Slow gardening

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Slow gardening is a philosophical approach to gardening which encourages participants to savor everything they do, using all the senses, through all seasons, regardless of garden type of style. Slow Gardening applies equally to people growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits, as well as those who tend to their own lawn, or have an intense garden hobby such as topiary, bonsai, or plant hybridizing. It actively promotes self-awareness, personal responsibility, and environmental stewardship.

Slow gardening, which is an attitude, not a “how-to” checklist of things to do or not do, was started by American horticulturist and garden author Felder Rushing, who was inspired by Slow Food, an international movement founded in the 1980s by Italian activist Carlo Petrini. Slow Food is practiced by convivial connoisseurs who savor producing, preparing and consuming locally-traditional, in-season foods. The movement unleashed a worldwide wave of relief among people of all walks of life.

The Slow Gardening approach can help us enjoy our gardens year in and year out while connecting us with our neighbors. It strikes a special chord among gardeners who, though perfectly normal in all respects, have struggled to find – and follow – their bliss against the lockstep pressures of “fitting in.”

The basic tenets of slow gardening are rooted in the Gestalt approach. Gestalt is a German word used by psychologists to mean form, shape, or configuration, as well as “the whole.” Gestalt therapy has often been compared to Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies, and provides an effective means of coping and to assume more responsibility for our activities and life. The emphasis is on what is being thought, felt, or done at the moment, rather than on happened in the past or what could or should be done later. A major goal of all Slow movements is for adherents to become aware of what and how they are doing something while valuing how it affects the whole.

The concept is easily related to slow gardening by how it:

  • uses an experiential, hands-on approach to gardening
  • takes into account the whole garden (or gardener – body, mind and spirit)
  • assesses what is happening in the present (the here-and-now)
  • emphasizes self-awareness
  • encourages personal (garden) responsibility
  • acknowledges the integrity, sensitivity, and creativity of the gardener
  • recognizes that the gardener is central to the gardening process.


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