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Human Interest Stories

The Happy Gardener's Guide: The Garden Behind Closed Doors

by Charlotte Swanson, Gardening Consultant
February 13, 2020

                                                                  THE HAPPY GARDENER’S GUIDE:

                                                             THE GARDEN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS


                     " Thank you! Thank you! I haven’t held a green plant in my hands for 17 years."

The gardener in me was dumbstruck. Since I have constant access to the plant world, it is hard to imagine being in a world devoid of opportunities to see, touch or care for plants. The one who was expressing such heart-felt gratitude was an inmate at an area maximum-security prison, where the garden club in which I am a member has implemented garden therapy projects.

The journey began a couple years ago when a friend of mine, who regularly ministers at the prison, asked me to write a letter supporting an inmate’s petition to begin a garden. “After all, aren’t you a president or something in the garden club?”, the friend asked. Indeed! I now count this outreach as one of the best uses of my title as a state president. In less than an hour, the letter was penned and sent.

Whatever small part my letter may have played, I will always be thankful that permission was granted, and the garden was allowed to be established. Two years later, the garden has doubled in size and scope and another garden is expected to be introduced this coming spring. Wonderfully, one of the gardens is primarily wildflowers so that pollinators will be attracted and supported.

When I presented the opportunity to be a seed supporter of the garden, members of my garden club jumped aboard quickly. They continue to delight in the success of the gardens, especially in the touching testimonials from inmates who get to participate.

Gardens are hopeful things. Aside from the fresh vegetables and flowers, which the inmates there dearly appreciate, there is the opportunity to work on a meaningful outdoor project together. Their garden is meticulously tended. It is both orderly and beautiful.

Hope and purpose go hand in hand. Generosity has sprung out of nature’s bounty. For example, inmates collected a crop of pumpkins in the fall and donated them to students at a local elementary school for use in a variety of learning applications.

The opportunity to garden does a world of good!


Charlotte A. Swanson, Consultant Gardening Schools

Photo by Avis Polechek

Articles and photos reprinted with permission by The National Gardener,Spring 2019.


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