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Banksia Rose Wisteria

Welcome to Spring

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Some reality TV shows would have you believe that gardening is little more than a way to increase the value of your property or a means of keeping up with Joneses. JUSTIN RUSSELL takes a hatchet to these ideas, and suggests that the benefits of gardening run deep.

Spring has well and truly sprung in my corner of the world. All it took was some rain. In the days following one of the earliest, and most intense storms I can remember, buds had burst, grass started growing and the garden went from a lifeless beige to a verdant green. Maybe it was all that nitrogen released by the storm. Whatever it was, the garden has been transformed almost overnight and my attitude has changed in response. I’ve spent the last few days outside, working in warm sunshine, and it has been absolute bliss. Trellises have been built, vegies planted, perennials tidied, and ornamental beds mulched. And as a consequence, I feel energised. I end the day satisfied, less frustrated. More content. Not that I was depressed, but by winter’s end, the world seems that bit drabber and my gardening habit grows lazy. Victorian gardener Michael McCoy once wrote about an idea he called the reciprocal nurturing principle. He suggested that time spent in caring for the garden does more than just make the place look neat and tidy. In return for some hard graft, the garden “reciprocates” by offering the gardener a sense of contentment. McCoy suggests that “we are nurtured as we nurture”. In the eyes of non-gardeners, the practice we call gardening is little more than exterior decorating, a kind of necessary primping done to impress friends or increase a property’s value. Reality television reinforces this belief. But it’s wrong. Dead wrong. Gardening is richer and more life giving than the exterior decorators and backyard blitzers would have you believe. McCoy’s right. Gardening can fill our bellies and our souls, not just our wallets and our egos. Look at someone like Peter Cundall. It’s 60 years since he’s seen a doctor because of illness and at age 84, the self described “old geezer” still gardens with the enthusiasm of a 24 year old. Gardening can make us (and the world!) well. On a day like today – warm, sunny, fanned by a gentle breeze – the siren call to get outside is too hard to resist. I’m off to plant some more fruit trees.