Lessons From a Garden

purple petunias
purple petunias

Recently I created a rose and flower garden, for the first time in my life. I found out quickly that gardening is hot WORK, but I’m very pleased with what I accomplished and love looking at the beautiful flowers from my sunroom, as I drink coffee in the morning.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned working on my gardens:

  • It’s hard, hot work. The Christian life isn’t easy and Jesus never said it would be a “rose garden.” (Pardon the pun, but I couldn’t resist!) In fact, He warned us that we would have trouble in this life, even persecution and suffering if we followed Him, but we don’t need to feel afraid because He has overcome this world. (John 16:33) I’ve had my fair share of trials and heartaches, and then some. What about you? Let’s face it, marriage is hard (really hard!). Parenting is hard. So is having a ministry, grandparenting, paying the basic bills, staying healthy and fit, dealing with people at your job or church, not losing your temper in traffic, speaking at conferences, writing your book, blogging, taking care of pets, finding life’s real meaning, simply getting out of the bed in the morning, and any number of things we face in this world. But one thing for sure, Jesus will never leave or abandon us. (Hebrews 13:5) He will help us to do what we need to do each day, if we ask Him. He will help us get to that finish line! Just don’t quit.
  • Have a vision. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision the people perish.” You need to have a vision for your garden. Before I started shoveling dirt and buying a bunch of flowers, I thought about what I wanted my two gardens to look like. I googled online and drove around cities to see what other gardeners had done and theirs pretty gardens looked like for inspiration. You can ask your family and friends for their ideas, too, like I did on Facebook. My friend Rose on Facebook and others were a great help to me, since I’ve never done this before and told me how they had made theirs with very helpful tips–what to do and what not to do.
  • Dig deep. You can’t just go throw seeds on the dirt, or plop some flowers from the bucket on top of the soil to create a beautiful garden. You have to prepare the soil first and dig! My friend Rose encouraged me to first clear the area where I wanted the garden of grass, pebbles, and what appeared to be “Creeping Charlie” weeds that were in abundance by the patio and garage. Then she said to lay down cardboard flat on the dirt, which is biodegradable and works better than landscape fabric, and put bark mulch on top of it for my rose garden. For the annuals and perennials, I cleared the area, spread out compost and potting soil, and mixed them together to prepare the soil for the flowers to take root. In order to plant the roses and my flowers, I had to dig–in some places deep. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 42:7: “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me.” God doesn’t want you and me to have a shallow, superficial relationship with Him, but a deep, intimate one each day. Go deeper with God in prayer, worship, and studying the Bible every day. Choose to grow closer to God.
  • Water and weed daily. I’m treating my rose and flower gardens a little like I do my kids and grandkids, worrying over them. My grandmother Moore had a green thumb and could grow anything, but I’ve never done this before and don’t want to kill my flowers! They need sunlight, watering and weeding daily. I need to give them enough water, but not too much. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what exactly they need and want (again, like our children!). I have to watch vigilantly for weeds and pests. They both can destroy a garden. In our lives, we need to watch for pests that can destroy and weeds that can quickly overgrow in our hearts and minds, such as unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, jealousy, envy, gossip, pride, resentment, discouragement, depression, unbelief, and more. These can cause great spiritual destruction in our lives and cause us to get off God’s plan and path for our life. We want to yield eternal, good fruit for God, not waste our lives or have sins choke out the good fruit (flowers). Ezekiel 17:8 says, “It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit and become a splendid vine.”
  • Fertilize. Sometimes plants and flowers need a little extra boost with fertilizer–replenishing lost nutrients, ensuring they have the food they need to flourish, stimulate root growth, helping the plant set buds and flowers, and improving vitality. I bought rose food for my roses and applied it the first week, per the box’s instructions. As believers, we face times of crisis (much like strong winds and relentless rain to the flowers) and need to apply the principles of spiritual warfare, being sure to keep on the armor of God, which you can read about in Ephesians 6. I recommend my book, The Hands of a Woman: Everyday Women in Everyday Battles, available for sale at Amazon, which is about 8 women’s greatest spiritual battles. Another great book is Priscilla Shirer’s study on The Armor of God, also at Amazon. I also recommend watching the movie War Room, in which Priscilla starred with Karen Abercombie and T.C. Stallings. Staying grounded in God’s word and prayer will be the fertilizer we need to stay strong through faith in Christ.
  • You’ll get tired. When I started working on the gardens, I used muscles that I certainly had not been using in awhile, so I felt it in every part of my body afterward—I was so sore! What I needed was a hot shower, good food, and to sit down and relax watching a movie! Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, AMP, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened[by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” God wants to give your soul rest–peace and quiet from the hectic, busy, noisy pace of today. Sometimes a garden is the perfect place to do that. As my friend Rose reminded and encouraged me yesterday on Facebook, Jesus spent a lot of time in gardens. At other times, it’s watching a chick flick, eating chips and salsa with Mexican, taking a bubble path, getting a mani or pedi, ordering pizza and laughing with family and friends, going to the beach (my place of peace!), or just getting a good night’s rest. God wants to refill and restore you when you’re tired and weary.
  • Enjoy the view. I was worn out making these gardens. I had to go to a lot of different nurseries and garden places to find the supplies and flowers, in 90+F degree, sweltering heat. I’d never done this before and, frankly, I’m out of shape! It is WORK! I sweated a lot and had to take breaks, since I was planting quite a bit of flowers. But once I finished (I just have one rose shrub left to plant, which hasn’t arrived yet but it’s ordered online!), I was pleased with the overall effect. I love it! It makes me happy to look at the pretty roses and flowers from my sunroom, drinking coffee in the movie. I am praying I can keep them alive and they will thrive; please pray, too! But remember to enjoy the view. Savor the moments in your life. Love your family, friends, and others. Glorify God in all you do. Humankind began in a garden. It is a place of beauty and life.

“When I’m writing, I think about the garden, and when I’m in the garden I think about writing. I do a lot of writing by putting something in the ground.” ~ Jamaica Kincaid

Althea flower
Althea flower

What lessons have you learned from gardening? Please share and leave your comments below.

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Do you garden? I started a flower garden.

garden

Do you garden–flowers, plants, or produce? My grandmother Moore always had a “green thumb” and could grow anything. This year I’ve started my own little garden here at our new home!

I’ve never had very good “luck” with flowers and plants, so this is an exercise of faith. I’m quickly finding out that gardening is hard, hot work! It’s been in the 90’s here in Missouri where I live, and I’ve just been dripping and so sore afterward…feeling the work in every muscle that I haven’t been using! Below are pics of my arm and leg, after I had washed them off some!

my arm
my arm
my leg
my leg

First I got a vision for what I wanted in my mind. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18, KJV, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” I knew that I wanted big yellow rose bushes in the area by the patio and brightly colored annuals, with at least one butterfly bush to draw butterflies, in the area by our garage.

Then for a couple of days, I took off in the car, hitting several nurseries and garden places like Suburban Lawn & Garden in Martin City, MO and Lowe’s in Belton, MO, buying supplies: green bamboo garden gloves, a cheery, bright yellow watering can for my flowers (love it!), rose food, mulch, flowers, and stones for a border. Ray and I already had a shovel, big and little rakes, and a hoe. 

Rose food, green bamboo garden gloves, and friendly, bright yellow watering can
Rose food, green bamboo garden gloves, and friendly, bright yellow watering can

Just for fun, I tried on a purple hat at Suburban Lawn & Garden and posted the pic on Facebook, “Do I look like a gardener, lol?” I actually got several compliments from it. I didn’t buy it, but maybe I should have!

me trying on purple gardening hat, just for fun
me trying on purple gardening hat, just for fun

Prepare first

Before buying the supplies, though, I started preparing my flower gardens with the area by the patio, which had lots of weeds. One of my friends on Facebook told me these particular weeds are called “Creeping Charlie” which is everywhere, but can be used for teas and medicines. She said it could be easily pulled or mowed.

I used a hoe and a rake to clear this specific area of grass and stones, which took a long time. But I found the Creeping Charlie weeds to be easier to pull with my hands than with a tool.

“I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.” ~ Martha Smith

Creeping Charlie weed by patio area
Creeping Charlie weed by patio area

My Facebook friend Rose, who has rose and flower gardens and works every day in her yard, advised me to lay down cardboard boxes flat on top of the dirt because it’s biodegradable and seems to work better than the landscape fabrics. I cut out round holes for the place where I’d plant the three rose bushes. This is more work than it seems, or maybe I needed sharper scissors!

cardboard
cardboard

Rose said then cover it with bark mulch as it helps to retain moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds, keeps the soil cool, and makes the garden bed look more attractive. I googled online first, and then went shopping with our daughter Leah at Lowe’s for the mulch.

Our beautiful youngest daughter Leah
Our beautiful youngest daughter Leah

Leah is an amazing, self-taught artist and I sought her opinion on the mulch color before buying it. She and I agreed that red would probably look best. I didn’t really like the color of the bark mulch (a black-brown).

red mulch
red mulch

After shopping several places, I found my big yellow rose shrubs at Lowe’s. One of my favorite lines in the movie Sweet Dreams about country singer Patsy Cline, starring Jessica Lange, is when she said, “Please help me get my house with the yellow roses!”

I told our daughter Heather and my sister Maria, who had seen the movie with me the first time, “I finally did it! I got my house with the yellow roses!” I think they look so pretty and love them! Now if only I can keep them alive and thriving!

yellow roses
yellow roses

Initially I bought small, square ceramic stones for a border around the yellow roses, but I wasn’t satisfied with the way it looked. I saw some boulder rocks from Colorado at Suburban Lawn & Garden in Martin City, and bought them.

To my surprise they were only 19 cents a pound–much cheaper than the flowers! I LOVE the way it looks now, a much more natural look! I bought one of the boulders called “Royal Gorge” because I liked the name and the pretty silver in it. They had some huge ones, that I’d like to go back and buy for a separate “rock garden” one day.

Royal Gourge boulders from Colorado
Royal Gourge boulders from Colorado
boulder rocks around roses' garden
boulder rocks around roses’ garden

Next I worked on the area by our garage. This area gets only partial sun. I asked the opinion of my gardener friends on Facebook and the clerk who worked at the Mennonite shop in town about what flowers to get, since it doesn’t receive full sun.

A hosta plant had already been planted there before we moved here, which requires quite a bit of shade to do well, my friends told me, so I needed to take that into consideration.

hosta
hosta

I went to the Mennonite shop and bought most of my flowers there: waterfall color petunias (purple, white, pink, and “Dreams” red), a Butterfly Bush which draws butterflies, some pretty little purple flowers (not sure of the name, but they are perennials, the clerk said), and purple Veronica flowers.

Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Dreams Red petunias
Dreams Red petunias
purple petunias
purple petunias
little purple perennials
little purple perennials
my pretty flower garden
my pretty flower garden

I also bought a Pink Phlox shrub, from Suburban Lawn & Garden which is supposed to draw butterflies to your garden and adds a nice, vibrant splash of color, and the next day I bought a White Althea shrub to plant on the other side of the rose garden.

Pink Phlox that draws butterflies
Pink Phlox that draws butterflies
White Althea shrub
White Althea shrub
Althea flower
Althea flower

My husband Ray suggested that I buy a purple rose in the rose garden, when I asked him what he thought I plant last. Ray was raised in the Tyler, Texas area which is the rose capitol; about 20% of commercial rose bushes in the U.S. are grown in Tyler and Smith County. The Texas Rose festival draws more than 10,000 people every year. 

When I get an idea in my head, I can’t let it go. I went to four or five nurseries and places hunting down a purple rose shrub, and nobody had one! One clerk told me they are rare (at least in this area).

After wearing myself out in the sweltering 90+F degree heat, I texted Ray I couldn’t find one. He told me to come home and order it online, because I was “getting cranky.” I texted back, “Too late, I’m already cranky!”

He knew he was in trouble then. I told him do not even ask me what is for supper when I came home, as I was not cooking over a hot stove! (You can learn more about our stormy marriage in my book, Stained Glass & Marriage, available for sale at Amazon.)

I did find the perfect purple rose shrub online from Heirloom Roses called Midnight Blue, which one of the nursery owners told me about and can’t wait for it to arrive. The rose is a velvet purple rose, with a spice clove fragrance. I’ll then be finished with my gardens–unless I get more wild ideas!

Midnight Blue rose Image source: https://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/D/D/DD82C82F083C00B4375D2D0A0890CE7B.jpg
Midnight Blue rose
Image source: https://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/D/D/DD82C82F083C00B4375D2D0A0890CE7B.jpg

I can’t wait for it to arrive to plant. I’m praying and have been asking friends and family to pray over my gardens, as this is a first for me and all very new. Please pray my flowers will live and thrive!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” ~ Luther Burbank

What do you garden? How has your gardening experiences been? Leave your comments below. I’ll be be blogging more about gardening in the weeks to come.

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