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Although my horticultural education hit another brief pause when I left my parent's home it didn't end there. For many years I livied in various rental accommodations with only a few house plants. But I didn't forget about gardening. Instead I became attracted to other people's gardens. When I lived on the coast of British Columbia I spent a lot of time going back and forth on ferries and during those many rides out of the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal I often admired the following scene.
This is an unexpected place to find a garden but thank goodness for its existence. Many many people besides myself have enjoyed the discovery of this garden and the beauty it provides while you are waiting for the next ferry. It was a slip of beauty on otherwise bleak days of travel. It's hard to see through all the greenery but this is actually a container garden. When I first observed this space the plants were located in buckets. Later some raised beds were added but as the plants have grown over the years the greenery has obscured the containers and all you can see is lush plants. Watching this scene emerge from some old restaurant buckets was inspiring to say the least.
When you haven't got the space yourself you sometimes find yourself borrowing space. Some people are attracted to allotments or community gardens. I began to visit Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver, British Columbia. For several years I volunteered at this public botanical garden as a seed collector and teaching assistant, as well as lending a hand at events such as Seedy Saturday, the annual plant sale and summer garden show. When I first walked into this garden as a volunteer I felt awed and humbled. I worried that I didn't know enough to be accepted by these people. The leader of the seed collecting group I belonged to asked about my background to which I clumsily replied that I was just an amateur. To her credit the lady, who was a botanist, replied - but aren't we all? How much I appreciated her words and felt welcomed by them. There was a lot I didn't know but that can be said for all of us. When it comes to gardening there are different climates and zones, and thousands of different plants. Each person I met in that garden had knowledge that was unique to them and we were encouraged to share. I could not have asked for a better learning experience.
|A bird's eye view of the reflecting pool and entrance to the garden|
I learned that not every plant in a garden needs to be pretty. Plain or, even ugly, plants are acceptable and even necessary. Nature requires balance and we need to see plants for what they bring to an ecosystem, not just their looks.
I learned that you should never be afraid to change your garden. It takes courage to remove something as large as a tree but it can be done and the results can be wonderful. Look at the big picture and go for it. Keep in mind that gardens will change on their own anyway so don't be afraid to shake things up.
My mother's lessons about seed bearing plants were reflected back at me through this botanical garden. Seed bearing plants are resilient and tough, preserving a genetic code going back thousands of years. A seed the size of a speck of dust can hold the miracle of a 100 foot tree in its grasp. By sharing these seeds we are preserving something beautiful and unexpected. Nature knows best how to take care of itself and seeds are nature's way of preserving and modifying each plant species. Took lose this would be a terrible tragedy.