WHY GARDEN?

BY MORAG FLIGHT 

Flower gardening can brighten up and liven any landscape. It can turn outdoor space into a colourful showcase or create borders that pop. This article aims to bring out some appealing reasons for creating a flower garden. 

Landscape beauty is important, adding a flower garden to your backyard or farm adds a visual stimulation through flower colours mixed with shrubs as well as herbaceous plants.   It does not have to be a big garden, even a patio with well-planted pots can add peace and serenity at the end of a strenuous day.  Apart from creating a curb appeal, by having a flower garden, you create a haven for insects and birds. Trees and shrubs do not only add colour and shade to your garden, they provide shelter for all those beautiful birds that can calm us. 

By creating a flower garden on your farm or backyard you are also opening a door to connecting and sharing experiences, materials and ideas with fellow community garden enthusiasts. For example, a small bunch of flowers are gifts to be shared and will be much appreciated or propagative material such as Echeverias succulents that can cascade over the edge of flower pots and this vegetative part cut and shared with others.  In one of my visits to Jaipur, India at the 13th World Flower Show I experienced this act of seed sharing. We were issued arm bracelets that had basil seeds implanted in them and pens whose cases were made with recycled paper and they had a see-through plastic bulb on the end filled with herb seeds. When back home, I planted the seeds and these plants have become a delightful growing reminder in my garden of a truly spectacular week. 

Flower gardens are well known to be beneficial for health and wellness. They improve emotional health, the beautiful colours, sweet scents of a flower garden and the insects and bird sounds can help improve your mood and help you to relax. My cotoneaster by the pool can be seen from the dining room and the louries (now reclassified as turaco), bulbuls and other birds add hours of entertainment.  Think of your garden as another room to be enjoyed. Gardening activities are both cardio and aerobic exercise. An hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories in women and 400 calories in men. For the elderly people gardening can serve as gentle exercise, for example, mowing the lawn instead of taking a vigorous walk, bending and stretching while weeding and digging acts as an aerobics class and moving of plants and soil is like weight lifting. Not only do you get fit in the process, but you end up with a lovely garden to enjoy.

Gardening can be fun for kids; it encourages them to take an interest in nature and through experience help them understand how the ecosystem works. My childhood gardening memories are a delight to remember.  I used to love playing with mud. I remember planting seeds and watching them grow day by day.   I would watch a bean plant grow and measure how many centimetres per day it grew.   I would try experiments with fertilisers and composts to see how they improve the growth or even add coloured water and see if it changes the colour of the plant. Working together in your garden with your children is togetherness time. You build bonds with them and create memories from your experiences in the garden. 

To attain the above-mentioned benefits of having a flower garden, you have to take note of these important considerations;

Remember to plan your garden design according to what you want to do in it.  For example, if you cannot bend anymore go for raised beds which you can toddle around.  If it is children you want to entertain think of an area for them where they can run riot over the Mondo grass without causing too much damage. Or if you need a natural space to relax, calm and inspiration think about a Japanese garden where you can spend many happy hours re-organising the stones or raking the sand. The design of the flower garden should take into consideration maintaining a sequence of bloom and consistent colour combinations through varying season’s because flowers bloom at varying times of the year, and some plants are annual, dying each winter. 

Keep your eyes out for unusual plants that can make a feature in your garden, also take note of what size they will be when they mature.  I made some mistakes when I first moved to Harare and was creating my garden.  I planted a Raffia palm far too close to a Bismarckia palm; they will be competing for light in the years to come.   If you are likely to move start potting up cuttings or moving your treasures into pots so that you can take them with you and maintain the joy in growing your own special plants.

I encourage you to learn not only from other people’s gardening experiences but also from your own. 

I was always told that my coconut palm would die when I moved it to Harare.  I have learnt this is not true as long as I cover it up in winter from the frost.  Shade cloth at the right time is the answer.  I did lose two before I stumbled on this fact and I am still on a learning curve.  Try to plan your garden so that it will always be there.   I have a baobab growing in my red clay and it is doing very well thanks to the complete cover with stone elephant at its base. The baobab is a case in point.   In about 100 years it is going to become a problem as it is too close to the house but for my lifetime, I will enjoy it and always be pleased I planted it there.

Happy gardening everyone.

Images from Pexels

Originally published in the 6th Ndeipi Newsletter

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