Gardening: A Secret Pleasure

daffodills just poking above ground

The best writing on gardening comes not from Vita Sackville-West or even from well-known Humboldt dirt digger, Amy Stewart ( though I enjoy them both.) What inspires me to weed, what wafts through my head like the savory scent of bread baking–enticing me onward towards an idealized version of my own yard comes from some writing by Frances Hodgson Burnett. She wrote a wonderful children’s book called A Secret Garden (among others) that describes the gardener’s emotions better than any other.

She bent very close to them and sniffed the fresh scent of the damp earth. . .

“It isn’t a quite dead garden,” she cried out softly to herself. “Even if the roses are dead, there are other things alive.”

She did not know anything about gardening, but the grass seemed so thick in some of the places where the green points were pushing their way through that she thought they did not seem to have room enough to grow. She searched about until she found a rather sharp piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds and grass until she made nice little clear places around them.

“Now they look as if they could breathe,” she said, after she had finished with the first ones. . .

She went from place to place, and dug and weeded, and enjoyed herself so immensely that she was led on from bed to bed and into the grass under the trees.

Warm sun, the smell of a few early paperwhites and daffodils blooming, and the vision of my own secret garden lured me outside to drag off the pruned limbs from yesterday’s work and slip my fingers underneath clumps of grass. With a few gentle twists the grass slid from its embrace of the daffodils and left them free to grow. One bed done, 8 to go. And, it doesn’t seem like work.

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29 comments

  • I love the last para of your post, and could not agree more!

    http://amloki.blogspot.com
    http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com

  • I LOVE “The Secret Garden”. I read it to my boys even though they said it was a “girlie” book. I didn’t care.
    They loved it too.

  • I LOVE “The Secret Garden”. I read it to my boys even though they said it was a “girlie” book. I didn’t care.
    They loved it too.

  • This February warm spell always gets everyone’s juices flowing. But we still have to get through the “Equinoxual Storm” before planting season! (Old-Timer folklore)

    Jen, your kids are right, it is about as “girlie” as it gets. I like gardening, but I never been a nurturing, guiding, mothering type gardener. I just like to grow good things. I don’t invest gobs of emotion into it, like “Secret Garden”. Am I missing something?

  • This February warm spell always gets everyone’s juices flowing. But we still have to get through the “Equinoxual Storm” before planting season! (Old-Timer folklore)

    Jen, your kids are right, it is about as “girlie” as it gets. I like gardening, but I never been a nurturing, guiding, mothering type gardener. I just like to grow good things. I don’t invest gobs of emotion into it, like “Secret Garden”. Am I missing something?

  • Jen, I did the same thing with my two older boys (they loved it too, along with Anne of Green Gables) and can’t wait to start reading it with my younger.

    Damyantig, I’m glad you left your url this time. Did you know you can connect it to your signature? I enjoyed your writing. I’ll be back again.

  • Jen, I did the same thing with my two older boys (they loved it too, along with Anne of Green Gables) and can’t wait to start reading it with my younger.

    Damyantig, I’m glad you left your url this time. Did you know you can connect it to your signature? I enjoyed your writing. I’ll be back again.

  • The daffodils are blooming on this end of the road. Stop by tomorrow for a “breath of Spring.”

  • The daffodils are blooming on this end of the road. Stop by tomorrow for a “breath of Spring.”

  • Ernie, Yes you are missing something and for someone who loves the area so much, I’m surprised because it translates into love of the land.

    I love to grow good things but, I’ll admit, I first started gardening because a neighbor made a crack about how bare the house looked without plantings.

    Once I started moving my fingers around in the earth–choosing plants and seeing them flourish (or die 🙁 I’m still learning) I couldn’t help feeling a trickle of delight that has become a sensuous pleasure. Warmth, sunshine, smell of earth, smell of flowers, creation, connection with the land–why would anyone want to miss that?

    BTW, you write so movingly about the area how can you not like an author that has such a lovely “sense of place” as Burnett does in the Secret Garden? Her descriptions of the Moors are wonderful. I have noticed, though, most men don’t care for her works.

    You are, unfortunately right about the rain coming back (actually, I’ll probably enjoy the rain after this nice break) The way I remember we usually have a couple weeks of sunshine in Feb. Then on and off again through April.

  • Ernie, Yes you are missing something and for someone who loves the area so much, I’m surprised because it translates into love of the land.

    I love to grow good things but, I’ll admit, I first started gardening because a neighbor made a crack about how bare the house looked without plantings.

    Once I started moving my fingers around in the earth–choosing plants and seeing them flourish (or die 🙁 I’m still learning) I couldn’t help feeling a trickle of delight that has become a sensuous pleasure. Warmth, sunshine, smell of earth, smell of flowers, creation, connection with the land–why would anyone want to miss that?

    BTW, you write so movingly about the area how can you not like an author that has such a lovely “sense of place” as Burnett does in the Secret Garden? Her descriptions of the Moors are wonderful. I have noticed, though, most men don’t care for her works.

    You are, unfortunately right about the rain coming back (actually, I’ll probably enjoy the rain after this nice break) The way I remember we usually have a couple weeks of sunshine in Feb. Then on and off again through April.

  • Mom, Is your driveway lined with yellow and white already? I can’t wait to see it and take a picture!

  • Mom, Is your driveway lined with yellow and white already? I can’t wait to see it and take a picture!

  • My daffodils are blooming! I wish I had that desire for gardening that Myrna and you have, but I don’t. I’ve done some, mostly out of guilt that my yard looked so awful, but mostly my heart isn’t in it. Although when I do plant something and it turns out to be beautiful and actually lives, then I feel a sense of accomplishment. Mostly though I’d just like to hire a gardener so I can do my genealogy and still look out on a beautiful yard.

