Illustration by Sondra Knight

And if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.

That phrase was from a young hotel operator in India in a recent Judy Dench movie, and I’ve adopted it as my own motto.

Isn’t it just perfect? Not only for life in general, but for me, in my garden, too.

Take pruning, for instance. When I’ve finished whacking away at an unruly shrub, it’s never exactly what I envisioned it should be. I could be disappointed and dispirited, or in an ‘Aha!’  moment, I could realize that it’s just not the end yet.  Like a bad haircut, it will grow out.

I could continue on with examples like this endlessly, and I’m sure you could, too., but I’m going to go way off topic (you who read this column know that I flit around like the King of Siam….you remember, from bee to bee to bee?) and depart from the botanical and get a little philosophical.

There is something mystical about gardening.  Even when the world is going topsy-turvy and life has become beyond understanding, there is something grounding about working in the garden. Grounding is a good word for working in the garden, don’t you think? Grounded means stable, secure, sensible and we all can use a little more grounding. *

Even as a child, I was fascinated by seeds. Not the seeds themselves, but the concept that every living thing was once just a tiny seed, so to speak. Even you and me. A seed is filled with possibilities, but it will do nothing all by itself. It needs some help. Soil and moisture, yes, but those alone won’t assure that the seed will germinate. It needs the right combination of those, along with the right temperature and amount of sunlight.  Magic? Of course. At least that’s how I explained it as a child, and not much has happened since to change my mind.

And the plants themselveswe have long assumed that those living things have no brains, no consciousness, no awareness.  We were wrong. They have them all. Perhaps not in the way that humans do, but they do. I actually enjoy talking to my plants. They never argue and usually nod agreeably. Especially if there’s a breeze.

Here’s something that’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth.  Using Tough Love on plants. Look it up on the internet. Many sources actually recommend that you whack wisterias with a baseball bat to make them bloom. I’m an advocate of severe pruning as a discipline, but that’s taking Tough Love a little too far!

Now I’ve never gone that far, but I once threatened an orange tree with a chain saw, and, Scout’s honor, it listened and has been producing bountifully for years.

Plants, like people, respond to TLC. I put up a fence not only to confine my pooches, but to protect my plants from marauding deer. I sympathize with the deer. Really, I do. Reduced habitat makes them hungry. But I sympathize with my plants more. They say the fences make good neighbors, and fencing is the also the only sure-fire defense against marauding deer. Except when they don’t work. Deer can even jump a 6’ fence, but only if they can see a place to land. Solid fences prevent deer from seeing the other side, but so called “living fences” give them the view into your yard so if they see a good landing spot, over they come. It happened in my yard.

Gardens exemplify “It’s not the end,” perfectly. Gardens are always a work in progress. They change minute by minute, and decade by decade. Sorta like you can’t step in the same river twice. You won’t be the same, and neither will the river.

So when life gets you down, remember, if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.

It is said that gardening will add years to your life, and life to your years, but Rudyard Kipling admonished “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.”

Or by writing about them.

I’d better get busy.

*Instead of writing ‘working in the garden”, I had started to write “puttering in the garden”, but real gardeners never putter.  We have been known to wander aimlessly, but never, ever, to putter.

Kudos for the artwork by local Master Gardener, Sondra Knight.  Ladies watching the movie are Amanda McNulty (Making it Grow TV host), me in the straw hat, and Laura Lee Rose, wearing an orange Clemson ball hat.