Ode to Fathers in the Garden

Rick and son in the garden

Here’s to fathers who garden. To dads who get their hands dirty. To papas with patience for impatiens. To old farmers who can taste the soil to know what it needs, and young parents who eagerly identify native grasses with their phone app. We are changing the world and changing ourselves.

We are teaching our children important life lessons. Where food comes from. How a flower unfolds. Why bees and butterflies are our friends. I started gardening when my children were 4 and 6 because I wanted them to understand and live these lessons. Some of my fondest memories are of them proudly harvesting their own garlic, selling peonies at our roadside stand, and rushing out with their friends to pick fresh snap peas off the vine.

We are modelling a healthy lifestyle. As much as we may also love watching sports or being on our laptops, we are also showing our children the value of being outdoors. Working with our hands. Having the commitment and passion to be out there regularly from start to finish, from soil to seedling to fruit and flower. They see us (or hopefully are with us) as we come back inside joyfully dirty, clutching a fistful of fresh radish for dinner or fresh poppies for the vase.

We are caring for the earth. Leaving the soil a bit healthier for our grandchildren. Helping our gardens clean the air and water. Providing habitat for beneficial insects and life. Preserving native breeds and biodiversity. As Vandana Shiva shared in our spring film screening, “every time you plant a seed you perform an act of resistance.”

Some of you are like my neighbor, the dad who is the driving force in the garden, out there almost every day with his young daughters, delightedly discovering, laboring and playing. Others are more like me, the strong back wisely following directions from our much smarter and visionary partners. Or maybe gardening is your solo project, your chance to meditate and enjoy quiet time, recharging the batteries before going back inside to be a refreshed and grounded parent. We all have our own leadings to the garden, and I truly believe that in myriad ways it makes us better, healthier, stronger, happier dads.

P.S. In salute to all you eco-warriors and plant whisperers, we have a discount offer on our fun “Plant Papa” t-shirt (a companion to our perennial favorite “Plant Mama”). And if you or someone in your life would like to become a new Society member, we are currently offering a welcome gift of free access to our three pollinator webinars. Happy Father's Day!


Rick Juliusson, the hort society's executive director, has been driving education, international development and nonprofit consulting projects around the globe. He loves growing food and flowers, and even worked as a farmer for many years, selling peonies, garlic and meat grown on his 5-acre Vancouver Island property.

Unlock a year of expert gardening support when you join the hort...

Leave a Comment