Dianne St. Jean
Editorial - The world is a garden, but you have to remove the thistles

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”

-Frances Hodgson Burnett - From The Secret Garden


Gardening just seems to be the theme right now. Planting and getting on with a new season is on most people’s minds, and in the case of this year, it’s about time.

We’ve had an overstretched cold season left over from winter, a limping spring, and as beautiful as snow-capped mountains are, you just don’t want to keep feeling a snap of cold air hit you while you’re trying to suck up some sun.

Planting, especially transplanting, seems to be delayed; yet delayed or not, gardening season will come, and that’s a certainty.

When I was younger, the overall thought of a garden prompted nostalgic sentiments of visual and aromatic stirring – oh, to take in the range of colour and delicacy of petals with your eyes, to savor the pungent scent of a tomato plant, there is just something about a garden, and when we recall it, somehow we tend to remember its beauty and bounty.

Rarely do we remember the frustration and annoyance of pests and weeds invading its grounds. 

Just as Eleanor Deckert writes in her “Reflections” column in this issue about life lessons that gardens can teach us about ourselves, a garden also teaches us about the world.

The saying that the world is a garden is right in more than one respect - yes we plant, yes we reap what we sow, yes we’re all as different in shape, variety and purpose as are the plants, but there’s another aspect we need to consider, and that is we often also get what we didn’t sow, and that not everything that comes along is good.

The other part of the famous quote says, “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” Sorry Frances, but I tend to disagree.

A thistle will take advantage and root wherever it can, and, if ignored, will not only thrive and invade the soil, it will weave and grow alongside other plants or bushes to protect itself, eventually overtaking the territory. Removing a thistle that has been allowed to grow to that point makes it almost impossible to pull it up without also harming the plant it has invaded, and should a bush be able to survive or tolerate its prickly neighbour because of its own size, the thistle still mars the overall image.

 A thistle is invasive, aggressive, and self-serving, and there is a reason why many people look to it as a symbol of tenacity and survival. While the majority of other garden plants need to be tended, or have a short and delicate life span and can easily wilt and expire if confronted with harsh conditions, the only way to remove a thistle is to physically get rid of it yourself.

Oh how we want the idyllic, that if we simply tend to the good the bad will somehow just vanish and go away by itself, or not ever happen. Unfortunately, sometimes just being good or pleasant, like the rose, is not enough. The thorny thistle will remain as long as we leave it there, and ignoring it will not make it go away.

Every single one of us has encountered thistles in our life, and if I learned anything about the world in relation to the garden, it’s that thistles should never be welcome or tolerated.