Essence

If love were what the rose is,
And I like the leaf,
Our lives would grow together
In sad or singing weather,
Blown fields or flowerful closes,
Green pasture or grey grief;
If love were what the rose is,
And I were like the leaf.

A.C. Swinburne (1837-1909)

On this Valentines’ Day and Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (tomorrow), I am contemplating flowers, gardens, life.  So what flower jumps to mind for me is the rose.  The traditional bloom of Valentine’s Day.  Roses have many meanings; of love and beauty, jealousy, worthiness. Then there is the rich, heady intoxicating scent of roses that brings back an old fashioned nostalgia of rose water and my female ancestors.

And as I contemplate further I think of who we are and how we came to be that person.  We are ever changing beings searching for meaning in our lives.  So what is that meaning or as I think of it, our essence. Essence has many definitions; substance, spirit, lifeblood, heart, principle, soul, core.  It also means perfume; scent.

So I go inward today and look at myself.   Will I ever grasp this thing called essence.  Maybe, but I think it is the journey in finding it that makes life interesting and worthwhile.  We all go on that journey at some point in our lives especially once you turn 50.  It is a marking point.  Wow, at least half my life is over and what have I to show for it.  Am I the person I want to be?  Am I doing what I want to do?  And the answers are as numerous  and ever changing as the stars.

Well then what is at my core?  We all have our lists.  Mine starts with my husband, friends and family with their unconditional love and acceptance for that is an essential part of my essence.  Without them where would I be?  But I think another large part of my core lies in the earth; in my oasis called my garden.  Wherever I have been I have created this garden.  It ebbs and flows with me; it creates bliss in my life.

When I think about gardening, I think about what is the heart and soul of a garden.  What is at its core?  What is its essence?  And I think it is the gardener.  The designer who created the garden and the person or persons who lovingly maintain the space keeping its lifeblood flowing.  Sometimes this is one in the same person as in my garden.  And just as our essence is influenced by our history, inner dialogue and our reality so to are our gardens influenced by these things.  We redesign gardens as we redesign our lives.

Gardeners will tell you we find our greatest happiness in our gardens.  It is where we find our center.  But gardeners are not all the same.  We are not cut from the same cloth.  While we love all things garden we can be as different as night is to day and it shows in our gardens.  Some gardeners are what I call traditionalists who love neatly trimmed hedges and beautiful rows of boxwood, and then there are the naturalists who love the freedom of the meadow.  Neither is right or wrong.  For the most part, gardeners are accepting of all things called gardens.  We find the beauty in the structure or the lack of it; the colors of the flowers or the beauty of the foliage.  I love beautiful rows of boxwood and magnificent stately gardens, but it is not part of me to ever grow them.  I admire those who have the artistry, patience and effort to create these incredible gardens.  But my joy comes from letting nature take her course.  It is who I am; what makes me happy.

I think the part I love most about gardens has always been the flowers.  These are what I remember from my childhood; from the gardens of my mother, my aunts.  They are what I am addicted to the most.  All colors, shapes and sizes.  And I think it is why when someone asks what is your favorite flower, I cannot answer them.  I don’t have a favorite above all others.  I have my latest addiction, but that will change as I discover another flower.  It’s like being addicted to sugar and walking into a candy store.  I want it all, but I will settle for what I have a craving for at the moment.

One of the best little books I have come across recently is, The Language of Flowers, by Catherine Lee.  I love learning about the meaning behind the flowers I am drawn to. So on this day of love and flowers, here are the meanings of some of the flowers that make up the essence of my garden.  By no means is this an all inclusive list..heaven forbid!!

Pictured above are:  daylily (coquetry or being flirty); hyacinth (constancy); lilac (first emotions of love) and phlox (united heart).

Real glory springs from the silent conquest of ourselves. ~
Joseph P. Thompson

29 comments

  1. Esther Montgomery says:

    I’ve decided I’m not a gardener – though I can’t yet put my finger on a good new word. I simply like to see things growing and to help them along a bit when necessary. I like to feel connected (in however a trivial and token-type way) to the food we eat. My garden is a right muddle. If I were rich, perhaps I would employ a gardener to help sort it out! (Though I probably wouldn’t.) Meanwhile – I think I need a new essence.

    Esther

    • Donna says:

      Oh Esther if you like to play with plants even a little there is a budding gardener inside you…gert rid of anything that takes too much time and put in patches you can manage easily…that is how I started and stayed for a long time. Even just some beautiful containers work…I think with some assitance you are a gardener and a garden lover…still counts 🙂

  2. Alistair says:

    Donna, I am also half way through my life, so I guess I will still be in touch when I reach 130yrs. Gardeners are all indeed different and yet share a sameness, if I get stuck on how to express myself I shall just pop over and steal some of your words.

