The box is that place you set yourself into. Your comfort zone. But I am telling you now, be outside of the box, your box. Why? Because without change, your cannot grow as a gardener, an individual, a person. I spent more time outside the box in 2023 than anytime in the last 10 years. And I feel like I grew a lot. I have a lot more confidence, and I feel more mature.
But how do we get outside of the box as a gardener or nature lover? We do things that we would not normally do. If you are a shy person, give a lecture or lead a hike. If you are loud and obnoxious (wink), try something new and let yourself learn about it fully. Travel. Pay attention to what is around you. Read. Enjoy.
Its been awhile since I travelled anywhere outside of my area for anything other than work. Before covid, I used to go all over for Kansas Native Plant Society AWW’s. Since then, 2023 was the first year I went to the AWW in central Kansas. I was able to visit places I had never been before, by myself and with others. Going across the state of Kansas may not seem too far fetched to most, but to me it is the best place to explore. There is a lot more to Kansas than most realize.
My wife and I also took the kids to lakes and parks that we normally would bypass, partly to show them new places and partly to enjoy those places ourselves. My wife mostly stays in the truck, but she still likes the scenic views of the places we go. The kids and I like to hike and hunt for bugs, shells, and wildlife.
Next year (2024), I am planning a trip to western Kansas for all of us, including some of the more well-known places like Monument Rocks, Little Jerusalem State Park, and Scott City. The goal is to time our visit alongside the KNPS summer meetings. I would also like to take the kids to see Big Brutus in southeast Kansas.
Leading Outside the Box
For an introvert like me, putting myself into leadership roles is definitely getting of the comfort zone. In 2023 I said yes to things that previously went bad for me. But I did them and its was so freeing. I led several guided hikes at Sycamore Springs Resort for homeschool groups and other youths. In June, my sister, who is a library director, asked me to speak about the prairie for a conservation group in central Kansas. And I said yes, even though I have a fear of speaking in public.
I also took on the role of Nursery Manager and Landscape Maintenance Project Leader, putting me into the role of leadership in two separate areas. Suddenly, I was overseeing two sets of productions crews in two separate areas of Grimm’s Gardens. It was real strange to have people looking to me for directions. But I stepped out of the box and went forward in growth.
Outside the Garden Box
The garden should always be changing, even if you have only evergreens. This is because plants grow. Thinking out of the box in the garden or landscape can be as easy as adding in sculpture or artwork. Or maybe you have space to add a water feature. Possibly you can do a trellis of vining flowers. In my own gardens, I try to think out of the box each season.
For example, I have been growing heirloom tomatoes for 15 years. 2024 will be the first time in 5 years where I am picking some new varieties to grow. Besides my favorites, I am adding three new cultivars to the list. They are not true heirlooms, but rather new, open-pollinated varieties. Other things where I am thinking outside of the box include designing garden beds, composting, and plant selections for the vegetable/flower border around the potager. One other thing I am doing is chopping the central leader from my sycamore tree each year. I want to keep it short to see any caterpillars which feed on the leaves.
Plan to get out of the box in 2024 and beyond! You may be surprised by the things which you find out about yourself and at how much you will grow. This is the last post of 2023, so enjoy Christmas and have a happy New Year!