Healthful Benefits of Gardening

gardening benefits

The Amazing Benefits of Gardening

Learn one of the best, but most overlooked benefits of gardening. It's something that belongs in every gardener's toolbox.

Gardening and your health

Have you ever been in the garden with a close friend, a parent, or a playful grandchild, and just had the BEST TIME?

On the other hand, do you or someone you know suffer from some sort of depression? Sigh. It's pretty common these days. Then this article is perfect for you...

As you'll see, this piece is a little different from my normal style. I won't be teaching per se, rather I'll be sharing a personal story with you. It's a story I wrote called Yellow Irises. It was published in 2001 in The New York Times bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul. Perhaps you've heard of it.

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chicken soup for the soul books

Chicken Soup for the Soul Books: The Gardener's Soul

Gardening therapy in a collection of stories

The book is a special collection of 101 uplifting stories that I, and four other garden writers, selected from hundreds of manuscripts written by hobbyists and celebrity gardeners from around the world.

The collection celebrates all the magic of gardening:

  • The feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating something from nothing...
  • The physical and spiritual renewal the earth provides...
  • The special moments shared with friends and family only nature can bestow.

I've got to say, you and me, we are part of a special family.

My Mom's story...

You can find Yellow Irises, on page 248 in the book. It's a story about my mother who shared her love for flowers, gardening, and all things green.


Within a few weeks, Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul made it to The New York Times bestseller list where it enjoyed an exciting ride for three months. Then 9/11 happened. On that day, it was as if the whole world froze into a hush...

benefits of gardening

Plants' Role in Nature Therapy

How plants help us reduce stress and more...

As the story unfolds, you'll recognize one of the over-riding themes in the story. And that's how plants can be so effective in triggering our responses. How's that? because their environment contrasts sharply with the social world, the outer world, in which we move.

Plants are nonjudgmental, nonthreatening, and non-discriminating. They respond to care, not to the strengths or weaknesses of the person providing it.


It doesn't matter whether one is black or white, has been to kindergarten or college, is poor or wealthy, healthy or ill, or is having a bad hair day.

As you know, plants will thrive when given careful attention. What's important, right? Is that they receive the proper sunlight, soil, water, nutrients and love. Thus, in gardening one can reap the benefits of say, self-confidence, healing, and peace of mind.

So come along with me as I read the story, Yellow Irises, in this video where I invite you to close your eyes, sit back, and just follow along. Or you can read the story below...

Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul

By Marion Owen

An original "Chicken Soup for the Soul" story...

As a mother of five, Mom had little time during the day to be out in the garden with her beloved rhododendrons or planting bulbs. But a loyal gardener always finds a way. As soon as we were tucked away in bed, she'd grab her garden tools and car keys and go outside into the night.

Starting up the car, Mom shined the headlights onto a section of the garden. In peace and quiet at last, she'd settle into a gentle rhythm of weeding--a rhythm she hoped would soothe her nerves after another busy day.

With five kids comes a lot of energy, and my parents found relief in Washington State's trail system. Packing the car with lunches and a mess of kids, off we went to the mountains. The moment the car stopped at the trail head, the doors flew open and we bounded up the path with my parents following in the rear.

nature therapy

Along the trail, I looked for unusual plants, ones I didn't think Mom would recognize. Whenever I came across an oddball, I would proudly present her with a sample. Thus challenged, she'd open her wild plants guide and together we'd flip through the chapters, looking for a match.

Years later, I came across the battered book and discovered dried wafers of leaves and flowers still pressed between the pages.

On days the weather kept us indoors, sometimes we would flip through fine art catalogs or visit museums and art galleries. One day, a beautiful museum catalog arrived in the mail. Mom and I leafed through it, marking pages of our favorite flower paintings.

"Look!" I gasped, pointing to a Japanese print. Mom had seen it, too. It was a beautiful landscape. Tall green grass seemed to ripple in the breeze and clouds dotted the blue sky. A small hut, perhaps the family home, sat near a well-tended flower garden.

"We'll get that one," she smiled. And we filled out the order form.

