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. According to Lois J. de Vries, creator of Cultivating the Inner Gardener, “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.”

In 2009 de Vries, a garden writer and field editor for a national publisher of gardening magazines, trained with meaning guru Dr. Eric Maisel. It was then that she recognized the connection between her observations on the transformational power of gardening and the possibilities of helping gardeners to make choices that result in a personal space that is not only beautiful and healthy, but also provides a sanctuary from the world that speaks to their souls.

She went on to explain that 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.

She cited an example: “One client 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, 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 assignments and exercises gardeners 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 I can work with anyone anywhere in the world,” said de Vries. “All clients need is a mode of communication and some pictures of their garden. Computers and digital cameras make it all very easy.”

de Vries is not alone in her thinking. CL Fornari, host of Whole Life Gardening blog and WXTK Radio’s GardenLine said, “I've been making that connection from the garden to life for a couple of years now….. a mix that's more spiritual, philosophical, thoughtful, and creatively whimsical. I've given sermons in several churches on this theme.” Although de Vries’ approach is more secular, she feels she and Fornari “are going to similar places.”

Medical practitioners and landscape designers have been dancing around the link between plants and people for decades, according to de Vries. “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,” she said. “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 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,” de Vries notes.

“They all seem to have missed the first step in the process,” she says. “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?
de Vries  suggests that there are different milestones in gardeners’ lives when gardener-focused coaching can breathe new life into an established hobby:

·    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. One of de Vries’ clients, D.G. from New Jersey, explained: “Coaching made me look at my garden in a new way, from a different perspective, to appreciate it more, and to become more aware of what I had already accomplished.”

Privacy Policy

We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you.