Why We Garden Reason # 86: To Carve Our Names into the Fabric of the Universe


There are countless reasons to garden, but one of the most compelling is to leave our mark on the world. Anyone who has ever carved their name into the top of a school desk or wielded a Sharpie against the wall of a bathroom stall knows the thrill of leaving your stamp in reality. There is something deliciously hubristic about it, some fundamental affirmation of the immortality of the soul. It's like spitting in Death's eye - even if you were eventually busted by your teacher because you carved your last name, too.

The botanical world is more forgiving of our name-obsession. You can use a nail to scratch your name into the side of a pumpkin while it's green and immature, and it will scar over as it grows, creating cool personalized pumpkins (I'm told you can do this with watermelons, too, but I haven't tried it). Corporations, sports teams, and cities use annual bedding plants like wax begonias, marigolds, lobelia and alyssum to shape their logos or initials. And you can spell out just about anything with topiary frames.

But the human spirit has nobler impulses, as well. Immortalizing our love for another human is one of them, as the bark of thousands of trees can attest.

The Via Dell'Amore is a walking trail overlooking the Ligurian Sea, which connects the cliffside villages of Riomaggiore and Manorola, in Italy's famous Cinque Terre. The locals will tell you that for most of the history of the two towns, the only way to get between them was overland, a long and arduous journey. But in the beginning of the 20th Century, the path was built by the railroad, and suddenly lovers in the villages had a new way to meet. Now the path is famous with tourists, who stroll in the Ligurian sunshine holding hands and affix padlocks to the handrails to symbolize their love.

And here, carved in the leaf of an agave, you just might see another way the plant world allows us to immortalize our love, as in this example of a partnership as old as Life itself:

From the Via Dell'Amore, between the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola, Liguria, Italy. Image Credit: Liane Smith

And if you never make it to Liguria, don't despair. Immortal love is only a pumpkin patch away.

If you want to see more personalized pumpkins, check out:

Poetic Pumpkins

Gardener's Journal

PBS - The Victory Garden