I find plants endlessly fascinating
Maybe it's the naturalist/biologist in me, but I just can't seem to get enough of looking at plants, working with them, learning about them and watching them grow. Their beauty and variety really excite me. (If you could see my face when I walk into a garden center you'd get the picture). I have a very clear toddler memory of walking in a woods full of towering green trees holding an adult hand and looking up with wonder, joy and delight at the forest canopy. So this love of plants seems to have been built in from the beginning.
Here's a photo of some great tropical specimens at Cornell Plantations in Ithaca, NY that captures the wonderful diversity and inherent beauty of the members of the plant kingdom:
Gardening is a great way for me to express my creative side
One of my favorite classes in school was art class. This was partly the result of having some wonderful and encouraging art teachers in both grade school and high school, but creating this way was something I felt fairly competent at and really enjoyed even as a tyke. I didn't have the drive or the talent to make art my profession so the interest went no further than an occasional sketch of a plant or bird, but the urge to envision and create something beautiful that expressed what was buzzing around inside me never left. When I first began to garden, my lack of confidence in my abilities meant that I mostly copied what I saw others doing- kind of like the pencil drawings I made from a photo. But with experience and lots of great input from garden articles, books and visits to great gardens, I began to realize that plants were the "palette" I most wanted to use to express myself creatively. And what an incredible palette they provide. Most plants are pretty stunning on their own- some more than others, but as a gardener, I get to play with some pretty neat colors, textures and shapes and create plant "paintings" that please me like this vignette that I especially enjoyed looking at through the summer:
Gardening connects me to the natural world in a way that is nourishing.
One of the compelling reasons for my pursuit of behavioral ecology as a career was that I loved being outdoors where I could observe animals and birds doing their thing. There's nothing more fun and engaging for me than watching a pair of chickadees excavating their cavity nest (lots of sawdust spewing), encountering a porcupine trundling along the forest floor in search of food or finding a female hummingbird incubating her eggs with just her tiny beak and tail showing from the nest. I've left the life of a researcher behind, but the desire to be around animals and plants in the natural world hasn't disappeared. Working in the garden satisfies my need to be outside where all the action is...even if that means chatting with a rabbit who has been nibbling at my spring flowers. I love sharing my garden with critters....well maybe not this guy who was especially ravenous: