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Digging in the Dirt, the Wright Scoop

Fairy gardens, a popular gardening experience, entice children.
Sylvia Hoehns Wright

Across the Nation and around the world, there are those who like to dig in the dirt. Why? As the descendent of a long line of gardeners, I believe it is childhood experiences of helping my parents and grandparents with their kitchen gardens which influenced my interest.
For, in my family, it is acceptable for a child to have soiled clothes and dirty hands. Why? As a child, I had dedicated space in which to garden and was encouraged to root rose bushes from clippings and install newly separated bulbs.

Later, after I married and started gardening activities at my new home, believe it or not, many childhood plants were transferred to my new garden spaces. Then, over time as space expanded, I solicited roots, clippings and newly separated perennials from friends, family or acquaintances. Still, while my garden illustrated the influence of a gardener’s gene, I had no formal training. So, through identifying educational opportunities, I attended the Virginia Master Garden program and other opportunities offered by local garden clubs, and began a journey into formal training.

Adding to my gardening ‘tool box of skills’, I attend landscape design courses taught by hands-on professionals at a local Botanical Garden. Then, to further expand knowledge, I researched and attended numerous Industry workshops and seminars. As a result, recently, a friend observed, “You’ve turned an avocation into a vocation!” Pondering this comment, I questioned her observation and then, agreed. No longer, is my ‘dig in the dirt’ effort simply a result of part-time activities. It has moved into the vocational world. For, paralleling a personal journey into formal training, I share landscape/garden knowledge with others.

Contributing feature articles and providing columns for garden magazines, I’ve participated as an “asks the expert” columnist, taught adult educational seminars on the topic of creating eco-friendly landscapes; and presently, participate in all of these activities plus act as a design consultant for landscapes that consider energy efficient and earth-friendly features. Still, the further I venture into the world of gardening, the more I question its impact on surrounding environments. For, gardening and eco-friendly gardening are not necessarily the same activity.

Survey statistics released by the National Garden Bureau has identified of 12 eco-friendly items surveyed only 3 were viewed as somewhat successfully observed by homeowner/backyard gardeners. So, it appears although as a Nation, we presently participate in a “Green Revolution” on the whole collectively we fail. So, obviously, it will take more than simply a “love of all things green” to make it work.

While on one hand, avocations tend to begin with passionate interest, successful development occurs through encouragement of others. Instead of stumbling through your effort as a passionate participant, seek knowledge and let it be your mentor. Identify and participate in education incorporating what you learn into daily experiences. Become known as the person who remains open to new and different ideas and then, share information with others; for, unless knowledge is shared, it is one directional.

Why? The future does holds a unique opportunity: the opportunity to not just be the caretaker of a garden space but be known as a person who CAREs: a person who encourages Conservation, accepts Accountability, participates in Recovery and enables an earth healthy Eco-legacy. Become identified in your community as the person who has positive impact on surveys which measure safe garden practices. Write articles for civic newsletters, volunteer to speak during community meetings; but more importantly, influence the next generation of gardeners.

Create a space in which it is all right for a child to experience dirty hands and soiled clothes. As a parent or grandparent, create experiences which enable another generation of people who turn their eco-avocation into a vocation. Together, let’s ensure gardening – digging in the dirt – is eco-friendly.

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