Gardening is a process of transformation. By clearing, planting and nurturing, we transform our landscapes. Perhaps from wild to tame, from formal to fluid, from ornamental to productive, or the other way around.

But gardening is a process of transformation on so many other levels.

I was introduced to the philosophical concept of transformation during my other life. When I’m not geeking or gardening, I’m a university lecturer eager to improve the way I teach, eager to trigger some sort of change in my students, a transformation.

If this sounds all manipulative or creepy, it isn’t meant to be.

The change that I’m after isn’t about mirroring the educator’s way of seeing things. I don’t really want to turn out a cohort of ‘mini me’s.

What I’d love to see is long-lasting, meaningful change in my students brought on by an openness for new ideas and the confidence to run with them – my back-of-an-envelope definition of transformation.

This change would shake them to the core, make them reassess their values and for them to become a more thoughtful person/citizen/professional as a result. Not asking for much, am I?

Have you ever been transformed in some way through education? Think of how different your life or world view was before this transformation. Think of the role of the teacher in that transformation. Was it the way he or she engaged with you, with passion, humour and empathy? Was it the way he or she made you think about something more deeply or in a way that affected you profoundly? Was it exposure to an idea that was just right for you at a particular time?

Educational philosophers have been discussing this notion on transformation for decades. I certainly didn’t dream it up.

Transformed by gardening

So all this talk of transformation in the field of education started me thinking about how the notion of transformation relates to gardening.

Beyond transforming a landscape, gardening can transform people and their place in the world.

For me, it was the transformational realisation that gardening was more than just the mechanics of planting stuff and tidying up the edges. I found it a way of connecting with my surroundings and community, on so many levels.

It was (and still is) a way of connecting with what my far-off family has done for generations (grow stuff, eat or sell it); a way of spending time without consuming (if you perfect the art of pottering, there’s no time or need to go shopping for stuff); a way of teaching my daughter where food comes from and what insects and skinks do all day (and the fact that we’re all connected); a way of clearing my mind or of thinking about my next exciting project, depending on my mood; a way of reducing food miles … the list is endless.

What were the moments or ideas that changed gardening for you?