The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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From the muddy pond, arises the amazing Lotus flower

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The Lotus flowers at Kew Gardens, London

The lotus flower grows, which is an aquatic perennial, in muddy ponds all over South East Asia. But the flowers are offered to the gods and kings, despite such humble origins.  That a muddy dirty pond should give rise to such a beautiful and majestic flowers- a flower that is the national flower of a country, India- is not a contradiction.  In Buddhism, the lotus flower is held up as a symbol of how one can transform life’s trials and tribulations into beauty, compassion and wisdom.

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Worshippers in Kandy, Sri Lanka with the white lotus

The lotus flower is also unique in the sense that seeds and flowers are to be found almost simultaneously in it, as a metaphor for the Buddhist belief that cause and effect are to be found together.

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White and purple lotus flowers on sale at a stall, Kandy, Sri Lanka

The lotus flower is also held up a symbol of longevity. Seeds of a lotus flower which bloomed 1300 years old in a lake in northeastern China  ago were made to flower. The lotus flowers are to be found in ancient Egyptian murals as well as many countries of Asia- China, India, Japan and Korea- testifying to the universal sense of wonder that one experiences when seeing them.  Now they are grown all over the world.

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My friend’s terrace where he grows the lotus flower in a small container

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Photo of my friend’s lotus flower

So next time you see a lotus flower, enjoy its beauty but also think about the various metaphors associated with it that might help you in life!

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Lotus flowers in a tea estate, Sri Lanka

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One does not need a dog

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I have recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis.  This is bad news not only because I am relatively young, but also that the disease has hit my spine.  I have read a lot about the condition and how it can be avoided or its onset reduced.  I have been prescribed Vitamin D and calcium tablets but it is not enough to swallow tablets.  Being outside in the actual sunshine is more important.  But Britain does not have enough sun all through the year and in the winter months, it is particularly difficult getting the right amount of sun every day.  So as soon as I see the sun coming out, I am impatient to get out- sunshine is like precious gold, I have decided.  Having seen how dog owners are quite healthy, I have been going outdoors and reading or walking for most days- even when it is raining or cold. No, one doesn’t have to have a dog to go outside- having children can help but even if you don’t have either of those, going out helps. And it certainly costs less.  I also enjoy watching children playing- their joy is infectious.  In this photo taken this afternoon, these boys were black with mud but really totally engrossed in their muddy football.  It brought a smile to my face.

In a recent study at the University of Exeter lead by Matthew White, it was revealed that the health benefits of being outdoors is as much as about a third of the impact of getting married (minus the costs!) and a tenth of the impact of being employed.  So it shows that one does not need to be married or employed to get the benefits of being outdoors.  In the Netherlands, a study of almost 350,000 people, found that the people were less likely to have 24 of 35 diseases and in Japan, another study found that elderly people were more likely to live longer if they used open spaces.  The positive effects of being outdoors last longer than the euphoria that comes from winning the lottery or getting a pay rise or promotion.  And with little stress involved!

I remember a documentary about the children’s author, Judith Kerr, who is now 93.  Come any weather, she talks a walk for two hours every day.  How amazing she looks and how creative she is.  Engaging with nature influences our mental being by raising our spirits and exercising our mental abilities.  Many mover and shakers and authors have described how their creativity is helped by walking- Thoreau, Gandhi, and many others along with Kerr were walkers.  Further, walking is in streets is better than no walking- the health benefits of a weight bearing exercise like walking outweighs the risks from pollution.  So get your precious gold today- one doesn’t need a dog!