I learn a lot about helping beings survive and thrive in my urban container garden. It is amazing how the same processes that make or break plants also apply to the nurturing of souls. Some hearty souls have an inner resilience, like dragon wing begonias. They can seem to bear stress and even thrive on it, bringing forth their most beautiful flowers under some pressure.
Just a little neglect for some plants—and they can’t make it. Try another location with better sun. Give a little cover and extra water, not with a garden hose, but with a sprinkling can, a gentle shower on a regular basis. And wait.
Some don’t do well with extra coddling. Put them in the location they prefer and leave them alone. My maidenhair fern is finally thriving outside in partial shade after my lack of success in fussing too much over it indoors. Some plants and people just seem to be more private, and do better with one-on-one encounters rather than being in the thick of things. Too much exposure can get in the way. A little distance can allow a person or a plant to find itself.
Some of my plants crave support. They are happy when they have something to hold on to. My ivy grows down a mesh curtain, rigged up on a porch wall, while the tomato vines climb up it. They remind me of contented people sitting alone together in a Starbucks. Contact and support can help a tentative person or vine start climbing.
When plants or people are happy, there is a kind of “sheen” on their leaves! They have found a place where their needs are sufficiently met, they are relatively safe from overwhelming threat and stress, and they have enough challenge to keep them reaching out and flowering in their own way. The presence of others and the Gardener make it all work. When storms come or hatred destroys, as in the Orlando tragedy this weekend, a garden holds the truth that the ability to heal lies next to the wound.
The secret to tending gardens is awareness, noticing the little signals of distress before they gain momentum and addressing them. The reward of gardening is seeing the sheen of contentment, especially when it has been lost and returns.