"Everything comes gradually and at its appointed hour," said Ovid, the great Roman poet. Perhaps he was talking about the soul of the world, but he could just as easily and appropriately been talking about gardening (which is, perhaps, tending the same thing). And across cultures and millennia said the Buddha: "The greatest communion with the world is patience." He too, could have been talking about the all-too-human, godlike pastime of impelling the flowers to bloom.
More recently, a wise old greenskeeper was heard saying: "A good gardener knows the meaning of patience, for gardening itself, if truly learned, teaches us timing, fortitude and the willingness to wait for the arrival of beautiful things." But which comes first? Is it an even-tempered disposition that makes one a good candidate for becoming a skillful gardener? Or is it the act of gardening itself that produces in us, over time, the calm Zen-like persistence and composed diligence necessary for successful horticulture?
Certainly, it takes time and patience to plan a garden, to prepare the soil, to pick the plants and to wait quietly and steadily for that perfect moment for planting. And it takes even more time and patience to wait for the outcome of a season's worth of creative work and care taking.
Emerging from a cold, hard winter, it's easy to long for the luscious days of late summer. But patience is demanded by the garden itself; a certain humility is needed. "Good things come to those who wait..." Is it delayed gratification that, through gardening, we learn to enjoy? Partly. Is it the joy of anticipation? That, too. But it's also learning to tend to what the garden needs right now, today, and the enjoyment of having the freedom -- and the understanding -- to do the work that's needed.
In many ways, our hasty decisions, our impatience and shortsighted mistakes give us a kind of garden wisdom. We begin to see the world through garden time, and as we come to appreciate its gradual emergence, we begin to take things more slowly. Perhaps we begin to see things more clearly. Ccontemplation -- lounging and loitering -- become truly honorable virtues. We will know this simply by watching a cactus flower open on a warm spring day. What better excuse could there be for doing nothing?! And what could be more conducive to thought and learning than to trifle, to dawdle slowly and patiently along the garden path -- to relish each and every day all summer long -- sauntering toward those warm and delicious August evenings with someone you love? How to cultivate that possibility: this is what the garden teaches. This is why the garden grows.