Garden Poems

We are at that time of year when zucchinis are being freely shared at the office, people are swapping tomato sauce recipes, and blueberries are being given away at the farm. 

It is at this time of year that I really start admiring the gardens.  Our little container garden has produced lettuces, rainbow chard, and basil for months now. The flowers that surround our yard continue to bloom as the maples leaves and the sumacs begin to change colors. All summer the plants have encouraged us to get outside and stick our hands in the dirt.  These gardens have done much more for us than just being a gardens that produce food.


Gardens can be places where memories are made and where families can spend time together.  Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), the author of the children’s classic Peter Rabbit, wrote “We have a little Garden” where she promotes the joy of gardening.  

“We Have a Little Garden” by Beatrix Potter

We have a little garden,
A garden of our own,
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.

We love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faced leaf
Or blighted blossom there.

This poem was originally published in Potter’s 1922 book, Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes


Edgar Guest is another poet who wrote about the joy of gardening.  However, he took on a little bit of a different tone. 

“Plant a Garden” by Edgar Guest

If your purse no longer bulges
and you’ve lost your golden treasure,
If at times you think you’re lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
Don’t sit by your hearth and grumble,
don’t let mind and spirit harden.
If it’s thrills of joy you wish for
get to work and plant a garden!

If it’s drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you’ll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,
Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing.

If it’s comradeship you sight for,
learn the fellowship of daisies.
You will come to know your neighbor
by the blossoms that he raises;
If you’d get away from boredom
and find new delights to look for,
Learn the joy of budding pansies
which you’ve kept a special nook for.

If you ever think of dying
and you fear to wake tomorrow
Plant a garden! It will cure you
of your melancholy sorrow
Once you’ve learned to know peonies,
petunias, and roses,
You will find every morning
some new happiness discloses.

And while Guest suggests that we will find happiness every morning in our garden, Karina Borowicz provides us with a more introspective look at the garden. 


“September Tomatoes” by Karina Borowicz

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
 
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
 
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
 
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

“September Tomatoes” can be found in Borowicz’s book Rosetta. This book has been well received by critics and is a finalist for the 2021 Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize.


One thing that I find interesting about these three poems is that they bring us through the life cycle of the garden.  Beatrix Potter shares the careful intention needed when planting a garden, Edgar Guest takes us through the both the daily joys and ongoing struggles of trying to keep a garden going, and Karina Borowicz writes about the end of season chores and the internal conflicts one can go through as they get the garden ready for winter.   

Bur perhaps what I find the most interesting is the abundance of metaphors for daily living.  I think Borowicz’s poem seems to stand out in this way, especially if we consider the impact of that last stanza.  With that stanza, Borowicz shifts the reader’s view from the tomato plant that is in front of us, to the plants many generations before. I re-read the poem with that stanza in mind and began to wonder about the symbolism behind the pale flowers that might still bear fruit. Then there is the plant that is being tossed in the compost. As a gardener would know, good compost is a vital tool in creating a bountiful garden.  So, in actuality, these end of the year chores are just the beginning of next year’s harvest.  And perhaps Borowicz is talking about this process in both actual and metaphorical terms.  Maybe, she is asking us are there things that we can say goodbye to today that we can compost for a more bountiful harvest tomorrow?

Tomatoes

A special thanks goes to Kit and Alexis at Season by Season for introducing me to a few of these poems.


Resources:

  1. Potter, Beatrix; Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes.
  2. Guest, Edgar; “Plant A Garden”. Quoted in SeasonbySeason
  3. Borowicz, Karina; Rosetta
  4. Borowicz, Karina “September Tomatoes” Quoted in PoetryFoundation

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19 thoughts on “Garden Poems

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  1. You didn’t disappoint! I was wondering where my Sunday poetry was, and it magically appeared! I loved especially, ‘Plant a Garden’. Thanks again, Mark! Have a lovely Sunday! All the best to you and yours, Adele

    1. Hi Adele, Thank you! I decided that I needed to get some the muffins in the oven before writing this morning. I am so glad that you are enjoying these post. I am finding them quite fun to write. Be Well and thanks for the continued support.

  2. Hi Mark, what a lovely Sunday post! Three great poems too, especially the last one! During the lockdown last year our tiny garden gave us a great deal of pleasure, joy even! This year has been different though, actually more depressing in many ways. Still gardening though, and writing! Enjoy what’s left of your weekend (I’m retired so every day is a weekend 🤣).

    1. Hi Ashley, so glad you enjoyed the selection for today. We reduced our garden this year so we could enjoy it more and feel less stressed about the upkeep. What a game changer that was! Thanks and enjoy your Sunday.

  3. This is a very special post for me, Mark, as it touches my heart as to what a garden is. Throughout our life together, It was the jobs needing doing in our gardens that carried my husband and I through the hard times and brought healing, and an added joy to all the good times too.

    I enjoyed all the poems and the photo of the tomatoes made me smile – hubby rears all his tomatoes like his babies! 😀

    1. Hi Lesley, Thank you for sharing your connection to the garden. It is very meaningful. It is nice to hear about how gardening helps others come together, heal, and celebrate. I appreciate it.
      I hope your tomatoes are doing well this year. A quick question, do you plant basil next to your tomatoes? We heard this helps enhance the flavor. We tried this year, but I am not sure.

      1. Hi Mark, sorry for the late reply. I’ve heard that about growing basil and tomatoes together too (one of my favourite combinations in a sandwich!). We haven’t done that, but I’ll pass the tip on to hubby and he can put a few basil plants in the greenhouse next spring. I usually have one on the kitchen window-sill too.

  4. I really liked the “September Tomatoes” poem! I don’t really have time to devote to a vegetable garden, but I do have a few things I try. I thought I had gotten smart by putting my lettuce in hanging baskets so the rabbits wouldn’t eat it, but the Juncos nested there instead! I couldn’t eat all of their cover so instead I carefully watered to keep it alive and enjoyed watching the babies hatch and grow. Good thing we have grocery stores! 🙂

    1. Hi Melanie, Can I tell you that is the best story about your lettuce! That would totally something we would do. This year, our lettuce was on a second story deck so the rabbits couldn’t get it. The cats did try the spinach every once and awhile. But they don’t eat much.

  5. “Inch by inch, row by row,
    Gonna make this garden grow,
    All you need is a rake and a how
    And a piece of fertile ground…

    Dave Mallett’s song is another children’s classic in this category, I think. Generations of little ones have learned it.

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