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Yes, the garden catalogs are coming, piles and piles of them. We love looking through them and planning and dreaming because that makes us feel good, eager to plant and looking toward spring.

One thing the catalogs do not contain amidst the seeds, soil and shovels is the opportunity to purposefully “grow” relaxation, peace of mind, and pleasure. Being happy in the garden is an aspect of gardening that I feel needs some emphasis.

As gardening moved a bit away from a chore of labor-intensive subsistence, health professionals began to use working in the garden as a therapy. Scholars suggest that horticultural therapy began with the ancients — Greeks and Egyptians. It is a matter of record that Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, studied and recorded the benefits of gardening for mentally ill persons.

My view is that there is value in planning the garden to deliver pleasure. For example, one might consider planting the lovely double or ruffled hollyhocks to be part of an afternoon spent in the garden making hollyhock dolls and having a tea party with a favorite neighbor child or a grandchild.

If birds and butterflies are your heart’s delight then plant the pollinator flowers and install a birdbath and a comfortable bench nearby.

If you have a patch of pumpkins or watermelons make a memory with your favorite young child and gently carve their name on the fruit. The name will grow bigger as the fruit does. It’s a fun garden memory.

Many gardeners have affirmed that being and working in a garden can lift the darkest of spirits or put the foulest mood on the run. Some persons see spiritual affirmation in a "connectedness” to the soil. Some become fascinated and intellectually engaged by the life in the soil. Almost everyone will attest that being (and/or working) in the garden is a stress-reducing experience.

Creating beauty in the garden is a major goal for many and the seed and plant catalogs emphasize that. Just remember to have a bench, or chair, or upended large bucket close by to sit and ponder the magic of it all.

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If you are seduced by the sweet smell of stocks or roses, nicotiana, tuberose or lily of the valley be sure to include them in your garden plan. Put them near a bench where you can sit and enjoy the aromas.

Consider planting “Golden Sweet” or “Sun Gold” cherry tomato plant in a large pot near your favorite bench. What pleasure in eating those sweet treats right from the vine.

I feel benches or lawn chairs deserve a place in the garden. But relaxing in comfort in the garden brings other pleasures: the slight perfume of the nicotiana brought on a breeze; the antics of a family of robins learning to pull worms; the butterfly that flutters to rest on your hand, or the birds bathing in the birdbath.

Whatever you plant, remember to harvest pleasure.

Cathie Draine is a South Dakota Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in Whispering Pines. Contact her at

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