Grow what you enjoy!

Photo by Deborah Maier

The garden explodes with growth and colour in May, even if temperatures still dip below zero and cover it with a layer of frost. Garden cleanup is underway. The seeds that should be planted four weeks before the last frost have been sown, and soon it will be time to plant directly in the garden. This is the busiest month at garden centres, as many gardeners are purchasing plants and other supplies.

While it’s fun to shop with friends, sometimes our shopping buddies persuade us to buy things we didn’t intend to, or particularly like. After spending two gardening seasons making do, and with plant prices higher, this year be sure to focus on getting plants that you really want. Calgary Horticultural Society members have told me how important their gardens are to them. The garden is a sanctuary that lets them get away from their worries. It’s a place of beauty. It’s a place where they feel they have some influence. A place that helps restore their sense of well-being. These sentiments come from gardeners with large gardens and from those who garden in pots on a balcony.

Build that special garden place by choosing plants that you’ll enjoy and use. Don’t put your energy into plants that are struggling. The “if it does not spark joy, let it go” mantra used for decluttering our home can be used in the garden, too. If a plant is too much work, or you simply do not like it, remove it. Give it away to a friend, bring it to a plant share, or put it in the compost. It likely needs an environment your growing space can’t provide.

Cook with herbs? No matter how small your growing space is, there’s likely room for an herb pot. Put it in a spot that is quick and easy to get to, so you can pinch off a few stems when you need them. It could even be indoors on a sunny windowsill. Fresh herbs offer a lovely aroma. I find I can’t resist caressing herb plants to release their scent. Trimming back herb plants encourages them to put out new tender shoots. If it produces more than you can use fresh, harvest the herbs in the morning, and hang them in small bunches to dry. These dried herbs will keep you thinking about summer, when you cook with them this winter. Too many dried herbs? Tie them with a pretty ribbon and gift them to your friends and family.

Be sure to share your garden. One of my friends says she’s happy that she can share her love of gardening with her grandchildren. If you’re able to do the same, share the plants you enjoy, but also let them choose some to plant, too. It’s a sure way to grow that seed of a passion for gardening. 

We need to let go of the expectations others have for us, especially in the garden. Do not be bothered if your favourite plant is not one trending on social media, or your garden is unlikely to be the cover story in a garden trends magazine—they’re great! As one Society member responded when asked, “my garden will always have a couple of weeds.” In fact, at the end of last year I decided that, this year, I would let the sweet yellow clover (Melitotus officinalis) in my garden grow. The native bees love it and I think its fragrance is divine.  With the desire to create a more resilient growing space, it may be time to reconsider which plants are valued in our gardens and worth labouring over—to sustain or to remove.

While it may seem that the world is spinning away from us, planting and nurturing plants can help us feel connected to it and with nature. By caring for our sliver of the Earth and caring for ourselves … we all benefit. Join us in gardening for life! Grow a plant that you like. It will put a smile on your face.

To learn more about gardening in the Calgary area, visit our website