Garden happiness

From planting, growing and passing away – why the garden became my favourite place

About 15 years ago I had a great longing for a peaceful place where I could linger outdoors. Alone for myself, without other people.

To live in the city, without a balcony or a garden, was no longer possible. In the city parks or on the banks of the Rhine were too many people, so that I no longer felt comfortable, nor could find any peace for myself.

One day I visited a friend in her allotment garden and afterwards I was filled with the idea to rent such a spot to be allowed to be there. It seemed to me like a green paradise of peace. But it took more than a year until it became true. I had prejudices about allotment gardens: strict rules, stuffy, German petty bourgeoisie, garden gnome aesthetics etc. But the visits to my girlfriend showed me that this “garden society” was different. Each garden looked individual.

It existed, this garden gnome idyll, where everything grows in a row and no wild herb finds a home. But, so did the other gardens, which are ecologically cultivated with a great variety of plants. Even overgrown plots could be found, where rarely anyone seemed to do anything. Everything has found its place, everyone is allowed to realise their own individual gardening preferences, and there is tolerance. It is also multicultural. I liked that after all.

Then came the concerns: “can I manage?” and “am I able to do it?” Neither my husband nor I had the slightest idea about gardening. I just wanted to try. So, we put ourselves on a waiting list and after about a year we got a call: a garden is available. We were very excited to drive there. As I walked along the narrow path, the moment came when the garden lay before me. On this beautiful summer day, I knew it immediately: this will be my place, this is where I want to be. It was love at first sight. That really exists.

That is how my garden love began. The old stone-built garden shed, and the garden were laid out in the 1950s and we wanted to keep “the garden’s face”. Everywhere we found traces of the past, could sense the philosophy of the previous owner and pursue it. After having painted the long wooden fence blue this long neglected garden started to look much more inviting.

We rolled through garden books, planted, bought, exchanged, were given gifts and advice. Some things succeeded and many things were let go as they felt misplaced. Slowly but surely the garden started to take shape and became more and more beautiful. We sensed what the garden needed. We put compost heaps on it and the soil improved more and more. We added rice piles, dead wood corners and stone piles, thought as animal dwellings.

Today the garden has become a part of us. It bears our signature and is a reflection of our personalities. We are interwoven and it has become our open-air home. The garden is grateful for our care, it has grown with us, we can sense ourselves in it. Lot of work was invested in the first few years and I first had to learn to surrender to the moments of happiness that arise when one pauses and consciously enjoys the moment. To let myself be surprised by nature and what it gives me. The garden taught me this and that was a process of its own.

The garden is a place of slowness.
I find beauty, magic, touch.
All of my senses are addressed.
I become still, I observe, I feel.
And I get whole there.
Humility and patience, it teaches me as well.

The garden is a soulful, magical place for me. So many living beings find a home in my garden! These animals help to preserve its beauty. The birds sing, nest with us and feed their young with caterpillars, which would otherwise damage the trees. Slow-worms exterminate the slugs and ladybirds eat the lices. And there are many more examples. The animals appreciate the habitat we have created for them. It hums and buzzes, I just love the sounds. Bees, butterflies, bumblebees, moles, earthworms, cats, dormice, squirrels, mice, spiders, birds and I’m sure I forgot some…are our friends.

I experience the seasons very intensely and the cycle of life shows itself to me in no other place as clearly as in my garden. It is also where I reflect about life the most. From germination in spring, to ripening in summer, to passing away in autumn and the silence in winter, life shows itself in its natural course.

Thanks to our composting system, there is no garden waste. Everything that has passed is composted and put back into the earth, giving the garden its strength and beauty. In the microcosm the whole cosmos shows itself. With all the effort came the understanding, learning and grasping how this microcosm works. A spiritual connection intuitively shows us what the plants and the earth need.

The seductively volatile touches me and the constant change shows me that everything is good as it is. Not only in the garden, but also in my life I begin to assume that this is the case. My garden is my greatest teacher.

“The mosquitoes hum softly
In their bright way
and all beings shake
and sing softly of life. ”

(Paula Modersohn-Becker)

Andrea G.