May 30, 2012

The Laughter of the Earth

Schricker,-Mary-Dec2010By Mary Schricker Gemberling

In the spring when gardening season arrives, I become all consumed with planning each outdoor space with careful attention to the color combinations and companion plants. I can wander for hours through landscape centers carefully plotting out in my head what I will purchase. Matter of fact, I almost missed the deadline for this article because of all the hours I have spent in my garden. I can go outside early in the morning, and before I know it, it is early afternoon and the rest of my daily chores have been ignored. If gardening was bad for me, it would be my only real vice! This obsession I have with planting and growing led me to do some research on the topic. I guess I wondered if others were as consumed with flowers and gardening as I?

According to the Society of American Florists, the Floriculture industry includes fresh cut flowers, cut cultivated greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants and bedding /garden plants. It’s a $35 billion industry, which employs about 750,000 Americans. There are approximately 530 wholesale businesses and over 20,000 storefronts. The online floral business amounts to over 4.8 billion dollars with about 15 percent of retail florist business from online sales. The typical flower buyer is a middle aged woman in her 40s and 50s, college educated, employed full-time and earning over $75,000 annually. The top floral buying holidays in order of sales are: Christmas/Hanukkah, Mother’s Day, Valentine Day, Easter/Passover, and Thanksgiving. About 30 percent of annual flower purchases are not tied to any
special occasion.

Additional research found that one in four Americans say that gardening is a real hobby or interest, and that they spend four or more hours a week tending lawns, vegetable or flower gardens. About 33 percent of all Americans over the age of 60 consider themselves gardeners.

In addition to improving the environment, gardening has many benefits.

• Exercise. Gardening for 45 minutes can burn as many calories as a 30 minute aerobic workout. The use of different muscle groups, as well as increased flexibility and strength are all additional
• Reduces Stress. Gardening has a way of letting you unwind and forget. It also is a healthy alternative to our over connectivity to technology.
• Teaches Patience. Planting seeds or young plants requires time and patience and hope for a finished product. You can’t rush Mother Nature!
• Releases Creativity. Planting is like painting on a canvas of dirt with flowers! It takes organization, creativity and a sense of color to yield that perfect landscape. Claude Monet once said, “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
• Encourages Healthy Eating. People who plant vegetable gardens, tend to eat healthier as they reap the benefit of their hard work.

As I completed this research, I began to analyze why I so love flowers and gardening. I decided that my garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. Designing and planting a garden, nurturing it, watering it, and watching it bloom into the final display of vibrancy is much like writing. Both are expressions of ideas, outlets for my creativity and a means to an end.

“The earth laughs in flowers”
……..Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mary Schricker Gemberling, a former educator & Certified Senior Advisor is the author of two books, The West End Kid and Labor of Love.