Back in March my company Womanswork invited readers of our newsletter to write stories for our online Story Bank about how they, as gardeners, were processing the events of the pandemic. In their stories from Florida, California, London, Boston and even Pawling, we have seen apprehension turn to resilience and optimism. The warming weather and ability to get into one’s garden has a lot to do with that!
Recently a reader from Nashville wrote "My gardens are beautiful this spring, with time to pay attention to them. Like people, the relationships in my garden flourish with more care!" Here are other excerpts, from some of the earliest to the most recent. Names have been omitted for space, but are included in the online version.
“Greetings from a London in lockdown. Life is very strange here at the moment. I am so grateful to have my roof garden. I'm growing as many vegetables and fruits as possible. I find that very comforting -- us gardeners are optimists."
“I want to make lemonade out of this lemony situation -- This week, as the situation has gotten more scary by the hour, I've hit the dirt. Literally. I've attacked those tiger lilies that have gotten out of control - that's one invader I CAN battle.”
“When I heard that the whole SF Bay Area was going into lockdown and self-isolation, the first thing I realized was that we were not going to be able to buy any compost or soil for gardening so we dashed out to get a large supply."
"We wanted life to become more simple, perhaps this is a mental shift to get there. We are all good for the moment. My heart breaks for those who are struggling."
"I live in Florida and we were beginning to feel and see signs of “spring.” As I spend time in my gardens cursing the weeds I find that I’m listening to the birdsongs, watching my squirrel’s scamper up and down my trees and continuing to watch the family of raccoons who are watching me. I smile when the great Egrets stop by to see if there are any fish to eat and I continue to be cautious and grateful that no alligators have shown up in my backyard wetlands. But what I am in awe of the most in my gardens is that none of the wildlife is at all aware that anything is going on differently with the humans that they are sharing the same space and time with. It brings me moments of peace and tranquility to move into their reality and realize that their lives are lived with survival at all times. Suddenly the weeds don’t seem important At all.”
"Here in California we've been under stay at home advisement for weeks now…The peonies are up, the roses are in bud, the seed potatoes arrived and today - April 1st - I participated in that age old playing in the dirt activity of sieving the compost. From old avocado skins, lawn clippings, carrot ends, seemingly endless eggshells, last fall's leaf biomass, came the most delicious bucket of crumbly black soil. It reminded me to 1. be patient, and 2. get dirty, and 3. believe in miracles with time and persistence. Keep gardening - wash your hands - and wear your Womanswork gloves.”
“We are near the finish line of restoring a circa 1970's Lord and Burnham greenhouse to our property from a site on Cape Cod. It is a dream come true. … I have a jar which I fill weekly with one slip of paper of what I am grateful for in that moment… I end every day stepping into the new garden shed attached to this amazing restored greenhouse and dream of how I will set it up, then I step into the greenhouse, close my eyes and imagine it full of propagated seeds, a lemon tree, African violets, and flowers, flowers, flowers! We/I, am so very blessed."
"In the garden, I can breathe. If there can be said to be an upside to a pandemic, it has slammed the brakes on my somewhat frenetic pace. I can strive to be here. Now. Because there’s nowhere I need to be. Even the sounds have changed. There’s almost no air traffic over my northern New Jersey suburb, and few cars. The chorus of birds in the morning, the chirps of spring peepers from the pond at dusk are now center stage. A blessing. I’m thankful in a new way for my garden…”
"So how does YOUR garden grow? Mine is not exactly filled with “cockle shells and silver bells”…But those of us fortunate enough to be gardeners can find solace and peace in them."
“I live in the Midwest United States and spring is just getting started here. My garden is mostly about herbs, flowers and sanctuary. When we moved in 12 years ago, it was a bare suburban lot and now I can count on a mature garden to greet me each year. I plant a lot of natives (many lessons learned there!) for butterflies, birds and insects. Each year I count on seeing small frogs make homes in the same places and they are all named Elvis so I don't have to try to make a distinction. I have a small garden shed with a tin roof that can occupy me for endless hours. I have been able to spend two very satisfying days in my garden cleaning up and uncovering spring growth--what a solace it was and will continue to be as our current situation plays out.”
"It is vastly reassuring to see and hear the spring migrants begin to return: Red-Winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, Northern Flickers, American Woodcock. I go out in the early morning or at dusk just to listen to the music of the birds . . . who know nothing about viruses, the Dow, or politics. Nature is the eternal healer."
"My garden is a true Eden, (minus the apple trees)…The deer, bless their hungry souls, have not, so far, eaten my tulips to green stumps. They must know that my need is greater than theirs this year… Some years, I bemoan the squill running amok through the lawn. Not this year. The color perfectly sets off the dandelions! I have about an acre and a half of land. Each year I plan one big project. This year I had numerous new projects in mind, and the stay-at-home order is helping me accomplish much more than one. To date, I have demolished a disintegrating raised bed, and built a new one. Built a raised pollinator bed in the middle of four vegetable beds. Compost and fertilizer has been spread and dug in. Peas, radishes, spinach, lettuce and bok choi seeds are in. A new path has been roughed in. As the weather warms up (I live near Boston) my seedlings growing under lights in my basement, will grace the garden and prove that life will be brighter, colors stronger, and, as the saying goes, hope will spring eternal. Life may have irrevocably changed for us, but the garden hasn't… We will all need to be refreshed by a crisp cucumber, spicy pepper or juicy tomato when life returns to the new normal.”
Author’s Note: The readers of our newsletter are lucky enough to have access to gardens. Our hearts go out to all who are suffering in unimaginable ways around the country and the world.
If you want to add a story to our Story Bank, sign up for our “Curious Gardener” newsletter at www.womanswork.com and we will send you the link.