By Charlie Patton
According to the University of North Carolina’s Health Talk website, gardening has several “surprising health benefits.” Among them: It builds self-esteem; is good for the heart; reduces stress; makes you happy; boosts vitamin D; and leads to a healthier diet. Some of Jacksonville’s most passionate amateur horticulturists wouldn’t be surprised to hear this news, and they share their thoughts about the many rewards of gardening.
Joan and Preston Haskell’s gardens adorn their Ortega home along the St. Johns River. “To me, every time I go to my garden there is joy and peace,” Joan Haskell says. “I see it as a place I can totally relax and see the beauty of God’s work in this incredible world.
“There is an encyclopedia I purchased called The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Christopher Brickell. I was so fascinated and overwhelmed by the enormity, quantities, and varieties of flowers, plants, and trees contained in this book for each season and any inclement weather on this earth.
“There was a quote that I came across by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that I have placed in the front of this encyclopedia that sums up how my garden makes me feel, ‘Kind hearts are the gardens, kind thoughts are the roots, kind words are the flowers, kind deeds are the fruits. Take care of your garden and keep out the weeds, fill it with sunshine, kind words, and kind deeds.’”
Growing up, Leslie Pierpont would spend each summer with her grandmother in New Hampshire. It was there, “at my grandmother’s knee,” that she learned to garden, she says.
“I loved to garden, and I wanted to know more about it,” Pierpont says.
That’s what led Pierpont to first join a garden club in 1985, when she lived in New England. When she and her family moved to Jacksonville in 1998, she joined Late Bloomers Garden Club, which is Jacksonville’s only affiliate of the Garden Club of America, which has about 18,000 members nationally.
Now she’s living in retirement on Amelia Island. But she’s still gardening and she’s still a Late Bloomer.
“I have it in my blood,” she says.
In late March Pierpont will serve as cochair for “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” a Late Bloomers flower show that will be open to the public from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, March 30.
As she talks about her involvement with the Late Bloomers, Pierpont is in the process of buying raised flower beds that will allow her to garden while standing up. She’s reached the age when kneeling to garden is a problem. But it’s a problem with which she’ll live.
“I love gardening because it’s a complete joy to watch something grow,” says Marianne Salas, president of Late Bloomers Garden Club.
“Gardening forces you to stop thinking about other things in your life and just think about one task,” Salas says. “It boosts self-esteem. You learn patience. You learn to accept the occasional failure. You breathe fresh air. And it assures you eat more fresh produce.”
Avondale resident Sally Barnett says she has “loved gardens all my life.”