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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Gardening for Health: 3. Time and Anticipation

Goldenstars (Bloomeria crocea) brighten the spring garden.

Gardening for health is more than just exercise doing garden chores.  It’s about designing gardens to help combat the stresses of daily modern life.  The digital era compounds our sense of urgency: there’s something new to worry about every few minutes.  This constant pressure is stressful – it wears us down.  One way that gardens promote health is by taking us out of this toxic environment - at least for a little while.   And there are tricks to make your garden experience even more healthful.

In the natural world, Mother Nature doles out her treats a little at a time.  If you live (or once lived) near a natural area, you know what we mean.  In S. California, the currants and gooseberries surprise with their blooms early in the year.  Lupines enchant with their rain-drenched colors in February and March; they also attract the early flying pollinators, like the bumblebees.  And so on through the seasons. Each month brings special treats to anticipate and keep us coming back. 

A natural place is never quite the same when we revisit it.  Some things stay the same (or nearly so).  But other elements change, month to month and year to year. Mother Nature gets the balance right: enough constancy and enough change.  Too little change is boring; too much can be overwhelming.  Because nature hits the sweet spot we keep returning, both to relax and to see what’s new. Nature is simply irresistible! 


We can adapt nature’s seasonal tricks in planning our gardens.  Most gardens include plants that stay pretty much the same throughout the year.  Evergreen trees and shrubs are good backbone plants because they provide sameness.  The constancy is calming, relaxing and reassuring.  It’s something your family can count on, year after year.     Such enduring views are even more important in an era of rapid change.

But we also need to plan for seasonal ‘treats’; things that give the garden a special allure at certain times of the year.  Among our favorite seasonal elements are the native geophytes (bulbs, corms and rhizomatous perennials).  They are easy to grow and that’s reason enough to use them.  They increase every year and naturalize in the garden – also good traits.

Wild hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum)

But native bulbs, corms and rhizomatous perennials also are some of the best ways to add seasonal interest to a garden.  In Mother Nature’s Backyard, we look forward to the emergence of new bulb leaves every winter/spring.  Then we monitor the progress of developing buds over the weeks.  Finally, the flowers emerge – each species according to its season – providing a moment of glorious color (and sometimes scent).   Native geophytes engage, delight and surprise us – every year, year after year.

Native geophytes provide something that’s often lost in contemporary gardens – a sense of time.  They give us a treat to look forward to.  We treasure their ephemeral flowers, knowing that their limited engagement makes them all the more special.  And we know they will return, at the proper time, year after year.  The geophytes provide something rare: that perfect blend of change and constancy that our contemporary world so desperately needs.


So spend a few months learning about the geophytes native to your area.  Think about places where they might succeed in your garden.  Many do well in containers, so even a small garden can utilize them.   Be sure to order your bulbs early (July or August is good – they won’t be shipped until fall).   Then plant a little bit of healthful magic in the form of bulbs and corms.    Trust us, you’ll feel happier – and healthier – for doing so.

For more on gardening with native bulbs see:

For more posts in this series see: http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2018/01/gardening-for-health-1-go-hug-tree-for.html


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com


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