What Our Plants Teach Us

Burned rhododendron in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The charred remains of foundation plantings (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The durability of plants never ceases to amaze me. A seed is planted, occasionally sprinkled with water, and bears luscious fruit within a few months. A forest decimated in a raging fire quickly produces new growth, emerging victorious. Monstrous trees grow from the seemingly impervious rock walls of a mountainside. Plants are simply amazing. And if I’ve learned anything from gardening these many decades, it is that plants have a lesson for us. A lesson about persevering, no matter the odds.

A rainbow of colors displayed in iris petals in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The colors of the rainbow are displayed in the petals of this iris (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Look closely and you will witness plant miracles every day. The miracle of a gorgeous coneflower blossom in hues that challenge the color wheel. The marvel of a lobelia’s scarlet flower providing nourishing nectar for a visiting hummingbird. Or the intricate petals of a bearded iris, laid out like a hand of cards displaying all the shades of the rainbow. Our landscape plants withstand winter’s horrendous cold and summer’s intense heat and drought without succumbing. Sure, they may wilt a bit, or even turn brown under extreme conditions, but give them a little love, and they’re right back to status quo.

Nothing remains of foundation in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Looking into a hole where our home once was (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My incredible plants taught me a lot this last year. After losing my home, contents and surrounding landscape, I learned that I had to persevere, just as my surviving plants did. I learned to listen more carefully to myself, to take a moment and really hear my innermost thoughts and beliefs. And to trust what I was feeling. I began to understand that when we take a moment to see what is real and what is truly important, so much worry and stress simply melts away. My plants taught me to be quiet, calm and observant. That all we need and all we are is already within us. We are all beautiful and unique, just as each flower and leaf are beautiful and unique. We are who we are and who we are meant to be.

The fig's charred limbs produce leaves in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

From the fig’s charred limbs arise lush leaves of life (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lesson from a Fig Tree: Sometimes you get burned. It was nothing short of a miracle when the fig tree (Ficus carica) that was stored in our garage produced leaves on its charred branches the following spring. Despite the fact that the entire plant was burned in the inferno that consumed our home, and then subjected to bitter winter cold until it could be transported to shelter, somehow it survived. Against all odds, this tree wanted to live. Although it didn’t produce fruit last summer, it will this year. And it may not be pretty, in fact after I pruned off some of the most charred branches, it is quite lop-sided. But it’s beautiful to me. It’s a survivor.

Saving the sweetgum tree in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Saving the sweetgum tree (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lesson from a Sweetgum Tree: Take a chance, be flexible. As if it wasn’t enough to lose our house and landscape, we were also faced with having to demolish the yard when a new well and septic system were installed. Any spot on the property that wasn’t destroyed from the fire or construction was now torn up to accommodate these new systems. But when it came to cutting down a mature sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) I had raised from a twig, I put my foot (and roots) down firmly in protest. There had to be another way. And so, with the help of a wonderful contractor, we carefully dug up the sweetgum and replanted it out of harms way. Now its lush variegated leaves shimmer in the sun’s light, and I am reminded daily that transplanting it was well worth the risk.

A beloved peony emerges from the ashes in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A treasured peony emerges from the ashes to bloom again (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lesson from a Peony: Treasure what really matters. Although the cultivar is unknown, it was an heirloom peony that dated back to the early 1900s and was a gift from a dear friend since departed. This herbaceous peony was one of the first plants to come to my property over twenty years ago, and I treasured it each spring as it produced exquisitely fragrant, bowl sized blossoms of intense rose pink on 4 foot tall branches. Yes, this peony was a special plant worth digging through feet of ash and rubble to uncover. And once the area was cleared, I staked it out and warned every worker that stepped on the property to avoid walking or digging in that area, as something very precious was hidden under the cover of that small mound of fresh mulch (at least I hoped my beloved peony was still somehow alive below the surface). Months later, when the delicate crimson tips started to emerge from the soil, words cannot express my elation. As that peony steadily pushed its stems up through the decimated ground, I understood what it was showing me . . . perseverance. That one special plant provided inspiration I couldn’t have gotten from a dozen therapy sessions.

The sweetgum tree shines in the landscape in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The sweetgum tree shines in the landscape (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Over the last several months, I have been studying herbs and herbal medicine, learning how our ancestors used local plants to heal an assortment of ailments. It is truly astonishing to realize the capacity of back yard plants for promoting our health and wellbeing. And while I study and learn and continue to be astounded by what plants can do, there is one thing I’ve known all along: That I don’t need to ingest or even touch one of my plants to feel its wonderful effects, I simply have to observe it and listen to what it tells me ♥


  1. This is the most beautifully written and insightful post you have ever, ever written.(And you’ve written some amazing pieces of work) I savored every word and took to heart it’s message. Thank you Kathy. I highly suggest you submit this to every publication you can. Lots of love.

    • Thank you Dina! One of the hardest parts of writing/blogging is that there is no direct interaction with people. Encouraging comments like yours are truly inspiring and motivating-they help me continue to put myself out there into the blogosphere, knowing that I am touching people through my words. I cherish my readers and always appreciate hearing from them. Thank you for taking the time to write, and for being a dear friend and supporter of all that I do. Much love ~

  2. Candace Korzenko says

    Kathy, This is so beautifully written and profoundly sad (that you lost your home); I am awed by the person you have blossomed into and saddened by the fact that we lost touch. God bless you.

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