Gardening: Cultivating an enduring relationship with nature

Carl A. Salsedo (2007)

Gardening is a personal activity between people, plants, and nature. This dissertation uses qualitative research methodology, analyzed in the tradition of grounded theory, to investigate connections between people and nature through gardening and how gardening fosters these connections. By understanding these connections, I seek to explain why we garden. The cultivation of plants provides hands-on complicity with the natural world and an understanding into the workings of nature. Through gardening, gardeners form critical connections with their environment from which they can draw a deeper appreciation of nature. My primary research question was: How does one connect to nature through gardening? My assumption was that understanding these connections could provide insights into the human-nature-garden connection and would eventually elucidate why people garden. Through methods of ethnography and grounded theory, a systematic analysis resulted in data categorized into five major themes. These themes were found to foster the connections to nature through gardening and are: (1) childhood experiences; (2) management, interacting with plants and control; (3) understanding the greater complexity of nature, gaining humility and wisdom; (4) grounding, achieving inner peace and well-being; and (5) legacy, leaving a mark, or a heritage, to others. The implications of this research are valuable for students, researchers, the green plant industry, and gardeners in better understanding gardening and its connections to nature. This research helps to elucidate how these reciprocal relationships are formed and sustained. In understanding this complexity, the gardener can better understand himself. Keywords. garden, gardening, nature, connecting to nature, childhood experiences of nature, interaction with plants, control, management, understanding complexity of nature, humility, grounding, legacy, plant-people interactions.