Family & Education

Essential Gardening: Local Nurseries Provide Life, Beauty, and New Growth

BY Cecily Hastings TIMEApril 22, 2020 PRINT

Taking to a garden in the midst of a crisis is not a new concept. My mother got her first start with gardening by creating her own victory garden of edibles during World War II. She went on to enjoy it until the end of her life, and shared the love of gardening with her three children.

And yet, with this current worldwide crisis underway, one decision in particular made by our state leaders in California could not be more appreciated. That was to exempt the closure of home-improvement and gardening shops from the retail shutdown.

I’ve been a lifelong gardener. But in recent years, as we’ve prepared to build a new, smaller home, interest in my own garden has seriously waned. Last year—as the magnolia trees we planted 14 years ago have flourished—the sun to our backyard was so limited that my handful of rose trees had hardly a bloom.

Even before the virus struck, another life-altering event brought new hope to our garden. My husband, Jim, at age 91, decided to quit driving. With energy and fitness to spare he offered to renovate the backyard so it would be attractive next year when we put in on the market. It was an offer I could not refuse!

When I was looking for shade-loving plants at my favorite nursery I came across a beautiful lilac bush. Lilacs, I discovered the hard way decades ago, need full sun. But on an impulse, I bought it anyway, keeping in mind our future and much larger garden of our new house.

When I got the lilac bush home, I decided not to plant it, but instead transplant it into a large pot we could move around the garden to capture the sun it needs to bloom again. My new Pocahontas Canadian Lilac requires a special sunny, yet cooler, location to thrive in Sacramento. But I will do my best for now to find the perfect spot, and allow Jim to nurture it to perfection. Given it will be the first plant in our new garden, we can easily find it the perfect permanent home.

The author’s new lilac bush. (Courtesy of Cecily Hastings)

Jim nicknamed it our “Victory Bush,” and every spring when it blooms in March and April we will be reminded that our state, country, and the world overcame the worst calamity most of us have ever known—be it to our health, the economy, or our own businesses.

My escape from working too many long hours has been to visit the nursery. It takes my mind off the pressure of keeping our family healthy and our business afloat.

Even while ensuring my mask is secure and keeping distance from fellow shoppers, it lifts my spirit to see so much life, beauty, and new growth taking place all around. Even if gardening isn’t your thing, this might be a good time to give it a try. There is lots of great advice online, and the fresh air and sunshine in our backyards is refreshing and health giving.

Whether it is growing vegetables from seed or starters, planting colorful petunias and impatiens, or putting in your own Victory Bush—there is no time like now to enjoy the many pleasures that gardening offers to those of us lucky enough to have our own patch of soil.

Cecily Hastings can be reached at

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