You Can’t Cancel Nature

March 17, 2020


White bud blooming

In 2019 we celebrated 30 years of the Allen Centennial Garden. It was a time of celebration, recognition, and excitement for our future. The end of 2019 brought a fresh round of strategic planning as we contemplated what comes next. Little did we expect a global pandemic would arrive in the midst of not only our planning, but also an early spring.

Here’s the good news: we’re gardeners. We’re used to disruption and adaptation and thinking on our feet. Embracing the unexpected is normal for us, because on any given day, who knows what you may find in a garden? A young family of ducklings, a new flower that opened that morning, or a critter who did a number on your favorite specimen. So many scenarios we encounter in a garden prompt us to stay nimble and open to surprises, pleasant and otherwise.

We also understand – deeply and intimately – the healing and restorative power of gardening. A few minutes in the garden can easily become hours, forgetting the trials of our indoor lives as our anxiety slips away and fades into the soil and atmosphere around us. Gardening is often solitary and social distance is a given. For those introverts among us (myself included) it’s one of the many reasons I feel recharged after gardening.

Ultimately, it comes down to a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that I feel so elegantly speaks to what it means to be a gardener. “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose eternal hope.” Gardening in the age of COVID-19 certainly seems to fit this notion, especially as spring is beginning to emerge around us.

This is the spirit I’m choosing to bring to our strategic planning process and the days ahead. Those who know me well have heard me say, “Gardening will save the world.” Well… gardeners, this is it. Not to say that COVID-19 is the be-all, end-all, but it’s a fine example of how gardeners and gardening can play a crucial role in fostering resilient communities (the theme of our now cancelled spring symposium). Your garden, and ours, is so much more than simply the sum of its plants.

Gardens are repositories of natural and cultural abundance. They are the epitome of eternal hope. They restore, refresh, and remake us into the best version of ourselves. They are indispensable. And so are you, fellow gardeners, for your spirit, your work, your vision, your creativity, your calm, and your tenacity are the qualities our civilization needs right now. Gardening can save the world by helping heal it today, and in days to come.

What does all of this mean for the Allen Centennial Garden in 2020, and beyond? As we move through strategic planning, we’re thinking about how everything we do comes back to a simple idea, that everyone can garden in their own way. This begins with maintaining and elevating our most critical asset, the Garden itself. Remaining mindful of best practices in light of this pandemic, we’re prepared to redirect staff and intern resources to ensure our commitment to exceptional horticulture remains strong. We know our community thrives when the Garden thrives.

We’re also considering what it means to be nimble and adaptive, because this isn’t the last time our community will face an unprecedented challenge. I have every confidence our culture and way of life will rise to meet the next moment, whatever it may be. We’ll be ready because we have to be, and because the essence of gardening can inform and influence our identities for the better. As so many are doing right now, with our routines and schedules in a state of rapid flux, we’re taking stock of what matters most. We’re connecting with family, we’re spending time with ourselves, we’re expressing gratitude and selflessness, and we’re taking time to appreciate beauty, serenity, and peace.

After all, you can’t cancel nature.

This moment is an opportunity for us gardeners. Remember who you are. Bring the lessons you’ve learned in the soil to bear throughout your life. Explore and embrace the power and potential you hold to make our communities strong, resilient, adaptive, and beautiful. Dig deep, sow ideas, cultivate creativity, embrace the unexpected, support your neighbors, and nurture your soul. This will define the future of the Allen Centennial Garden, and, we hope, your garden.


by Benjamin Futa | Executive Director