‘Tis the Season — A Meditation on Wonder

By Judy Funderburk, Master Gardener

Snow drop (Galanthus nivalis) rising through icy crystals

Snow drop (Galanthus nivalis) rising through icy crystals
Photo © Brian Fuller

“Our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder.” This quote from my daily meditation book, The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo, rings true to me. I immediately think of Rachel Carson whose book titled, A Sense of Wonder, celebrates the importance of turning to nature and contemplating earth’s many gifts, her creatures, plants, waterways, mysteries and magic, gifts that can sustain us through the many seasons of our lives.  She wrote:  “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life”.

As I look back on the happenings in the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden during the past two months, I am aware of the opportunities gardens provide for sharing that sense of wonder.

On three successive days in October, we hosted a total of 60 third graders plus their teachers and parent helpers from Campbell Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia.  The classes were studying diversity and mapping. The Garden provided living examples of the great variety of plants that grow beautifully here, but originally came from almost every continent on Earth. Each child had a map of the continents and wrote in the names of specific plants native to its continent as we walked around the garden.  They were so curious and asked wonderful questions. Though awed by the huge banana plants, they wanted to know why there were no bananas. They wondered why we had no plants for them to enter on their maps as being from either Australia or Antarctica. Note to self: “wonder” why we don’t have any plants from Australia? Do something about it if possible!

November was planting time for the preschoolers at Carlin Hall. The children were as bright and cheerful as the pansy plants they chose, being very clear as to whether theirs would be purple, white with purple, or yellow! Each child also chose a tulip bulb and a trowel with which to dig.

Master Gardener Susan Lewis with Carlin Hall Pre-Schooler, watering in the pansies

Master Gardener Susan Lewis with Carlin Hall Pre-Schooler, watering in the pansies. Photo © 2016 Judy Funderburk

Master Gardeners worked one on one supporting the children to dig their holes, carefully plant their pansy and bulb, fill the hole, pat down the earth, place their name tag stick nearby and whisper, if they wanted to, “grow little plant, grow.” Some of the children seemed to love watering most of all, perhaps because we have watering cans that look like little elephants!  Celebrating the wonder of children and their sense of delight in digging, planting and watering makes our garden and the garden of life come alive.  I believe it can make the world a better place.

November 6th was the official Glencarlyn Library Community Garden PAINT THAT BANANA DAY! Every fall as the air cools and frost nips our toes, the leaves of our perennial banana plants (Musa basjoo) are stripped, preparing their stalks for re-creation as a piece of “Site-Specific-Art.” Neighborhood children are invited to be the resident artists, but this year, when none showed up at the appointed time, Master Gardeners and Trainees pooled their creativity, talent, and paint cans to design a fabulous piece of Banana Sculpture.  A site/sight to be seen rather than described with words.  Multi-colored stripes, circles, dots, and swirls transform tall green stalks into artful decorative delight, multiple pieces of eye candy causing smiles and cultivating wonder for all to behold!

Winterberry in December

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) ‘Red Sprite’
Photo © 2016 Paul Nuhn

Meanwhile, the leaves of our sweet gum trees turn outrageous shades of red. Winterberry hollies’ red fruits shine through their green leaves like Christmas in November. The persimmon tree drops its last delicious orange fruits. Beautyberry shrubs provide deep magenta berries for birds to eat and for people to marvel in awe. The red buckeye shrub grows its odd-shaped husks, then drops its shiny but poisonous good luck seeds/nuts to earth. Asters, chrysanthemums, salvias, fall crocus, gomphrena bloom and bloom until Old Mother West Wind breathes her cold blast of frost. The garden is put to bed for winter renewal—a time of rest. Though gardeners, never known to rest for long, instead of sugar-plum fairies, may be dreaming of the first snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) showing their delicate blossoms through the snow. Wonder abounds if you take time to see!

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