Published on 12/11/01

Gardeners Spread Christmas Year-round

Photo: Home & Garden Television

Gardeners typically share their bounty with neighbors, friends and even perfect strangers.

Gardeners make the world beautiful. How many times have we walked around a corner or driven past a yard or public area and said, "What a beautiful area! I had no idea this was here."

I know of no other group of folks who give so much of themselves as the people who dig in the dirt.

Who else plants so they and everyone else who comes into contact with their garden can come away renewed with the sights and scents of a little bit of nature?

A Gift of Beauty

An elderly lady lives two streets over from me. When out "taking the air," as folks used to say, I make a point of going by her yard.

Just on the corner, a ways away from her windows, is a continually changing patch of garden. I can count on seeing asters in the fall, grasses in winter, daffodils and peonies in spring and myriad zinnias, lilies, roses and marigolds in summer.

I know she tends that patch just for the passers-by.

Giving Produce Away

Who else but a gardener would compost all year to enrich the garden soil, then go through all the tilling, seeding, weeding and fighting bugs and diseases just to give the produce away?

Thousands of gardeners are doing this throughout the nation with "Plant a Row for the Hungry," an initiative of the Garden Writers Association of America and Home & Garden Television. My friend, Jim Wilson, is a leading advocate of this program, promoting it in speeches throughout the country.

Feeding Thousands

This idea has fed thousands upon thousands of people with nearly a million pounds of fresh produce -- starting with just an idea and willing hands from small groups of gardeners who probably give produce to their friends and neighbors, too.

But be careful -- don't compliment a gardener. I've found that when I praise their plants, gardeners try to give me a cutting or a plant. "I just happen to have one in the cold frame," they'll say.

Don't try to protest, "But I don't have a place for it."

They'll simply counter, "That's all right. I know you can find a place somewhere."

A Horticultural Zoo

Of course, this is the reason a true gardener never has a landscape, but rather a horticultural zoo. You know -- one of each from every place.

In this time of the year when we reflect on friends, family and those who make life good, let's remember gardeners.

You may not be intending to give that gardening friend anything for Christmas. But you can be sure that, in true gardener fashion, they will always give to you.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.