  3. Carolflowerhillfarm says:

    Lovely thought provoking post Donna! Gardening, garden and gardener seem to me to be in need of a new more thoughtful definition. If this is your birthday . . . Happy Birthday. I am not sure if it is from your post but just in case . . . or whenever you hit that mark . . . I hope it was a fun and love-filled day. I confess to being a steward of the land, gardener, farmer who does not appreciate all gardens. I feel we need to follow the creed doctors are suppose to follow. Primum non nocere. “First do no harm.” from the Hippocratic oath. This would mean we could not use chemicals that harm the earth and all of her creatures. We would consider and educate ourselves about planting invasive species . . . and on. Even if it comes later as in my case!! Many “garden” for a show only. I doubt they blog about it. I am happy to find here at Blotanical that most are very committed to caring for the earth, as well as, cultivating it. We can take that to a intimate deep place within as well . . . as you so beautifully do in this post. We all try to create our own paradise and that would consider all life including our own. For me the ‘essence’ of the garden is the magical interplay between the gardener and nature . . . so often a garden will show us the way . . . once it is established and I wholeheartedly agree that I too am happiest in my garden. Wonderful post and Happy Valentine’s Day Donna!

    • Donna says:

      Carol so beautifully put…not my birthday yet but I was just lamenting on that realization of more than halfway actually…I agree that “do no harm” is most important and as I have learned I make changes…nature is the way and why I love to be in it…I agree I think we need a better definition…I find myself to lean toward being a naturalist and I will think more about that definition…

  4. Donna says:

    Donna, this is a lovely post with great depth of thought. You are so right, gardening is what makes the gardener happy and how the garden fulfills that thirst for happiness is the way in which it is tended. Gardens are not landscapes per say and vice versa. I feel there is a debatable difference. But a part of someone is always in both, or should be.

    • Donna says:

      thx Donna…yes I think gardens are part of the landscape and both affect us as people and gardeners, but I always say I can design gardens but I am not a landscape designer…many different skill sets and some overlap

  5. rabia says:

    A very thoughtful post. Ofcourse, essence is beautiful title for that lovely post. It made me think a lot. Sometimes in our lives, its very essential for us to know about the meaning of our lives and the things around us because by doing that it help us to appreciate the beauty of the Earth around us in much better way . Realization of the things around us is very important and for that purpose there is no age limit. We can appreciate it in any moment of our lives. It just we have to listen to the echo of our hearts that we become more balanced, healthy, natural loving and joy.
    I enjoyed reading your post.
    Rabia.

    • Donna says:

      Rabia thank you for yopu insight and kind words. I am glad you liked my introspection. And you are right we have to listen….sometimes not an easy thing to do…

      • rabia says:

        Yes, the Earth’s echo live in each one of us but its very difficult to listen to it. Thankyou for appreciating my words.
        rabia.
        (I am also in blotanical with that nick.. mania …)

  6. b-a-g says:

    Donna,
    I knew I was going to love this post just from reading the title. I enjoy blogging because people are more likely to find one’s essence when they are not distracted by first impressions.

  7. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Lovely post Donna. I think gardens can be an expression of the person – or people – who created and tend it, but it does beg the question, is the dreary back garden with tatty lawn, a few standard shrubs and some plastic toys truly a garden or just an outside space? I don’t want to be snobby, and I loved your reminder that we all garden differently and all approaches are valid, but if no one puts any of themselves into an outside space, if there is no “essence”, can it still be a garden? I can love the garden full of immaculate bedding and garden ornaments because of the way it demonstrates that someone loves it, even if I myself rather hate the style, but the wastelands that so many suburban houses wind up with make me sad.

    • Donna says:

      Janet that is a very valid question…I think if someone tends a small patch it is a garden but if they really don’t tend it at all then it is an outdooor space…I believe you have to garden to get a garden…but many just have some landscape and a lawn which is really just an outdoor space…mowing and tending a lawn is not a garden!!

  8. tina says:

    You expressed my feelings on gardens perfectly. I believe a garden is an expression or essence of the gardener too. I even talk about my views on my profile. Though that may have been a disclaimer because I know some folks may not like the way I garden. There are garden snobs 🙂 you know and not everyone feels like you do about gardens. Like the gardener, gardens must be different because humans are different and I would hope we don’t all like every single other garden we see-life would just be too boring! Like you said, your childhood and memories influence and a lot of other things like being a good steward like Carol said can influence how a gardener gardens and their very essence. Gardens are really great and I find that anyone who gardens, no matter how small, must be a person who loves beauty (their own view or not-doesn’t matter to me when it is a growing thing) cares about the environment, and their surrounding community.

    I think you must be a very optimistic person who plans to live to 100!

    • Donna says:

      Oh Tina you made me laugh and cry…thank you…you said it beautifully and I think we can all learn so much from one another….I try to be optomistic and yes I plant to live to 100!!

  9. p3chandan says:

    Well said Donna. A beautiful post about love on this special day. Ive reached that half way of my life, I think I can say Im much happier now than before, though my love compartment is not so perfect but Im very much thankful what God has given me. Im enjoying life with my 3 sons and a daughter-in-law, thank God Im still healthy to do gardening any time I feel like it..May God bless you too with a good life!

  10. Jean says:

    Another beautiful and thoughtful post, Donna. The year I turned fifty, I was also diagnosed with cancer. The cancer diagnosis made the year into an even greater watershed. Because what I learned from living with cancer was how to plan for the future as though you will have one while living every day as though you will not. Gardening is like that for me. There are all those projects down the road; and there is the everyday enjoyment of the living, growing garden. It’s probably not a coincidence that much of the growth of my garden and my growth as a gardener came after I turned 50.

    • Donna says:

      Jean I am so glad you liked it and it spoke to you…gardening has been a life altering experience for me but not for the same reasons…mentally and stress wise I needed to “dig” in so to speak…thank you for sharing your experience with me!!

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