David Manson – June 30, 2021

In a recent Zoom session with Creative Pinellas grantees, it was interesting to see that most are avid gardeners. For me, gardening is a great way to deal with stress and to connect with the earth. In a way, it’s also a metaphor for development as a person and an artist.

When I bought our home in Kenwood 21 years ago, the double lot had only one plant. That was a gardenia. The rest of the lot was sand and weeds, used by the previous owner to store his tree service equipment. When my wife and I planning our marriage, we decided to have the ceremony in our backyard rather than rent an expensive venue. We invested in our home and at that point, we had to become serious gardeners.

With our minimal experience as gardeners, we made plenty of mistakes the first couple of years. The Florida sun is fierce and the soil is very poor. Most of our big box plant purchases did not last long. At that point, we focused on developing small sections of the yard instead of working on the entirety. That concept has helped me as an artist, educator and concert presenter. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by an enormous endeavor. Addressing smaller components first and linking them together is a system that works for me.

To deal with the burning sun, we planted a rapid-growing royal poinciana to provide dappled sunlight underneath. In terms of a metaphor for an artist, it might be to clearly understand what your fundamental approach is. It’s tempting to attempt to be all things to all people and have no “voice.” After the poinciana was established, other plants were able to thrive. The soil was slowly amended with compost so that it is alive and full of nutrients. We avoid paying retail prices for almost every plant choosing to grow from seeds, cuttings or from damaged plants on sale.

There is still much to be learned in our garden… as there is in art and life.



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