With the holiday season behind us, it is time to consider, ‘what’s next?’ At some point during the gray and frosty days of winter, my thoughts turn to garden planning. It’s not that I haven’t already been giving my gardens any thought, it’s just that there are always so many other topics occupying my time during the holidays that my garden isn’t given as much attention as I would like. But, with the new year beginning to bloom full of hope and promise for a better year, I can focus more on this year’s garden plan.
The great thing about gardening is that almost everyone can participate. I inherited my love of flower gardening from my Mama. Even in her later stages of dementia, she loved her flowers.
When it comes to gardening, I am always learning – learning by trial and error – or errors. I don’t always have a theme in mind when making garden plans. This year, however, after reading an article about Victory Gardens planted during WWI & WWII I became intrigued. During both world wars, the concept of planting a Victory Garden was encouraged by the government to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. They also cited the health, recreational, and morale-boosting effects of gardening.
It occurred to me that fighting the coronavirus gives the sense that we are currently in a war-time situation. Combine that with a loved one fighting dementia, and well…we can easily get worn out with a war-weary feeling.
Gardens grow benefits
Beyond the delight of enjoying home-grown food, there are a variety of other motivations for a current Victory Garden. Exercise, stress reduction, and memory triggers are among the numerous benefits. For example, many flowers help stimulate the senses by attracting birds and butterflies as well as giving off lovely fragrances. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health have also found that spending time enjoying a garden helps to improve attention span while reducing pain and stress.
Gardens can also be enjoyed by loved ones at almost every stage of dementia. Those more able can help plan, plant, and be involved in the upkeep. Others may relish a leisurely roll through the garden in a wheelchair to experience the beauty of the flowers. Everyone benefits from the fresh air and sunshine while taking in the splendor of nature.
The word ‘garden’ can invoke a different idea or something unique to each person. To some, a garden means a large plot enclosed by a fence that requires constant tending. Someone else’s garden may consist of a few favorite herbs growing in a sunny kitchen window.
The English often refer to their yards as ‘gardens’. Personally, I love giving different areas of our yard unique garden names. It helps when referring to a specific space by name when planning the watering, feeding, and weeding schedule. I also tend to name my trees, but that’s just me.
Growing your garden knowledge
When it’s all said and done, there are very few drawbacks to gardening. It can be educational – especially when something doesn’t work out as hoped. For example, last year we planted an area with milkweed seeds hoping to attract the monarch butterflies as they pass through on their migration. Since milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat, I wanted to both help them out and get the enjoyment of seeing the beautiful butterflies as well.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that milkweed seeds require something called ‘cold stratification’ in order to grow. Cold stratification is the process of exposing seeds to both cold and moist conditions. Since that didn’t happen, they didn’t grow. Dang! This year I will know better. After checking, I discovered that a lot of seeds required cold stratification.
This is where the planning comes in. Since I’m a beekeeper, I am always looking for flowers our bees will like. I also like to plant flowers that will attract butterflies and other pollinators. It’s nice to have something blooming in spring, summer, and fall – even winter. Once I decide what flowers and other plants I’d like to add this year, I’ll do a bit of research to find out how to plant, and when they will be blooming.
The new year is the perfect time to begin. Take a walk around your potential garden spots. Find out what ‘zone’ you live in. Visit your local nurseries and farmer’s markets to learn what grows well in your area. I find that the more I learn, the better I plan – which causes my excitement to grow right along with the garden.
It’s time to get growing. May victory bloom large in both your life and garden as the year unfolds.
Has your world been touched by dementia?
My book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find joy on your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook