I am writing this column after welcoming visitors to one of the six gardens being featured in “Gardens in the Town of Weston,” hosted by the Cottage Gardeners of Weston this past weekend. The gardeners say it is “a club for those who like to dig in the dirt.” I am one of those!
Sometimes we are drawn to good things by instinct. Generations of gardeners have found being literally in touch with Mother Earth to be comforting, energizing, and helpful in learning hope–the capacity to expect positive outcomes, even when cold spring winds are blowing over freshly planted seedlings. Hope keeps us going when we are tempted to give up, whether on a seed or a dream or even another person.
The value of this instinct and affinity for digging in the dirt is backed up by research. In one study, researchers from the University of Bristol in London found that a natural species of soil bacteria causes the body to release chemicals called cytokines that spur the brain to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. Some of these cytokines activate the nerves that relay signals between the gut and the brain and can significantly affect our emotional climate. Working studies also suggest there may be a connection between not being sufficiently exposed to dirt in childhood with higher rates of allergies, asthma, and even mental health issues later in life.
Sharing gardening with our children is truly an important piece of preparing them for a healthy and happy life.
My Grandmother Rose taught me to love dahlias and always said hers were as “large as a dinner plate.” Grandma Mamie taught me that the sweet scent of petunias on her front porch was achieved by a secret mixture of some foul smelling fertilizer. A dear neighbor who loved nasturtiums taught me that no garden really “laughs” without them. Every year as I plant these flowers in their memories, I feel especially close to them as the plants begin to bloom profusely. Walking through a garden, whether it is our own or that of another who graciously shares, is an experience of the heart.
If you would like to dig in some dirt with kindred spirits, check out the Cottage Gardeners of Weston at their website www.cottagegardenersweston.com.