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Gardening For Personal Growth

One of the hottest jobs to emerge during the past few years is coaching, already a booming business before the economic downturn. Recently, the recession has been driving the market toward personal and career coaching, but the newest big idea to hit this type of paid mentoring is meaning coaching. Because meaning originates from inside ourselves, not from the outside world, the ability to construct a meaningful life depends upon our capacity and willingness to take positive actions to incorporate into our lives those aspects of life that we personally value, including gardening.

By connecting the transformational power of gardening to the choices that gardeners make, a gardener-centric coach can help them create personal spaces that are not only beautiful and healthy, but also provide a sanctuary from the world that speaks to their souls.

Making our own meaning encompasses the thought, energy, emotion, time, money, and commitment we’re willing to expend in the service of bringing our own dreams into reality. In the context of gardening, this means tuning in to why we feel our view of gardening is important and asserting that to be a sufficient reason to garden in our own way.

For example, one gardener gave herself no credit for the multitude of gardening decisions she had made over the course of 30 years. After a tour of the garden and some discussion with a gardener coach, her view of her garden and her place within it had completely changed, in half an hour. Within three months, her ability to stick to her own priorities skyrocketed.

Similarly, a person who cares deeply about the impact of chemicals on groundwater will not be comfortable having a lawn service spray pesticides on a regular schedule, if at all. A vegan who is growing her own vegetables will want to know the exact source and composition of any compost she uses.

Gardener coaching is different from garden coaching

Garden coaches made a big splash when they came on the scene about five years ago. They’ve been covered by The New York Times and other national newspapers, and radio and television networks. Garden coaching concentrates on horticultural knowledge and the mechanical skills of growing plants.

Gardener coaching focuses instead on the personal growth of gardeners in order to help them reach a mental space that allows them to develop an intimate, holistic relationship with their land. Through a series of personalized assignments and exercises gardeners can learn how to rediscover and focus on the things that really matter to them about their gardens, restore meaning to their gardening efforts, and revitalize a cherished pastime.

Garden coaching is by its nature local, so that the coach can physically go to the garden. But a gardener coach can work with anyone anywhere in the world. All clients need is a mode of communication and some pictures of their garden. Computers and digital cameras make it all very easy.

Medical practitioners and landscape designers have been dancing around the link between plants and people for decades. Research shows that having hospital rooms that face a garden quickens patient recovery, so hospitals construct them that way because it works. But such patients are passive onlookers; not participants. Instead, hospitals need to open an avenue through which patients, staff, and visitors can interact with the garden on terms that are meaningful to them. This is somewhat different from horticultural therapy programs in which gardening is used as the means to accomplish specific physical or mental therapy goals.

Similarly, landscape designers understand that some people experience a spiritual boost in gardens that are intended to evoke a certain mood. Gardeners will react to the design in their own distinctive ways. But not every gardener will have a similar reaction to a specific design, because ‘spiritual’ means different things to different people.

The secret to opening this path to everyone is to approach it by involving people in an intimate and meaningful way from the very beginning.

When can gardener-centric coaching help?T

here are different milestones in gardeners’ lives when gardener-focused coaching can breathe new life into an established hobby, regardless of the gardener’s level of expertise:

  • To bring another perspective to experienced gardeners who have gotten stuck in their progress.
  • When gardeners want to learn how to better express their own creativity and personality through gardening.
  • To build confidence in shaping the direction taken by professionals they employ.
  • When they want someone who will hold them accountable for working towards their goals on a regular basis.
  • For assistance in figuring out themes, periods, styles, etc., that match the gardener’s personality and values.
  • To inject new vitality when gardening starts to feel dull and uninteresting, and
  • For novice gardeners who often don’t know where to start.

We all want to believe we can do things on our own, but it’s a whole lot easier when someone else takes us out of our normal mental and physical space and helps us see with new eyes.

Lois is a regional field editor and location scout for Better Homes and Gardens, Special Interest Media, a garden writer, and a gardener-centric meaning coach who enjoys visiting other people’s gardens, as well as working in her own. Lois’ articles have appeared in Nature’s Garden, Garden Rooms, Garden, Deck and Landscape, Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living, Horticulture, and Do It Yourself magazines. She was a contributing editor to Decorating Solutions for four years and her articles have also appeared in trade, in-house corporate, specialty news, and professional publications. Lois is a member of Garden Writers of America.

While executive director of The Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council, she launched the council’s countywide Town & Country Garden Tour and wrote a local newspaper column, Culturally Conscious. She served on her local environmental commission for nine years, on the planning board for four years, and on the open space committee for three. Through her work, she advocates gardening and land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth.