I’m pretty sure most who read this would identify gardening as either a passion or as one among several hobbies, and gardening may permeate one or more of those other interests as well. Here’s an obvious one: those who love travel likely always find and visit the public gardens at their destinations. I’ve added art, astronomy, and model railroading as gardening-related activities.

As a very amateur artist I’ve done paintings of various public gardens, but not yet of my own. One advantage that artists enjoy is that they can manipulate the scene to suit their whims. My painting of the New York Botanic Garden (at top) was based on a photo taken in early fall, but I chose to make it a summertime scene. If I were working on a painting of my garden, I’d do a lot of manipulating to improve its looks—no weeds or flowers past their peak!

The hardest part of painting outdoors has to be the constantly changing light conditions while painting a scene, so, like many, I do my paintings based on photographs that capture a fixed moment in time. Professional artist Joel Sheesley created a series of oil paintings both en plein air and in his studio depicting the Fox River watershed in Illinois. A few years ago, he gave a presentation on his work at the Wild Ones garden club and I asked him about the changing light situation. He said he made repeated trips back to the same location at the same time on different days, sometimes painting while in a canoe on the river. But he also did take photos of the scene to work on from his studio. Monet would have liked that.

Astronomy’s connection with gardening is more tenuous, but a telescope does has its feet firmly planted on terra firma, with a location under the open sky—the same kind of site appreciated by purple cone flowers, zinnias, and black-eyed Susans. One of the first things I did when laying out my cottage garden was to make a spot where a telescope could be set up so that the tripod legs could easily be positioned on three concrete blocks. But, as the years have passed, surrounding trees have grown up to the point that there’s not as much open sky as the telescope—and flowers—prefer. I’ve adapted by using plants that tolerate a bit of shade, but the telescope may have to find a new home base. I also have a couple of sundials as part of the garden hardscape, to make more Earth and sky connections.

Model railroading
Many botanic gardens include outdoor and/or indoor model railroads, which help keep the kids (and their dads) enthralled. Two nearby examples for me are the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Gabis Arboretum in Indiana. Typically, garden railroads use small plants that are kept trimmed to serve as the natural settings for the model trains that run along the layout.

When my twin grandsons were little, I set up the G-scale model train (garden railroad size) shown above in our basement for them to play with. The thought was to ultimately move it to the outdoors as a garden railway, though it quickly became evident that such a move would limit its utility during the winter and in bad weather. There’s also that high maintenance factor. Eventually I became smitten with the train myself and kept adding more equipment. After the kids grew up, it really became something for “Papa” and never did make it into the garden. However, the train layout is landscaped (faux, of course), and includes a miniature garden center I built and named for my older daughter (an avid gardener herself). Some nice aspects are that I don’t have to mow the grass or trim the bushes and trees … and the flowers are always blooming … and it’s always summer.
It would be interesting to know how you have welcomed gardening as part of other hobbies, especially at this time of year, a slack time for northern and midwestern gardeners. Maybe you’re not even aware of how gardening has influenced your other passions. But I bet it has.