Grateful for gardens

Alabama Living Magazine

Ways to give thanks for (and in) our outdoor spaces

As the holiday season barrels toward us, it’s easy to feel more grumpy than grateful, which is why I highly recommend a hasty retreat toward the garden. 

It may sound counterintuitive to hang out in gardens at their least flamboyant time, but trust me, winter gardens are magical places filled with many reasons to be thankful. 

For one thing, we can appreciate what’s not there this time of year such as biting bugs, oppressive heat, a long to-do list of chores and the rattle and din of lawnmowers and leaf blowers. Also, there are usually fewer people out and about this time of year which means gardens, both public and private, can be ideal places to snatch a moment of peace and relative quiet. (Of course, they are also great spaces to work off pent-up energy and frustration—your own and that of, say, spirited children.)

Another delight of the fall/winter garden, as well as parks and woodlands, is the chance they afford to appreciate the change of seasons. Watching leaves coloring and falling, migratory birds dashing through on their way South and other critters preparing for winter can be as profound an experience as it is an entertaining one. 

Yet another thing to be thankful for are the views revealed once leaves have fallen: the architecture of bare branches on trees and shrubs, dips and rolls in the terrain and a chance to see vistas that lie beyond our garden’s boundaries. It also allows winter blooming plants, such as camellias, and evergreen beauties like hollies to shine. And time spent admiring an unadorned landscape provides us the opportunity to imagine changes we may want to make in the coming year. 

Of course, we can also be thankful for the physical and mental health benefits gardens provide to our bodies and minds, both of which can be challenged this time of year. Gardens are perfect places to burn off a few holiday calories and limber stiff joints, ease stress, pique curiosity and inspire creativity.

So, yes, there is much to appreciate in the winter garden, but this season focused on gratitude is also a great time to be thankful for garden-related gifts—food, flowers and communities of garden lovers that spring from the soil. 

If you want to share a little gardening gratitude, here are a few ideas for doing just that.

  • Donate to public gardens and parks or other garden-related charities.
  • Volunteer to help with school or community gardens or with local public gardens and parks.
  • Share food, flowers and plants from your garden with others.
  • Create a gratitude garden of your own, whether it’s a gratitude plot filled with lots of plants or simply a special tree, shrub, flower or even indoor plant. 
  • Show appreciation to all the people who help in your garden, such as landscape workers, by sharing a word of thanks or a small gift or tip.
  • Host a gathering of family, friends and/or neighbors in your garden.
  • Teach children to appreciate gardens; a list of ideas can be found at the KidsGardening site,

Most important of all, though, is to get outside wherever and whenever you can. Your heart, soul, body and mind will thank you.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at


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