- Some families choose to maintain their own front lawn instead of allowing the Housing office to do it for free.
- Front porches hold flower pots and baskets of blooms.
- Flower beds are a riot of colors.
- Some families build outdoor patios, fire pits, fountains, or other semi-permanent structures.
No matter where you live, military spouse, gardens help you belong
When we were stationed in Europe, I was surprised that my husband’s first request was for us to find a garden center so we could plant some flowers. I wanted to find a local preschool, check in at the base hospital, and take care of our passport paperwork–you know, important things. But no, my husband said my first priority was to find out the Spanish word for garden center (we were in Spain). I soon learned it’s viveros. So on our first day in our new Spanish house, we planted flowers. Not just annuals. Perennials.
The symbolism did not escape me. We were in a foreign country, but we were putting down roots–literally and figuratively. This was our home for the next three years. It felt foreign at first, but soon we learned more Spanish words. We made Spanish friends. We traveled, tried new foods, and fell in love with the culture. Eventually, I wrote a book about our experiences called Welcome to Rota. Yes, we put down roots in our home abroad. And our whole family blossomed there.
Why do military spouses spend money on a garden or house they will abandon a few years later?
Is gardening at a rented home really worth the time and effort? I say yes. The reasons are both physical and psychological. Physically, military spouses want to improve the places where they live and leave each base a little better than it was. There are many ways to improve your base or neighborhood during your time there. You could start a neighborhood block party tradition, establish a kickball team, volunteer with a local organization, write a book to help future families at the base… or you could plant flowers and beautify your yard. Psychologically, it’s all about putting down roots.
Military spouse gardens help you put down roots, even if you will move soon
Military families often move every 2-4 years. Sometimes, they go through several different houses at one base because of promotions or new babies. That adds up to a lot of moving and a lot of homes over a military career. Military spouses are resilient. They can’t treat each house like a temporary location where they camp out and don’t bother to decorate. No, instead they buy curtains that won’t fit at the next house, and paint walls they will have to paint over again. They plant perennials they will only see bloom once. Why? Because all those actions make a house a home. Military families don’t want to spend a decade or more occupying houses in different parts of the world. They want to live in a home. And then, when they move, they will make the next house a home.
So if you are feeling unmotivated or lost at a new duty station and not sure how to start feeling settled, I encourage you to plant something. Whether it is flowers or a vegetable garden, in the ground or in pots, planting is a great way to put down roots at your new duty station.
- Finding a local garden center will force you to explore your local area.
- Planting a garden will make your house feel like a home.
- Learning about what plants do best at your base will help you learn about the local climate.
- Having daily routines of watering or weeding can keep you motivated.
- Personalizing your home will make it more enjoyable and memorable.
So go ahead and start planning your garden for the year. What grows best in your area? What plants will you leave for your future neighbors? How will you grow and blossom at your current duty station?