This weekend is National Garden Days in Canada, and Friday, June 17 (the Friday before Father’s Day) is designated as National Garden Day, the day to celebrate what gardens mean to Canadians.
Canada, just a few years ago, became an urbanized country, meaning more folks are now living in cities than in rural areas. With that change came the reality of high-density living. The spaces we would normally devote to landscapes and colour and food gardens have diminished greatly. The ‘Boomer’ generation took gardens to their highest level of engagement, making gardening the No. 1 leisure activity in the country. With an interest in perennials, ornamental grasses and food plants, they created well-dressed outdoor living areas and patios. Now, as this generation retires, downsizes, travels more and spends more time caring for aging parents, their gardens have rather quickly slipped away.
Our younger generations, as amazing as they are and with twice the numbers of the Boomers, have had little engagement with plants and gardens. Technology and social media consume much of their leisure time. Fortunately, today’s new values and the science and health benefits of plants are beginning to create a renewed interest in gardening, not so much because of the plants themselves but because of what plants do for us personally and for our planet.
In a rather impersonal world today, plants provide a sense of well-being and happiness that is quantifiable. A scientific report, commissioned by Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, identified the many ways plants benefit both the planet and human beings. For example, in a surround of plants, people are less aggressive, feel happier and believe it or not, they are more receptive to learning. In a stressful world, nurturing and growing plants is incredibly therapeutic and creates a sense of wellness.
With our bee population under threat, creating urban habitats for bees and other important wildlife is very important to everyone, especially for our younger generations. It’s not about the specific plants, it’s about what they can contribute to aiding species under threat. Related to this, there has been an explosion in food gardening, led by the younger generations who want their new foods to be fresh, free of
harmful pesticides and have optimum flavour. With the new space realities, most food gardens are now grown in containers, and the new breeding programs are creating food plants that are more compact and yet produce abundant crops of tasty vegetables and fruits.
In urban environments, as we continue to live closer together, plants are now incredibly important in creating privacy in a positive way. ‘Green screens’ are beautiful, functional, easy to maintain and perfectly happy on small decks and patios.
As energy costs go up, strategically located trees can both cool in summer and provide wind deflection in winter. They also provide oxygen, sequester carbon, help collect pollution particles and deflect high light pollution at night. Add a few choice houseplants inside your home, and they’ll help clean the air there too.
When we celebrate gardens, no matter how large or how small, we are really celebrating a synergy of living things that benefit everyone who has the privilege of being around them. Whether a garden means healthy living, mental peace or sustainability for your children and for generations to come … or something completely different to you … during National Garden Days, I encourage you to go to a garden and experience the many ways it benefits your life. You may be surprised with what you discover.