Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cultivated Spaces

Do you ever look at a garden and wonder "why?" Why that garden? Why in that place? Why were the gardeners inspired to create that place? What do they want others to see or do because they built that garden? Do you wonder, "so what?" What is happening because of that garden?

One of my favorite reads was Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit. It was not because it was the story of a magnificent horse. Yes, Seabiscuit was great. But even more enthralling were all of the events and bits of history that created the horse's story. The "why," if you will.

When I look at gardens, I try to see the "why." As Extension educators, we are trained to look for indicators, to see needs that can be met through our teaching. Each of our gardens has a "why." For example, the Japanese Garden at Manito Park in Spokane, Washington, was built in 1974 to symbolize a friendship between Spokane, Washington, and Nishinomiya, Japan. There is a tremendous amount of history and culture behind each garden design decision in an effort to connect the two communities and cultures.

As Master Gardeners, we understand this on an intuitive level. We see a need and we respond. We can't always put into words what we are trying to do. Sometimes, the garden is about solving a problem. Sometimes the garden is about defining the space. Sometimes, the garden is about inspiring our neighbors to try something different, to do something differently. Sometimes, the garden is about making our communities a better place to live.

We are going to take a look at the "why" behind several different types of gardens this spring on our "Cultivated Spaces: The Gardens of St. Louis" MGEV trip. Join Krissy and myself on  April 29-May 4, 2013, as we explore several well-known gardens in the St. Louis area. We will be looking for the "why" and also the "so what?," reflecting on how this can help MGEVs reach out to Georgia communities. For those interested in completing a few extra steps, the trip will qualify for Advanced Training in the Youth and Community Gardens (YCG) category. Be sure to mark your calendars and save the date! We'll be sending more details soon!

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