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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte DUFOUR

Lessons from our garden

Learning from Nature during the COVID pause

This spring, the world was called in a pause as COVID-19 spread through the world’s populations. While this crisis has been and continues to be tragic, like all things in this world of duality, it has brought great gifts, not least the opportunity to slow down and listen.

For my partner Rainer and I, the gift was that of having the time to settle in our new home in Burgundy, and get to know the land that welcomes us – in particular the garden that surrounds our house. The garden had been created and tended with great care and devotion by Victoria, the previous owner and now friend. This spring, with Victoria’s guidance, Rainer and I got acquainted with all the plants, brought in more, and spend all our evenings weeding, preparing beds, cutting, planting, watering, protecting…
I have discovered these plants to be great friends and teachers. I share with you here some of what they have taught me through these months of getting to know each other…

Learning from the tulips: be ready for surprises - we just keep coming!
Victoria had filled a couple of beds with tulip bulbs but we did not know where and what colors these tulips would be. And my, were we in for a beautiful surprise! In March, a rainbow popped up before our eyes – over weeks, more and different types kept on coming! We could feel the joy of Nature teasing our senses, releasing yet another kind of tulip when we thought the display was nearing its end… A gratuitous gift of joy and pleasure. Pure delight. Nature’s generosity filled my heart with glee.

Learning from the roses: austerity paves the way for abundance
“Don’t be afraid to cut them back, they’ll flourish all the more if you do” advised Victoria as she showed me how to cut the rose bushes early March. And gosh, was she right! The display that blossomed in May was breathtaking. Fountains of blossoms of all colours. What a beautiful lesson in the art of clearing the old to make space for the new…

Learning from the crabapple tree: I may be shy but when I shine, I really shine…
A little crabapple tree stands in the path in front of our house. It’s not so large and its size makes it look quite modest, compared to the large mulberry tree next to it. But my, what a display this little tree offers come April! As the spring made its way into its branches, it blossomed into a beautiful firework of fuchsia pink which shone in the morning and evening sun… A beautiful reminder not to stop at one’s first impressions and never forget at the beauty that lies dormant within, ready to explode into full view when the time is ripe.

Learning from the Japanese maple and rose: some care can be painful, but with love we thrive and shine through.
We subjected two plants to pretty rough treatment. A little Japanese maple was invaded by another bush. As we dug around it trying to give it more space, it turned out the roots of this bush were completely entangled in the roots of the maple. Rainer uprooted the maple to clear it free. I was very nervous that the treatment we’d given it had been way too tough. As we replanted it, we could see it had been severely shaken: its leaves were crumpled and looked like they were drying out. We watered it abundantly and watched over it. I even practiced reiki on the tree, telling it the treatment was tough but that we were trying to help. We feared it would dwindle away but no, within a few days it was back in greater form than ever!
We had a similar experience with a beautiful climbing rose with a rare kind of orange and yellow blossom. It was in a spot that lacked sunlight and its roots were entangled with those of a clematis. Wishing to give it more suitable conditions, we disentangled the two plants and moved the rose bush to a sunnier patch. It seemed to react pretty badly to the move: its leaves dried up and died. “Did we put it in enough good earth? Is the spot not good for it? We probably moved it way too late in the season!” we worried. But Rainer observed it with faith: “I don’t think the plant is dead”. He kept watering the seemingly dead rose bush. I also did a little bit of reiki for it once in a while, but doubting the plant would make it. And just when we thought the plant was gone, magic: new fresh green leaves are sprouting on all the branches! Nature’s capacity for recovery is magical – but it seems that the care we provide does have a role to play too…

Learning from the petunia: faith, patience and care pay off
We have a set of pots on our terrace, which Victoria told us had been filled with annual plants. They were mostly filled with weeds which Rainer cleared at the beginning of the spring. But in one pot, he noticed two tiny sprouting plants which intrigued him “I’m not sure that these are weeds… let’s see.” He watered them throughout March and April, never quite sure of what he was watering. I was thinking “this is probably a waste of water”. But come mid-May, his patience and care proved to have been well placed: a couple of beautiful petunia flowers – one fuchsia, one white - blossomed. And one flower led to another, such that now we have an overflow of fuchsia, white and pink cascading from this pot.

Learning from the cherry and peach trees: you care for me, I care for you
At the end of the garden, lies an old cherry tree. Half of its branches were dried out, a tell-tale sign of its age. But come the spring, Rainer and I cut off the dead branches, and cleared the thorns around the tree. It responded with an amazing display of white flowers lasting for days, and those flowers turned into an abundance of cherries – the more we harvested the more there were! Myriads of little red buttons shining amongst the green foliage.

Next to it were 3 peach trees: a very young “scrubby” little tree – barely more than a standing twig, and 2 other trees lost in a sea of thorns. We cleared the earth around the little tree, gave it a nice pole to grow against, and cut away the sea of thorns around the two larger trees. How surprised was I to find two beautifully orange peaches waiting to be picked on the two modest branches of the baby tree! The most juicy and sweet peaches we had yet eaten. The bigger trees are preparing a larger harvest, proudly showing the green-soon-to-be-peach-colored bulbs hanging on their high branches.

I could write so much more… about the wondrous nettles who gave us nettle tea and soup in the early spring; the delicious rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage; the endless mulberry harvest; the grasses in the field that host butterflies and crickets galore; the symphony of bird songs resonating in the hedges and forest…

In this feast that Nature honors us with, the most surprising and heart-warming lesson I have learned is that Nature loves us. I remember an indigenous elder from the Inuit community telling us, in the Findhorn Conference "Climate Change and Consciousness 19", that we should not be mistaken: we are not parasites on this Earth. We are part of Nature and Nature needs and love us. I received the conformation of this teaching: Nature wants us to care with and for her, so that she may care for us. We are part of this Creation and we are called to be co-creators, care-takers, and curators – that the magic of this Creation may shine in all its beauty.
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