learning something new

Yesterday I began my journey into learning how to garden! With the guidance of our friend, Lesley Duncan, my husband and I transformed our condo’s dull, concrete balcony into something beautiful, complete with outdoor acacia wood flooring and a variety of filled planters.

I know next to nothing about growing plants. So when we set out in the garden centre I felt a bit anxious and confused. There are so many variables to consider: annual/perennial, sun needs, water needs, space needs, height needs… it was tempting to just give up. But I want to learn. Basic gardening can’t be that difficult, and the results can be beautiful.  So I sought Lesley’s help. She is a thoughtful, patient (award-winning!) teacher generally, and is also quite knowledgeable about horticulture. She helped us make decisions by listening to our needs and ideas, taught us how to plant, when to water, and so on.

Throughout the process, I felt keenly aware of my novice status. I felt emotions including excitement, anxiety, and a strong desire to avoid messing up. The experience reinforced something I have come to learn about myself: I often prefer to learn in communion with others. When I needed to learn about gardening, I didn’t turn first to a book or a website. I turned to a friend, a tutor, a guide, who could help me identify what I needed to know now in a sea of possible knowledge. (I’m now reminded again: “We teach who we are” (Palmer).) It was fun learning something new, but I’m not sure how much fun (rather than stress) I would have had if I didn’t have such a knowledgable, kind guide.

At the end of the day, when we were remarking about the future possibilities of bright flowers and voluptuous herbs, Lesley wisely noted that if something went wrong — a plant didn’t like it there, got over/under-watered or whatever — we would just learn not to do that again next year, but that it wouldn’t be a catastrophe. This simple nugget of wisdom offered me a productive way to frame whatever happens to our plants over the summer. Thanks for being such a great teacher/guide/friend, Lesley!

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