Gardens are wonderful. Understatement! Gardens (and the plants that inhabit them) provide so much to humanity, a Valentine ode seems appropriate. O, Gardens, I love thee because:
1. You keep people healthy. Gardening can be a very physical activity. Plants and green places provide a filter for air and water as well as places of respite from a stressful urban world. Horticulture therapy can enhance recovery from medical procedures and promote overall feelings of well-being for people of all ages and backgrounds.
2. You feed people. And where would we be without food?
3. You are a beauty for all the senses. Need I say more?
4. You pique curiosity. In Colorado we are lucky to live so close to natural areas. But a garden brings nature right to your very doorstep, making watching plants and animals interact as easy a pastime as it is intriguing. How do bees decide which blossoms to visit? What makes flowers open? How do plants avoid getting sunburned?
5. You reduce energy expenditures. Shade provided by trees can greatly reduce cooling costs in summer months. The temperature in the shade of a large tree can be up to 20 degrees lower than elsewhere. Living walls and greenroofs insulate against energy transfer to the atmosphere year-round, and provide valuable urban storm-water runoff abatement all the while.
6. You connect the present to the past. Humans have a very long history with plants. Cultivating food or flowers connects one to a millennia-long tradition of agriculture and symbiosis with the green part of the world. Which of my ancestors was the first to see a marigold? To pull a weed? To enjoy fruit from an apple tree—or a cold drink in its shade?
7. You connect us to the present. Nothing points out seasonal shifts like gardens. Groundhogs are notoriously untrustworthy—if you want proof of spring, take heed of the snowdrops! (And speaking of snowdrops, this picture was taken today in the Oak Grove at Denver Botanic Gardens).
8. You connect us to each other. We mark holidays, weddings, and funerals with plants. Laden with symbolism, plants provide a way to communicate with one another on a level beyond what mere words can achieve. Which reminds me that I need to get to a flower shop, and quickly!