A Garden Maker’s Creed: How to Make a Garden and Take Care of Your Soul
Christie Purifoy is a writer who loves growing flowers and community. Seriously, her garden is BLISS. and his book garden designer is both poetic and practical. I absolutely LOVE this book! In its beautiful, photo-filled pages, you’ll find everything you need to start growing your own flowers, and you’ll drink deeply from the wonder and wisdom that our God only offers us in the garden. It is with deep gratitude and joy that we welcome Christie to the farm table today…
Guest post by Christie Purifoy
Flower gardens don’t start with flowers. They don’t even start with seeds. They start with desire and vision, and they start with ordinary dirt.
“Flower gardens don’t start with flowers.”
Of course, most gardeners never use the word dirt. They talk about floor, and they talk about it with a finely nuanced connoisseur’s vocabulary. The poet-gardeners speak of silt, clay, sand, gravel, humus and marl. Scientist-gardeners mention lime, phosphorus, nitrogen and acidity, and they fiddle around with test tubes and color strips. I love the litany of earthy garden words and have never put earth in a test tube.
All are welcome in the garden, and there are no garden police to impose test tubes on you if you don’t want them.
Whether you lean towards poetry or science, your first task is the same: cast your eyes on your piece of land and run it through your fingers. When you pick up a handful after a summer rain, does it roll up like a bit of potter’s clay? Is it already as dry as sand in a child’s bucket? Is it crumbly and black like something sweet in Grandma’s cake pan? Roses will appreciate the sticky clay which retains nutrients and water. Yarrow and cosmos will be happy in quick-drying, nutrient-poor sand. Just about any flower will love chocolate lemon.
If your eyes are already glassy, if this already sounds like too much technicality for you, take a deep breath and dig.
The garden rules are only guides, and there is an exception to every rule. It’s true that roses like heavy clay, but Rugosa roses like sandy soil near a salty beach.
“If you care about the source – the soil – your garden will repel pests and grow.”
Take a look at the flowers that grow so well in your neighbor’s garden, then try them in your own. You will get to know your soil over time. You could even create your own language to describe it.
Nor is it necessary to learn the technical terms printed in tiny characters on bottles and bags. I recommend avoiding chemical fertilizers. It is better to feed your soil rather than your plants. Stay away from sprays with images of angry insects. If you care about the source, the soil, your garden will repel pests and thrive.
Feed your flower beds fall leaves that you have chopped with the lawn mower. Feed your garden black compost from your garden pile. Lay cardboard over the worst weeds and cover them with aged manure you brought home from the garden center.
“The earth needs a steady diet of decay and decay if it is to continually burst forth with new life.”
I live in mushroom growing country and every winter I shovel truckloads of wet, stinky soil left over from mushroom picking. If left to sit and cool for a few months, mushroom compost is just the thing for hungry flowers.
Maybe you have plenty of pine needles or a friend with a chicken coop or hutch. There’s science behind every choice, but even poets intuitively know that the earth needs a steady diet of decay and decay if it is to continually burst forth with new life.
In “The Burial of the Dead,” the poet TS Eliot reminds us of this difficult truth:
“April is the most cruel month, reproduction
Lilac out of the dead earth, mixing
memory and desire.
“Gardens grow because death can be fruitful and resurrection is real.”
Past and future meet and mingle in the soil of a garden. What died and remained on your soil last year? What form of new floral life do you hope to sprout next spring?
Gardens grow because death can be fruitful and resurrection is real.
A gardener cannot recite any formal creeds, but he lives them. Everything I practice in the garden says, I believe and look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
What is true in the garden is true all over the earth. What is true in the stem of a flower is true in our own arms and legs.
Do you want to live? The same voice that spoke of the green things in existence spoke with the accent of Nazareth, promising that if we lose our lives, we will find them. Christ is our perfect gardener, and he commands us to come and die. It’s a loving invitation.
How then to prepare? How do we make gardens and how do we take care of our souls?
We do not run away from suffering and death but we receive them. We water the ground with our tears. We spread the black death (soft leaves, rotting manure, shredded branches from a local tree pruning company) and harvest new life. We overlay the old (brown cardboard, pine needles, grass clippings) and are convinced that in the depths of darkness and humidity, earthworms dig tunnels and webs of mysterious mushrooms spread and all that, even dirty, smelly and disgusting. – is also beautiful, true and good.
And so alive.