  • My daffodils are blooming! I wish I had that desire for gardening that Myrna and you have, but I don’t. I’ve done some, mostly out of guilt that my yard looked so awful, but mostly my heart isn’t in it. Although when I do plant something and it turns out to be beautiful and actually lives, then I feel a sense of accomplishment. Mostly though I’d just like to hire a gardener so I can do my genealogy and still look out on a beautiful yard.

  • I have to admit that I’m torn between research and gardening and writing and…But that’s just because I love ’em all;>

  • I have to admit that I’m torn between research and gardening and writing and…But that’s just because I love ’em all;>

  • No, the driveway isn’t yet lined with daffodils but there are a few spots of yellow tucked here and there around the yard. The display is just beginning.

  • No, the driveway isn’t yet lined with daffodils but there are a few spots of yellow tucked here and there around the yard. The display is just beginning.

  • Um, I thought I had linked it, and then I saw it does not work. Anyway, I have two blogs, and I never know which one a fellow blogger might like:)…so I just put in the links for both!

    Happy gardening to you:)

  • Um, I thought I had linked it, and then I saw it does not work. Anyway, I have two blogs, and I never know which one a fellow blogger might like:)…so I just put in the links for both!

    Happy gardening to you:)

  • “Ernie, Yes you are missing something and for someone who loves the area so much, I’m surprised because it translates into love of the land.”

    I totally agree with you on the love of land, still you will have to totally agree with me that “Secret Garden” is a feminine approach to gardening.

    The male approach, or my approach to gardening, is a feeling of working with nature to build something great. To work with the soil and bring fruit out of it is one of nature’s greatest rewards.

    There is something in all of us that inherently understands the interconnectivity of man and nature, the birds and the bees, the water and the fish, soil and the fruit. We will naturally choose organic food over commercial; even if we are assured that it is the same. So, we all feel that connection to nature and the earth.

    We discuss, in detail, which shit makes the best fertilizer. We discuss in endless detail which plants require what conditions, until it becomes “second nature” to us to know how to grow things. And, isn’t it amazing that when we are growing food for our family that we almost always grow that food organically?

    I feel that when I grow things that I absolutely couldn’t do it without Mother Natures help. I like to think that like many great architects, she couldn’t grow things as well without my help.

  • “Ernie, Yes you are missing something and for someone who loves the area so much, I’m surprised because it translates into love of the land.”

    I totally agree with you on the love of land, still you will have to totally agree with me that “Secret Garden” is a feminine approach to gardening.

    The male approach, or my approach to gardening, is a feeling of working with nature to build something great. To work with the soil and bring fruit out of it is one of nature’s greatest rewards.

    There is something in all of us that inherently understands the interconnectivity of man and nature, the birds and the bees, the water and the fish, soil and the fruit. We will naturally choose organic food over commercial; even if we are assured that it is the same. So, we all feel that connection to nature and the earth.

    We discuss, in detail, which shit makes the best fertilizer. We discuss in endless detail which plants require what conditions, until it becomes “second nature” to us to know how to grow things. And, isn’t it amazing that when we are growing food for our family that we almost always grow that food organically?

    I feel that when I grow things that I absolutely couldn’t do it without Mother Natures help. I like to think that like many great architects, she couldn’t grow things as well without my help.

  • Ernie, as always, your comments would make a whole post. Beautifully said! I concede!

    Damyantig, you are right. I enjoyed both.

    Mom, I can’t wait till the whole driveway is lit up!

  • Ernie, as always, your comments would make a whole post. Beautifully said! I concede!

    Damyantig, you are right. I enjoyed both.

    Mom, I can’t wait till the whole driveway is lit up!

  • Sounds like I sit in a place somewhere between you and Ernie. I LOVE what my mom called “puttering in the garden” though she always wore gloves and I’m a fingers in the dirt kinda girl. But I don’t see the poetry, like you do — just the fun of playing in the dirt. I never really understood the enjoyment my mom got out of the garden though I do remember a carnation plant she allowed me to tend. There was no plan. She would just buy plants and put them in….at least that’s how it seemed to me. I’ve developed a love of the smell and feel of dirt over time so something must have sunk in. My garden is sorta haphazard but somehow works.

  • Sounds like I sit in a place somewhere between you and Ernie. I LOVE what my mom called “puttering in the garden” though she always wore gloves and I’m a fingers in the dirt kinda girl. But I don’t see the poetry, like you do — just the fun of playing in the dirt. I never really understood the enjoyment my mom got out of the garden though I do remember a carnation plant she allowed me to tend. There was no plan. She would just buy plants and put them in….at least that’s how it seemed to me. I’ve developed a love of the smell and feel of dirt over time so something must have sunk in. My garden is sorta haphazard but somehow works.

  • I tend to be like your mom and just putting in whatever flowers catch my eye. Just the last few years I’ve been actually planning ahead. I have a bed that I’m getting so excited to see. One large fruit tree in bloom surrounded by daffodils and hyacinths should be breathtaking in a few weeks. Unless this rain knocks the blossoms off the tree.

    But the rain is gentle now and hopefully, the tree will be a perfect crown to that bed.

  • I tend to be like your mom and just putting in whatever flowers catch my eye. Just the last few years I’ve been actually planning ahead. I have a bed that I’m getting so excited to see. One large fruit tree in bloom surrounded by daffodils and hyacinths should be breathtaking in a few weeks. Unless this rain knocks the blossoms off the tree.

    But the rain is gentle now and hopefully, the tree will be a perfect crown to that bed.

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