Give It All Away! Wisdom of the plants

These days, as spring turns to summer, the garden is insistent with one message:  Give it away, or lose it all.

Early in the development of a garden, it’s about procurement.  Picking out plants, choosing a place for them, seeing how they do.  With the kinds of perennials I tend to favor, that is both fun and highly interactive.  Many of the flowers in my yard have stories that go along with them about who gave them to me, stories that make them that much more beautiful.

And now, as I go into the fifth or sixth summer of having turned my yard into flowers, herbs and vegetables, it is imperative that I give stuff away.  If I don’t, if I try to hold onto all of the abundance for myself, the whole thing will die.

And so I join my local facebook group for perennial exchange and post regularly what I have to offer, “Bee balm.  Rudbeckia.  Strawberries. Grape thistle.   Dig your own!”  People come with shovels, apologetic about taking too much, and I want to tell them, there is no such thing as taking too much!

I go to farmers’ markets, see people paying $5 for rhubarb, $25 for a hanging basket full of morning glories, and though I want farmers to make a good living, still I want to whisper, “I’ll pay you to come to my house and take that same thing!”  I refuse to allow a friend I am there with to buy morning glory plants, my voice so sternly admonishing, you would think she wanted  to eat kittens.  I convince a friend into native foods to try to eat Jerusalem artichokes; I happen to have hundreds. I offer plants to neighbors who walk by and stop to admire, to friends planting gardens at their kids’ schools.  I plant lupines and ferns and hostas in pots from garage sales and sell them myself at a garage sale, to start others on their gardening journeys.

There is so much wisdom, so much life, in what the garden is teaching me about giving it away.

First, in order to give away what I can’t use myself, I need to be in constant relationship with many people.  Weeding and throwing on the compost pile is the simplest way to say goodbye to too many lupines and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate plants; it is tremendously more fun to give them to people who will love them!  When someone I can’t remember ever talking to stops by and says, “We have been eating raspberries all week from the shoots you gave us,” it makes my day.  It’s unlikely that a few people will want all I have to offer.  I must diversify channels for the abundance to flow!

Second, it’s OK to change my garden, to simplify.  The “tall garden” I loved turned out to block my neighbor’s view of the lake, so now I have a short garden I love, with the tall plants elsewhere in my yard, and the yards of others.  The vine that promised beautiful flowers turned out to be so vigorous it scared me–dig that out and pass it on to someone who wants to cover an old barn!

And finally, the most beautiful flower becomes a weed if it’s growing someplace you don’t want it.  Along with aphids, beetles, early frosts, flooding rains, and sudden frosts, I get to arbitrate life and death in the garden!  I am the creator of this plant haven so I also am given the power to be the destroyer—to decide that vinca is, after all, not what I want, even though it is thriving in my yard, or that the fancy lilies simply get on my nerves with their showy blossoms; I prefer more humble snapdragons.  For those of us who tend towards codependency and putting others before us, gardening is a great exercise in getting to put our own needs first!

There are hundreds more messages I receive from the plants on a regular basis; I will be sharing these as they arise.  One of them is “To everything there is a season,” and today’s season is about sharing and relinquishing the abundance of life in order to treasure what is particularly yours to treasure.