Six on Saturday: ‘Garden Bathing’

Caladium ‘Berries and Burgundy’ grows enthusiastically in this shady spot.

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Maybe I’m too easily entertained.  Or maybe I’m just a sucker for a pretty leaf.  We’ve reached the time of the year when I can happily circumambulate the garden admiring the newest, brightest leaves appearing on our Caladiums and other ‘Elephant Ear’ plants and noting how many different flowers may be in bloom.

Now, let’s be honest here:  there isn’t a great deal of happiness in our public lives at the moment.  We watch every dystopian plot line play out in the daily news, even as we plan how to avoid viral contamination in the mundane acts of collecting our mail, picking up the groceries or taking a walk.  I find a good antidote to the general anxiety of our age in ‘garden bathing.

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Alocasia ‘Plumbea’ with orbs

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Maybe you’ve heard of ‘Forest Bathing,’ or shinrin-yoku?  This Japanese practice of spending time out of doors under the canopy of trees can be brought right home to our own gardens, as we soak in the atmosphere through all of our senses.  The Japanese scientists who study these things found greater happiness, well-being, and good health among those who devote some time to soaking in the sights, sounds, scents and sensations of nature.

I’m happy knowing that 40 years of research has proven what gardeners already know:  we feel better when we spend time outside in a garden.  Curiously, it doesn’t matter so much whether we are in our own garden or a friend’s; a public garden or a park.  Time spent under trees and surrounded by plants helps us feel better in measurable ways.

And not just plants, either.  Spotting a turtle or a dragonfly feels like a gift.  Watching butterflies feed or birds glide around the garden brings its own peaceful contentment.

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Alocasia with Caladiums

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Maybe that is why I awaken each morning with a gardening ‘to do’ list already percolating in my waking thoughts.  Whether my list includes tasks at home, at the local botanical garden, or both; I awake with purpose and the intent to invest some early morning time out of doors working in a garden.

Whether I’m pulling weeds, watering, or just monitoring how the plants are growing, I can blissfully disconnect from the day’s narrative of outrage and gloom.  Every opening flower and bit of new growth gets counted as a worthy accomplishment.

There are many ways to express compassion for others and ourselves.  There are many ways to assist others in experiencing happiness.  We each do what we can.  I read about an artist who painted a flower for every staff member of a distant hospital, over 1000 in all.  His paintings were framed and presented to each person as a ‘thank you’ gesture for their healing and sustaining work.

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There are those who cook and deliver meals or loaves of bread to those in need.  Others sew and deliver masks, or check on lonely neighbors.  There is a task waiting for every willing heart and hand.

What could be more life-affirming and joy inducing than planting and tending a garden?  We need beauty, tranquility and inspiration now in ways we may have not needed them before. They are an antidote to the darker feelings that bubble up in our thoughts each day.

So I reach out to all of my gardening friends and to everyone who nurtures a plot of growing things.  Let us continue the work and know that it is good, and purposeful and that our efforts make a positive difference in this crazy world.  Let’s sow beauty and reap happiness, for ourselves and for our communities.

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Caladium ‘Splash of Wine’ is new in our garden this year. This is the first leaf opened from the tuber.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Caladium ‘Debutante’

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Visit Illuminations, for a daily quotation and a photo of something beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

16 responses to “Six on Saturday: ‘Garden Bathing’

  1. What ever happened to sun bathing?

    • I hear that still happens in sunny, Southern California

      • Perhaps, but it is not referred to as such.

        • I loved sunbathing as a teen. We mixed iodine with baby oil and roasted ourselves to a deep tan. Of course, that was when we thought it was good for us ❤ And maybe the sun wasn't quite so wicked hot? Now, I look for a nice spot in the shade.

        • Tony, what do you think of that ‘Splash of Wine’ Caladium? It is a new introduction and this is the first year I’ve grown it. I reminds me a little of C. ‘Miss Muffett’.

          • Miss Muffett?! Is that what that looks like? I think of Miss Muffett as being small and pale and splattered with bloody red spots. I did not like the light yellowish green, which I think might be ‘chartreuse’. I prefer Splash of Wine because it lacks that pale yellowish color. Yours does not look typical though, and does not seem to be so spotty. It was my second favorite picture here, only because I prefer the last picture after it.

            • I don’t mind the chartreuse leaf of Miss Muffett, but haven’t grown it for several years. The plant has a very nice form. I like this ‘Splash of Wine’ better, though, for overall coloration. It is still a very strong plant and puts out its leaves rapidly. I bought 20 tubers and planted them in different locations with different levels of light, etc. to see what grows best. They can take full morning sun just fine and the ones in sun have better color than those growing in more shade. The leaves have good substance and shape. It is so funny that you describe the spots as ‘bloody spots’ on MM. Red on Caladiums can be a bit too intense, and give the impression of raw meat. Which photo was your favorite? The very last photo is a planting I completed earlier this month at the botanical garden. The Zinnia was a volunteer seedling that came up in a pathway. I transplanted several volunteers into a new bed, and it was a happy accident that the color contrasts so well with the Canna.

  2. David C Brown

    I’m happy so long as I don’t have to work there!

  3. Well said. I love the phrase Garden Bathing. There’s nothing I find more relaxing than sitting in my garden and listening to the sounds. Even this heat wave hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it, while it has cut my time a bit. One of my favorite quotes by Nan Fairbrother “If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.” So true. I love seeing your caladiums, I’m kicking myself for not planting any this year.

    • Hi Jaime, that is one of my favorite quotes. One year when my daughter was young, I was asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day. My answer was a rose bush. I realized then, and know now how true, that you can’t see what the future holds. By planting roses I’d have them every May, and the Mother’s Day gift would keep on giving well into the years ahead. Planting a garden is an investment in future happiness for oneself and others. I used to cut roses every spring and take them to share with other teachers in my school. Everyone should have a few roses on their desk from time to time.
      After reading your most recent post- I have absolutely experienced what you describe after a major trauma. There is an element of fear about not wanting to release all of the feelings we are holding inside, and also a feeling that little else matters beyond what is closest to our heart in that moment. Time heals all- bruises, fears, anger and sadness. Your painting will flow again when the time is right for you. Until then, dig in the dirt and give your son as many hugs as he will allow. Gardening is a wonderful way to work past all of those darker feelings, as we allow them to flow out of us and into the earth to fertilize something new and beautiful just beginning. ❤ ❤ ❤

      • Thank you, and I agree. There is something nothing short of miraculous about tending the earth and all the things that come from it. It refuels my spirit and gives me hope. It has been instrumental in “my” recovery from my son’s accident. How very special to share your rose flowers with the teachers. I’m sure it was much appreciated. Flowers speak volumes if you listen, don’t they? Thank you for sharing this with me.

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