Gardening: Green Balm for Code-Red Times

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Cineraria is freshly planted in an O Street backyard. Georgetowner photo.

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” So sayeth Thomas Jefferson. And though just a few inspirational garden quotes go a long way (type “garden quotes” into Google and you’ll get hundreds of hits), maybe green is the balm for these code-red times.

The wisteria is starting to come out, lilacs are blooming and — though the squirrels ate most of my tulip bulbs when I planted them — my wily Georgetown neighbors clearly outfoxed the critters last fall. If you have to have your life grind to a halt, there are much worse places to be than Georgetown in spring.

“I know, for me, that working in the garden, whether weeding or planting, gives a calmness and peace to my soul. Watching the signs of spring and new life visually tells us that we too will come through this ‘winterdark’ time and emerge to again bring life to the world,” says Vicki Campbell, president of the Georgetown Garden Club.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a patch of earth in your backyard, now’s the time to sweep up winter’s debris and start pruning off dead branches and cleaning up new growth.

“Gardening is about the future. And, in that regard, it is the best thing you can do right now. Whatever you do in the garden is about thinking ahead,” says Georgetown gardener Georgina Owen Horsey, who has been spending these slow days in her backyard, moving plants, dividing them and cutting them back into shape.

Plants can provide solace, even for people whose access to the outdoors consists of a sunny windowsill. Start with herbs. Basil, mint, chives and parsley will all thrive inside. Soon you’ll be garnishing away like a madcap Julia Child.

That said, there are a few obstacles to your new life as a sustainable farmer in the wilds of Georgetown. To get started, you might need seeds, which, according to a recent story in the New York Times,  are selling out across the country as people hunker down and stock up.

Jump-starting your farming with actual plants won’t be easy, either. Greenhouse Management, a website devoted to the business of plants, notes that nurseries are mostly classified as essential businesses and remain open across the U.S. However, none of the nurseries I called in the DMV were open, though plants ordered precoronavirus or online could be picked up.

Gardening — a connection with soil, growing things and the outdoors — is good for the gardener. It is also good for passersby. With few places to go, Georgetown has become even more of a neighborhood of walkers. And those walkers appreciate the yellow Triumph tulips in front of the house on the corner and the little grape hyacinths poking out from under the forsythia down the block.

One Georgetowner got an anonymous note last week that reads: “thank you for your gorgeous garden, it’s at times like this we need to be reminded of the beauty of the world.”

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