Urban Garden Denver Blog



Does Gardening Change the World?

My daughter sent me a picture of the Japanese Cherry trees blooming in DC this week and it seemed poignant to me, with the continuing news of such devastation in Japan. Thousands of trees were planted in 1912 as a symbol of peace and friendship between the U.S. and Japan. The annual cherry blossom festival in Washington DC celebrates the flowers and the hope that they symbolize. Interestingly, the annual festival was suspended from 1942 to 1946 and the trees were referred to as Oriental Cherry Trees during this period.

Cherry Blossoms in DC

Denver, home of Cherry Creek, also has many Japanese Cherry Trees planted to symbolize peace and friendship. The first trees were planted in City Park in 1939 by Japanese immigrants. Colorado was a state that was friendly to immigrants and Governor Carr opposed the internment of Japanese-Americans, even though an internment camp was eventually established in Colorado by federal authorities. In recent years, additional trees have been planted every year by the Soka Gokkai International, (SGI), a Buddhist organization.  Yesterday as we were driving on Speer, along Cherry Creek, I noticed that the trees are starting to bloom.

Along with gardening this spring, I’ve been pondering some tough themes in my theater outings and reading (Ruined at Denver Center about the plight of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, books such as  Half the Church (James), She Did What She Could (Morgan) and Half the Sky (Kristof and WuDunn)). Awareness of the plight of women around the globe challenges my comfort and my thinking and makes me ask hard questions about how much I’m living for myself and how much I am seeking a broader purpose in life. These concepts also call me into solidarity with women down the street, across town and around the world – women who may not have comfortable homes and gardens, clean water or physical and emotional safety. Their stories who make we wonder if my time in the garden is too much about me.

Since I like to think of gardening as a retreat from the cares of the world, a place for me to recharge and be refreshed, these topics have been bugging me! I can rationalize my garden time, since I am involved in a job that equips and trains women in leadership. I give enough at work, so I deserve some downtime and refreshment. Ultimately there isn’t any simple answer to the “right” way to engage in making the world a better place, but I have been thinking about the positive actions of gardeners, as I ponder the juxtaposition of beauty and pain the world.

Besides the obvious fact that the flowers we plant can bring joy to our neighbors, and that gardeners are generous folks who share starts and transplants  (just ask), gardeners are involved in some specific actions to make the world a better place. “Plant a row for the hungry” was started in 1995 by the Garden Writers of America and over the years gardeners have donated harvests (14 million pounds of food) to local food banks so low-income families can have healthy options to improve their diet and make ends meet. In addition, Denver Urban Gardens works with communities and schools in Denver to offer community gardens to enhance neighborhood life and build community. I love their tagline: growing community – one urban garden at a time.

For those of you reading for tips not philosophy, I’ll continue to blend both into the content of this site.  Today I am cutting back my clumps of ornamental grasses, something I probably should have done a couple of weeks ago. I am also considering which perennials needs moving or dividing this spring. A friend asked me about dividing perennials. Short answer is that you can do it spring or fall, it’s best to divide in the opposite season as the bloom (for example, divide mums in the spring and day lilies in the fall). But you can divide at different times, just know the plants may not bloom the first year. I’m going to wait a couple more weeks to move plants around, since there is snow in the forecast. But I balance that with wanting to get things divided before it gets too hot. I’m shooting for late April to finish up any perennial dividing and moving I’ll do this spring.

Right now I’m enjoying hyacinths, early tulips, daffodils, johnny jump-ups, squill and forsythia. Many more plants, shrubs and trees are getting ready to bloom in the next few weeks! And my thoughts in my garden will range from appreciation of a single bloom, to concern for women in war zones and people helping the cleanup in Japan, including my nephew who is a Navy diver.

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