The Glory of the Garden

By Rudyard Kipling.

OUR England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye. 

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows ;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-” Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.

There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray 
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away !

Sent in by Laurel Beardsley of Titusville, FL—a subscriber since the Fall of 1997! Thanks, Laurel!

The Garden Exists

For the gardener.

By Jim Long, Owner Long Creek Herbs

Does a garden exist simply for the pleasure of the gardener? Why do we grow herbs with the fervor of an evangelist, collecting new varieties like converts to our own patch of earth, if this museum of plants will likely disappear when we die?

Maybe we who garden need a new ritual to give some perspective answer those basic questions for us. The ancient Egyptians used to bury treasured possessions with their owner upon his or her death. Instead of interring the favorite pets, armor, crown or sword with the deceased, we might start a custom that our gardens are buried with us.

Think of it! At the time of passing, all the gardener’s favorite roses would be uprooted, along with the “best of the best” mint and the outstanding blue Salvia. Along with these, the favorite trowel, the garden books, catalogs and the trusty old tiller, would be piled in the hole beside the gardener. The lifetime collection of newspaper and magazine articles that were always too interesting to throw away could go in, too. The seed collection stored in jars, boxes and envelopes gleaned from a lifetime of travels (but never planted) would be added, as would the rake that no one else liked to use, the plastic pots that “might come in handy some day” and the old scissors with the broken point. That kind of ritual would put our gardens in proper perspective for us.

I can’t help but reflect on this notion, as fanciful as it may be, when I walk through my own gardens. There are my pathways where pathways never existed before, rustic stones steps that I’ve wrestled into place and laid with my own hands. There are plants I’ve nurtured for decades, and plants members of my own family have guarded through their own lifetimes. Yet 30 minutes with a developer’s bulldozer could easily wipe away my lifetime’s gardens. A year or two of neglect would erase my passionate pursuit, surrendering to weeds and grasses. Untended, my garden would run wild for a while and then simply cease to be. “The gardens fell into ruin after Jefferson’s death…,” states the guidebook to Monticello. Even Thomas Jefferson was not survived by his garden as he knew it.

How sobering! We feel that our own gardens are such a part of our lives they will surely live on. The pathways we lay off, the beds we spend decades bordering and soil-building, somehow will be perennial like the giant alliums we watch bloom each season. Rare marjorams and thymes that we collected on our travels, brought home in pockets and suitcases, nurtured, treasured, propagated and talked to, feel to us to be important beyond our own years on Earth.

We gardeners, I think, have a feeling of immortality through our gardens, a belief that others will appreciate and therefore preserve the beauty we have created and tended, that future inhabitants of that space will be awed by the beauty and continue our projects. Picnics under our arbors, hours of medications on the garden bench, each of our experiences contributes to our feeling of permanence about it all. But if Jefferson’s attachment to his garden wasn’t enough to sustain it after his life, then what must the future hold for our own bit of soil?

The new garden ritual I’ve jokingly suggested might help us see more clearly that we garden for the pleasure of gardening. The process, not the outcome, is the goal all along. The aching back, the sweating brown, the constant “Will I ever get caught up?” is the reward in itself! Sitting on the bench appraising the progress, dividing clumps of perennials with friends, building the compost, and collecting seeds are the real payoffs. Eating breakfast in the sun room while contemplating the butterflies on the marigolds in the garden below, or sipping cool minted drinks in the gazebo while admiring the day’s progress is priceless. If a photograph survives and some child says someday, “This was so-and-so’s garden,” all the better. The garden exists in our mind for our pleasure and for the pleasure it gives others.

The garden as a whole is like the individual plants that reside in it. The Valeriana officinalis that was last fall in the upper bed, this summer has appeared along the walk, yards away. Seeds scatter, plants change locations and gardens. The garden may just be, “an agreeable place where plants thrive for a while.” Does there really need to be anything more?

I think I’ll choose to see my garden as just space I’ve rented from the Earth for awhile. When I’m gone and the lease is up, someone else can clear the brush, rearrange the collections of rocks, turn the soil and perhaps plan a new garden. I garden for the pleasure of gardening and I plant to enjoy a long lease.

Check out Jim’s website and online store: