Plant a garden

If your purse no longer bulges
and you've lost your golden treasure,
If times you think you're lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
Don't sit by your hearth and grumble,
don't let mind and spirit harden.
If it's thrills of joy you wish for
get to work and plant a garden!

If it's drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you'll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,

Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing.
If it's comradeship you sight for,
learn the fellowship of daisies.
You will come to know your neighbor
by the blossoms that he raises;
If you'd get away form boredom
and find new delights to look for,
Learn the joy of budding pansies
which you've kept a special nook for.

If you ever think of dying
and you fear to wake tomorrow
Plant a garden! It will cure you
of your melancholy sorrow
Once you've learned to know peonies,
petunias, and roses,
You will find every morning
some new happiness discloses

I was wandering around the internet as one does and this poem by Edgar A Guest ( 1881 – 1959) rather caught my eye.  I had not heard of Edgar (Eddie) Guest so did a bit more wandering to find out a little about him.  He was born in the UK but lived nearly all his life in the USA and was known as ‘The Peoples’ Poet’ writing in excess of 11,000 poems of which this is one.  (yes, 11,000!)

The general gist of the poem I can identify with even though it reads a little like the inside of a birthday card.  I think it is worth looking at what the poem is saying to us.

So it starts by implying that gardening is for people with no money.  It is certainly something that you can spend as much or as little as you have/want.  If you have sufficient money you can choose to go to garden centres and buy large expensive plants, or you can buy seeds.  There are decisions to be made that will be influenced by money, knowledge and motivation.

The poem goes on to talk about drama and thrills and I can say quite easily that I get over-excited by certain plants flowering, fruiting, doing whatever it is that is the main reason I have grown them for.  When my tree peonies flower I am always amazed and bowled over by their incredible beauty.  Every year it’s the same, I do not lose that wonder of how incredible they are.  I think that is the drama and thrill Edgar is referring to and I fully agree with him.

He then goes on to talk about comradeship.  I hardly know where to begin on this one.  It is so very true.  Gardening is the greatest of levellers, it is the opening of a conversation and when gardeners get together they generously enjoy sharing their passion.  When I lived in a previous house the main garden was at the front of the house.  There were 12 houses on the road and people would often stop and talk to me as I gardened.  Where I am now there are less passers by, but if the post-lady knows I am in she will often ring the door bell and ask me what a plant is or just comment on what she likes in bloom at the moment.  (This makes it sound like I live in a rural idyll, I really do not.  I am in a suburban town just outside Leicester, not rolling countryside).  I cannot continue on this theme and neglect to mention Twitter, the greatest place for sharing a love of gardening that I have found so far.  We talk to each other day and night, not just about gardening, but that is the core that binds most of the people I follow together.  We share photographs of our triumphs and disasters, there is a true community.  I also find that when I go to garden shows/events that small random conversations spring up with strangers as we stare longingly at some desired plant.  Yes, comradeship is a great description.

Ok, starting the next bit talking about thinking of dying is not the most cheerful of thoughts and I do get the impression that this is aimed at ‘end of life’ time, it feels like it is talking about when the best has been.  However, the benefits of gardening for those recovering from illness and how helpful it is to some who have depression or other mental health issues are well documented.  Gardening helps so many people cope with so many different things.  When people talk to me about the work/life balance, it is gardening that gives me the balance, it is gardening that keeps me going when everything else seems too dark to deal with.  So in terms of: ‘if you fear to wake tomorrow’, this poem is right, gardening does disclose a new happiness every morning.

The poem might not be the most high-brow I have ever read, it is also a bit sentimental, but I can understand why Edgar was called the Peoples' Poet; it is a poem to recognise oneself in.


  1. It might be like the verses from a card but it is lovely and true all the same. I particularly like the second verse - it certainly can be a battle. What a clever find.

  2. Thanks for the comments - it is a nice poem isn't it?

  3. I may not be much of a poetry expert, but this one did indeed strike a chord.


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