Lately I’ve been mulling over the importance of gardens and gardening. It will come as no surprise that they are valuable to me, being that I have chosen horticulture as my profession. But what is the value to our culture, society, the world? I realize that all sounds a bit grand – but I really mean it. What is the value of a garden?
This concept is likely enough to fill a book, but I will keep this short and simple. The value of a garden lies in preservation, edification, and beauty.
First is preservation. By this I mean that the plants we grow and care for here are one way that we work to preserve species that no longer grow in the wild or are not often seen in cultivation. Take for instance the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) on the front lawn. This plant is extinct in the wild (its original home is the banks for the Alatamaha river in Georgia and was last seen growing wild in 1803). Without places like Blithewold (and other arboreta across the country), this plant would cease to exist. Blithewold’s specimen was a gift to Marjorie in 1969. We are grateful that Marjorie valued unusual trees so that now 50 years later we can continue to appreciate this now mature specimen.
There is a part two here that is important to note: preserving trees and perennials not only benefits us as humans, it is also greatly beneficial to wildlife. I often write on this blog about the pollinators I observe in the gardens. To be a gardener is to be intrinsically bound to the rest of the natural world. I find it difficult to love a flower without loving all of the life it supports with its pollen and habitat. On a weekly basis, we see birds, bees, butterflies, voles, rabbits, chipmunks, and many more utilize the gardens we create for their homes.
The second value is edification. The best way to learn is through experience. Our goal in the reinvention of the gardens each year is to bring new and interesting plants and growing methods to the attention of all who visit here. We are always trialing new cultivars and experimenting with new plants – both in the gardens and in the tender container collection. Labels throughout the gardens provide plant names and our in-depth classes showcase how we do what we do.
The third and last value I will mention is beauty. Our lives need beauty. It is being sold to us in every which way via advertisements, yet I can’t help but continue to believe that the most beautiful part of life lies in nature. Never is my spirit more lifted than when I spend time in the garden, or in a park, or visiting a new arboretum. We are thrilled to share the beauty of the gardens with you. It brings such joy to hear visitors ooh and aah over a flower or plant in the garden. Beauty nurtures the soul.