Spring officially arrives Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. It has been described as “a gardener’s Christmas morning.”
Accompanying that expectation is the 25th annual Arkansas River Valley Master Gardener Lawn and Garden Show on March 23-25 at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
Show-goers can expect a bevy of seminars and demonstrations, instant spring display gardens created by local garden centers, a variety of vendors, information booths to answer your questions about rose care and plant diseases and much, much more. The theme of the show is “Preparing for Gardening.”
You’ll also see dozens and dozens of Master Gardeners from many walks of life running around doing whatever needs to be done and always willing to stop and answer your gardening questions and share knowledge.
The seminars — spread over the three days — range from roses to strawberries, from soil preparation to diseases, from photographing flowers to landscaping. Your ticket is good for all three days.
At the show, you’ll see displays that will inspire you in your own garden. And you’ll have opportunities to take home gardening tools and plants galore.
There will also be a photography display and competition, hosted by the Photo Alliance, and a flower design show by the Greater Fort Smith Council of Garden Clubs.
At the end of the day, you’ll be inspired to put on your gardening shoes and head for the garden with more ideas than you will possibly have time and energy to put into practice.
Although gardening is not as high on the hobby scale as it once was, there are still many of us. Why?
Nineteenth century British poet Alfred Austin had this philosophical view:
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.”
A more recent and down-to-earth reason comes from writer/gardener David Hobson: “I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”
Our gardening genes date back before our first presidents, some of whom were great gardeners and fruits of their labor continue today. In fact, several Master Gardeners regularly use seed from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in their own gardens.
Gardening not only brings you in touch with green plants and flowers but it makes a difference in the environment. The more plants we propagate, the more greenhouse gas we can eliminate.
There are many other motivations for gardening as a hobby.
One is, it is an excellent form of exercise — both cardio and aerobic. Digging, bending, lifting in fresh air are all great moves. Studies show moderate exercise can burn up 300-400 calories an hour. And the result can be a fitter person who has the additional benefit of enjoying beautiful, fragrant flowers or tasty fresh- from-the-garden vegetables and fruit.
Another reason is knowledge. We can learn by reading and we can learn by doing. And this is only the beginning. The more we learn about plants and gardening, the more we want to know. (Trust me, this can become an obsession.) Plant problems lead to learning solutions. Replacing a dead plant is an opportunity to try something else — and the process begins anew.
Gardening fulfills emotional needs. Gardens can become tranquil retreats or a private escape. A bouquet of flowers can lift spirits. Pulling weeds can relieve stress. A healthy harvest provides a sense of success. This is about self-esteem and confidence. However, when we become overconfident and believe we have mastered this art, Mother Nature has a way of showing us who is smarter.
Gardening is also a way to connect our future with our past. It can be shared with children and grandchildren — tomorrow’s gardeners. Remember the sense of pride you had cutting a bouquet of marigolds or zinnias and giving them to your mom, or tasting an unwashed warm, red tomato in the garden. Such cherished memories can be created when you garden with this younger generation and share the awesome experience of learning about butterflies and pollinators and their role in our lives today and tomorrow.
And finally, gardening piques our creativity. Some of the world’s greatest artists have proven this over and over. Although the care of plants is rooted in science, gardeners always transform it into an art — combining shapes and colors for stunning gardens and adding a piece of whimsical art. This brightens our spirits and encourages us to try something new every season. Sometimes, these experiments become our new favorite plants.
If you are a believer in the Luck of the Irish and St. Patrick’s legend, Saturday is the day you set out potatoes to ensure a successful harvest. If not, good luck!
Next week, the topic will be: our fascination with the azalea.
Lucy Fry of Fort Smith is a level 4 Master Gardener and writes the area Master Gardener newsletter. Her column, Gardening for the Record, runs weekly in the Times Record. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.