To be a Master Gardener – It is our gardens that define our virtue, connection to nature and divine presence.

(Part 1 To be a Master Gardener – Part 2 to follow as Creating your own space by design)

We each have a desire to discover the divine presence that defines who we are and most importantly who we are meant to become. As vibrations connect us with the flow emanating from the universe. Not simply from a religious standpoint, but from the spirit. Radiant, fully awake – we tend our gardens as we tend our life… It is that nothing that is real ever dies, only names, forms, and illusions as Eckhart Tolle teaches us. That it is through and by our virtue we create “aha moments” for both ourselves and others to follow as we discover the narrative that defines our highest attributes as if a window to our soul.

To act as if we are teaching and to start paying attention to ourselves and noticing how we live. Creating a place for deeper understanding of who we are here to become as well as attentive to the way things are. To become almost zen-like where our breathing is used as an exclusive object of attention to develop concentrated focus; where awareness grounded in our breath is used to see clearly into the impermanent and empty nature of all formations. Letting go into freedom that emerges into insight. To be in the garden is the deepest form of self-expression, release, prayer, and meditation.

When we think of Claud Monet and paintings of his gardens… it is his impressionistic approach that pulls us and takes us there. We get to define for ourselves what he was saying because the lines are blurred. An artist defines for himself where the lines will be if they exist at all. Gardeners have the greatest palates to work with as we create the structure and colors to display ourselves each season. If given a chance, I think Monet would have laughed between brush strokes and said… yes, I too am a Master Gardener.

Knowing that all forms of art are an outward expression of what is called chi, the cosmic breath or flow of energy, with which all creation must be in accord, whether it be painting, poetry, music, or the creation of a garden. Our gardens are our means of self-expression to something larger than ourselves showing compassion for all living things. What I call the work of refraining from acting, speaking, or thinking in such a way as to cause harm. Where we discover the virtue taught by Confucius as a reverence and love of nature.

The building to the left is known as the Peitian Gate located in the Dai Temple/garden as you approach Mount TaiShan in Shandong China. Every emperor for over a thousand years went through this garden on his way to ascend the mountain. It is from here that Confucius told us virtues are to match the heaven and earth. Two of the four symbols of the Chinese constellation “Azure Dragon and White Tiger” were enshrined here two thousand years ago. Confucius told us that the garden symbolizes that we are all one, just as Lao Tzu taught us that we are but one of ten thousand things found in nature. We don’t just take a packet of seeds and throw them out in the yard and wait to see what happens… we nurture them as they nurture us. Many feel that Lao Tzu was the ultimate sower of seeds who helped to define our way.

I have traveled to Qufu, the home of Confucius, many times and lived next to and taught at the school that was founded for the descendants of what is known as the “Four Families”, Confucius and those responsible for keeping his legacy alive over the centuries. The school is now used as a college prep high school for students throughout Shandong Province. In China I am known as Kongdan, the name Kong is Confucius family name. Many historic sites we would simply call parks are referred to as temples as a reminder of our reverence and connection to nature and that we are but one of ten thousand things.

As Master Gardeners we acknowledge that as with our lives our gardens and seeds we plant need structure, discipline, and what we recall when following the cause and effect of nature as Emerson taught us – that we are to have an institutional memory that aligns with and acknowledges the nature found in all things and that “Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.” That with this we are all transformative and with our efforts and hands on approach… i.e., in the dirt – or soil – we too become universal and transcendental ourselves. A seeming universal flow we attach to that carries us and them along to the next step that needs to be taken.

Even to the parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that best symbolizes this connection. Many feel that Olmsted was the first true Master Gardener and is recognized as the founder of American landscape architecture and the nation’s foremost park maker as he showed us how landscapes, parks, and gardens could integrate into our lives into a meaningful way. With our gardens we learn what works and what to do differently next time. Like life – we look for perfection where perfection does not exist and change. We learn that there are second and third chances to get it right next time. Becoming one with the natural order of things we intrinsically know that as we tend our garden it’s not just what we do – it exemplifies who we are yet to become.

What is it we do as Master Gardeners? What connections and vibrations do we follow? What and/or who is our inspiration? For myself – it’s this relationship that as a young boy on the farm east of Lamar about 50 miles northwest from here, that I first gained an appreciation for nature. Wading in the creek, climbing huge oak trees, and helping my grandma in her garden. Much later as a city planner doing Master Plans creating visions for others to follow. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island where I first became a Master Gardner thirty years ago, then as a planner and Neighborhood Specialist in Florida doing community gardens with the Mounts Botanical Garden and HOA’s creating those aha moments capturing the attention of people passing by, and now back home in the Ozarks. We teach others while learning to finesse wisdom we can pass along with them saying… “I can do that”.

The secret to not only finding our bliss as Joseph Campbell taught us but living it as well. When I was in Florida doing entrance design and plantings for HOA’s I would always say to develop a three-to-five-year plan that fits your budget and what you want to create will look like. It will change with your ideas and maintenance as you go. Often as a mystery to be lived, as one step tells you what the next step will be. As your own connection with nature changes you as well.

Eighteen years ago, in 2004, I had my first book published in China about the I Ching, the symbiotic nature of the dragon, and Taoism. Included at the publisher’s request was the following… My interpretation of Number 16 of the I Ching written ten years earlier. The complete book can be found on my website at

                           To Be a Master Gardener

Confined and under the weather, weariness sets in. The dead of winter. Everything is covered. Snow several feet deep. Hibernation. Waiting, waiting, waiting with listless passion. All things waiting for Spring.

As the spirit is in its deepest despair, yang ebbs into nothingness and yin springs forward. The ice melts and the crocus begin to bloom as the mother robin appears, harbinger of Spring.

Casting away the cobwebs. Shunning aside shackles of mind and body it’s time to find our gardens again. Blinded by the sun in your mind’s eye you begin by sorting through implements reluctantly put away last autumn. Sorting through seeds and preparing small plants the task begins in earnest.

Arise early, refreshed finding yourself in the garden soon to be basking in the midday sun. Do not delay showing only diligence and respect for nature.

Butterfly and Peonies     Yantai Museum

Plant wisdom and know the freedom to choose. Plant clarity and soon understanding comes to the surface. Plant harmony and be at peace with the fruits of your labor. Startled from sleep still listless, you are dreaming.  A look out the window confirms. The snow is still several feet deep, but your passion is beginning to return.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (16 WEARINESS / Thunder over Earth). 2/12/1994

Put in the proper context, our gardens are nothing more than an expression of our virtue on display and how we envision our role in the universe with nature as our teacher. When we consider the Botanical Garden here in Springfield, Missouri, it can be said that it is a display of what we find virtuous.

Our gardens are illustrative and reminders that history is not fixed in place; it is always being written. Touching the place where we feel an intimate connection with something that is greater than ourselves, to infinite openness and possibilities. Like opening the seed catalogs and deciding what to grow this year. How can you not plant all one hundred seeds instead of just the ten or twelve you can fit in your garden? Living within the virtue of life’s creation that defines us and what takes us there… as you will share with others what you don’t grow yourself. We are to live by example and do so abundantly.

(I have completed the University of Missouri Extension Service Master Gardening class and am now doing my required thirty hours to become certified as a Master Gardener in Missouri)

Part 2 to follow as Creating your own space by design




By 1dandecarlo

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