks, Matt –

      Gardens and photos by Cathy! I’ve always managed to fine special places for deep rest and reflection. They don’t have to be like this one, but it makes all the difference to have it there every day.


  3. Liz says:

    Hi John — What a beautiful sanctuary your wife has created. I think we all seek a haven such as this. It’s natural beauty at its best. I’ve read that creating a space – whether it be a corner of your room or an entire room dedicated to what you appreciate and love – where you are surrounded by beauty and you are free to think, reflect, meditate and hope is therapy at its best. Thank you for sharing.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Liz –

      Sanctuary is a great word for these gardens. I guess that idea didn’t occur to me because I tend to think of a sanctuary as a place you go to, rather than one you help construct and live in all the time. But sanctuaries have to be created by someone and are just as important for them as for a visitor. My wife has done that and can restore herself every day because she can feel the peace and beauty.

      Thanks for this thoughtful and beautiful comment.



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