During my senior year in high school, I took a forestry course. The end of the semester loomed, but thanks to Mom, I didn't have to take the final exam. The student who brought in and correctly identified the greatest number of native plants was exempt from the Big Test.

The night before class, Mom and I toured the yard collecting samples and packed them in a cardboard box. The next day, I (we) won hands down.


Mom's creativity and love for children was reflected in everything she did. For example, she would set the dining room table with craft projects as an alternative to TV. Even back in the 50s and 60s, she recognized that TV dampened a child's creativity.

Life was not all fun and games, though. Sometimes, things weren't quite right with Mom. Sometimes she did things we didn't understand. She tired easily. She missed appointments and went on strange eating binges.

One night, my sister and I heard a commotion from outside our bedroom. We opened the door just enough to see two men wearing white coats carrying our mother away on a stretcher. As soon as they disappeared, we ran to find Dad.

"What's wrong with Mommy?" we cried.

"She's not feeling well." Dad said, his voice trembling. "Mommy's going to a special hospital for a couple months."

mother with depression

Living With a Mother With Depression

Mom was determined to be near flowers and green things...

From that point on, the family had to deal with the fact of Mom's mental illness. It was often hard for us to understand; doctors back then were still struggling with how to treat manic depression and schizophrenia.

The years went by, and we kids grew up and moved away. My parents divorced. Mom struggled with alcoholism, severe depression and loneliness. Unable to hold down a job, she ended up in low-income housing in downtown Seattle.

Undaunted by living in the middle of the city, Mom was determined to be near flowers and green things, so each spring and summer she rode the city bus to and from her community garden plot.

Eventually I moved to Alaska, but Mom and I stayed in close touch, our letters and phone conversations laced with "garden speak."

community garden benefits

"Someone's stealing my tomatoes," Mom once lamented. "What should I do?"

"Plant more!" I said, laughing. "You'll really make them happy!"

Then one autumn, Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctors gave her a few months to live. Mom suffered immeasurable physical pain, but for reasons unknown to her doctors, she was suddenly free of the mental illness that had plagued her most of her adult life. It was as if all of the darkness just lifted and was gone.

For the first time in many years, Mom was "there" more than she'd ever been, allowing us to share whole conversations, walks and meals together. I made several visits from my home in Alaska.

On a mid-summer morning, I was out in my garden when my sister and older brother called to say that Mom was refusing any sort of care, food or water. She was fading fast. They promised to stay in close touch from her hospital room.

"A loyal gardener always finds a way."

chicken soup for the soul stories

I wanted to be alone, so I returned to the garden. After a few hours, I picked a large bouquet of yellow irises and carried them into the house. The phone was ringing. It was my sister. Mom was slipping in and out of consciousness and hadn't responded in several hours.

My sister held the phone up to Mom's ear so I could talk to her. The yellow irises beside me misted into a golden haze as I held back tears.

Speaking slowly and deliberately, I told her that every time I'm in the garden I think of her. I told her I was grateful for all she had taught me.

"I will always love you, Mom."

She was so weak, she could only whisper.

"Thanks, honey." Those were her last words. Mom died that evening.

The next morning, I was going through a box of family papers and photographs, searching for memories of Mom. As I gently pulled back a handful of faded newspaper clippings, my heart stopped. There was the Japanese print Mom and I had picked from the catalog over 30 years before. The sunlit garden scene was as lovely and tranquil as ever. And in the foreground was a large clump of yellow irises.

~ ~ ~ #  END  # ~ ~ ~

chicken soup for the soul books

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Who is Marion Owen?

Learn the fine art of nurturing your dream garden using organic methods that have been fine-tuned over 35 years by Marion Owen, New York Times bestselling author.

Gardening techniques that have been proven to work by Marion's students longing for their own dream garden in landscapes as diverse as North America, India, Europe, UK and Australia. 

Finally, you can throw away all those harsh chemicals, as Marion only teaches methods that are in tune with Mother Nature!

Marion Owen's approach to fulfilling your dream garden will save you hundreds of dollar. At the same time bring natural vitality to you, your family and the planet.

Start to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables using a methodology in harmony with the natural environment.