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Several years ago, when I was living in Buffalo, I drove to work each morning through a quiet residential neighborhood. When springtime neared, I would begin to notice a particular yard and an older lady, presumably its owner, who would be out most days tending her flowers. As spring melded into summer, this garden would become strikingly lush as her carefully nurtured blossoms reached maturity. I looked forward to beginning my day by enjoying the vibrancy displayed by this colorful array of plants.

For the life of me, I don’t know why I never stopped as I drove past this intrepid gardener’s abode to thank her for the visual magic she offered. I’m sure many other passers-by must have noticed her work as well and marveled at it. Maybe she created and maintained this delectable little spot for her own edification, without giving those of us on the other side of the sidewalk a second thought, but that hardly mattered as the beauty of her creation spilled outside the confines of her yard and into the sight lines of all of us who saw it.

After I retired I joined our local garden club, and the Buffalo garden lady whose work I had admired in years past was vivid in my mind when I did. Her dedication to making a small plot of earth shimmer with color and delight still fascinated. My time working with the club members – compared to whose extraordinary gardening abilities I will always be a come-lately – has taught me that there are many such people who are simply very talented at creating what I like to refer to as living artistic works, as if they were painting a masterpiece from a palette of flowering plant life.

I have found that the individual gardening experience is further enhanced by participating in a community effort in garden design. Illustrative of this is that for over 40 years the Holland Garden Club has seeded (financially) and weeded (literally) a Japanese Garden in the courtyard of our local elementary school. It was the fabulous idea of two club members who, in the early 1970s, persuaded their friends in the club, along with local business owners, Scout troops, school workers and town residents, to donate money and effort to create a pocket-sized park for the children out of nothing but junk and dirt, the detritus of a recently completed school remodel.

Over the years, more than a thousand townspeople have maintained the garden so that our elementary pupils are now able to look out their classroom windows and into a world of irises, bamboo, exotic trees, grasses and Japanese primroses, as well as the presence of birds at the various feeders, a lovely wisteria-draped tea house in which some classes are held in nice weather and a mini waterfall.

There seems to be a thread – or I guess I should say a garland – that connects these gifted women and men and inspires them to share their visions of botanical beauty, from those who enjoy window box or front porch “landscaping” to all the garden club folks everywhere who work so hard to make our little towns and big cities joys to behold. They simply love the sensuous richness of flowers so much that they feel compelled to offer that passion to others, and those who offer this wonderful gift to children should be especially treasured. It’s imperative that our youngest citizens learn that we humans cannot live by bread alone. In the words of the old folk song, “Give us bread, but give us roses, too.”