Lessons Found In My Garden

Ankita mathur
4 min readMar 18, 2021


During the recent blatant display of human frailty, time stood still. All disparate but unanimously witnessing the inconceivable suffering. Who do I turn to? Inwards and towards the powerhouse of life — my garden.

As a kid, I helped my grandfather prepare the rose bed, till the soil, play with some too. Even though I did it all wrong, he never got angry or shooed me away. Watching someone over-water your beloved plants, or tiling the wrong part of the soil, hurting the root, can be pretty painful. He did teach me the right way to do it.

After working on the same garden for a year during the pandemic, I am now familiar with his source of unending patience. The garden became my only organic source of serendipity during the lockdown.

I worked in it for 1–2 hours every day. Maintaining it, growing it, and observing it, when it subtly began sharing essential life insights with me. No, I was not losing my mind.. not wholly. Plants and trees have been human’s silent yet communicative companions since the beginning of civilization.

The nightlife of trees by Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai, and Ramsingh Urveti.
Image Source: Brainpickings. Original Source: The Night Life of Trees.

I was surprised at their ability to do so without using any language. No wonder why Virginia Wolf had an epiphany on what it means to be an artist while walking on her garden bed! It comes to you in silence, the only mode of transmission. Honestly, writing about something you did not learn in spoken or verbal form is quite a challenge.

Here is a forever-growing list of lessons I learned while gardening. These learnings are subjective and open to an individual’s interpretation. I find them universal and applicable to a range of situations. Just think of plants as a metaphor.

Note: The observations and learnings found are independent of the size of the garden. For reference, my garden comprises 30 pots kept in various parts of the house, mostly outdoor. It is a mix of an all-season, easy-to-maintain to seasonal plants like flowering pots. Latter being fewer in number. No vegetables so far.

Bougainvillea pots
Source: Bougainvillea on my balcony.
  • Weeding is essential: Weeds have to be removed. Irrespective of how pretty, fragile, and harmless they seem to be. They might lure you into letting them stay. If you fall for that trap, your plant might die. They obstruct or use up resources reserved for the plant hence ultimately spoiling or killing it. A good gardener has an eye for weeds and never lets them stay in a pot.
  • To let or not to let go: In seasonal plants like the flowering pots, regular pruning, sliting, cutting, cleaning of dead stems is required to make space for the new buds to grow. For all-season green plants, forceful cutting or removing of stems is not needed. They wither away naturally to make way for the new growth. However, if you want to give it a specific shape, initiate more sidewards bushy growth, you will have to let go of branches manually. You can try to re-pot them, but not all will grow back. It is always a hard call!
  • We like it mundane: Plants do not enjoy serendipity as much as we humans do. They are a big fan of consistent and disciplined routines. If you keep changing their watering pattern, pots, and placement, they will not grow very well and might even wither away. It especially holds true for saplings. However, few sturdier ones can survive in all conditions.
  • The signs to grow have to come from you first; only then can others help: You can revive a dead plant. But only if the plant first displays instincts to live. Some alive shoots, green color spots in the primary stem, some strength in the roots. If the plant can successfully show these signs, bravo! A good gardener will do everything in its might to nurture it and help it bloom back. But even if they are tiny signs, they first have to come from the plant’s side.
  • Difficult times can bring out the best in you: Few plants, like the pothos (money plant), bougainvillea, when stressed for water, produce the most beautiful leaves. If you regularly water them, they will grow just fine. The pothos will have beautiful big green leaves and bougainvillea deep and thick colored flowers if stressed for water.
  • We all want our space: Bougainvillea has a fascinating and unique growth pattern. As it starts growing in size you might feel that it needs more nutrients, maybe more soil. Contrarily, no. In fact, it demands you to lighten its soil — remove old and add new soil (might also demand a change of pot if roots are growing too fast). Basically, it asks for more room and space as it grows to maintain the air-flow. Like we all do!
A variety of multi-coloured bougainvillea
Source: All colors of bougainvillea clicked at Sunder Nursery, Delhi.

These were few musings that came to me while gardening and will keep adding more as and when I receive them. They came to Debbie Millman too and she created an illustrated love letter for her garden.

If they came to you too while gardening or just being around plants, I would love to know! Do post them in the comments section below :)



Ankita mathur

Practicing the art of good story telling with data aka information. Subscribe to my newsletter at https://dataduet.substack.com/