Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing up: Great gardeners have passion for possibilities

This week I had every intention of dazzling you with my observations how gardening can positively impact emotions. The obvious outline fell into place and I began to write. Just as I "hit a wall", another thought popped into my head and I changed course. Trying to develop ideas into relevant gardening articles that readers can use in their lives is a daunting task. I have visions of every English teacher in the world sitting with the Sunday paper and a red marker in hand thinking - "let's see what we can make of Gainan's article this week."

I can't even begin to represent myself as a person who is an expert on topics like botany or horticulture and the like. In fact, it should come as a comfort to most people that I don't consider myself an expert at anything. What I do have is a passion for possibilities both in the garden and in life and being a student of both is where I find the most fulfillment. During my undergraduate work, I remember my accounting professor telling the class that "you now have the tools to sit for the CPA exam". Quietly I thought, "You have got to be kidding me. There's no way I'm ready for that." She continued by saying "Yes, and when you receive your certification, you will have proven one thing to the world."

I thought "Yes, I'm brilliant, I'm a bean counter - what?" She said, "You're trainable! This will be your greatest asset in life. You've persevered through rigorous business training and you now get to start over again." I did ponder the thought, "I just did all of that to say to a future employer that I'm trainable?"

At the time, I had no idea how crucial that distinction would be. A decade later with some 'real world' experience under my belt I found myself in another classroom with a Master of Business Administration degree in sight. I was certain at this point I would achieve a level of education that would ensure my expert status at something. Instead, I received an additional distinction from a professor to add to my asset of being "trainable" and that was "committed". He said, many people start their graduate degrees but, for various reasons, they don't finish. I learned that I could see a process to completion - even if it meant a huge nasty test at the end - and learn a lot of valuable lessons at the same time that would shape my life for much longer than I could have ever imagined. As I reflect on those educational experiences, I realized that if I had to tell you in two words what it takes to be a great gardener, I would have to say the two most important characteristics are - you guessed it - being trainable and committed.

The greatest gardeners I know share and receive information with excitement. The reality is that in our gardens, we are all just 'practicing'. We have the basic knowledge but, different variables make it so much more interesting than just throwing a seed in the ground and watering it. And we need others to help us through specific issues that crop up from time to time. Our gardens whether they are big or small, perfectly planned or 'not quite there yet', are little creations that we get to play a part in. Your garden is a great way to express yourself and it can grow and change with you. And as Mick would say "Gosh darn it - that's pretty neat".

So, if you ask me a question about a certain type of bark beetle, rest assured that if I haven't come across that in my personal 'practice', since I am "trainable" I will find someone who knows that answer and we'll both be the better for it. Go create something today!

"The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation" from the musical, RENT.

Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings. Questions or comments? Email Jim Gainan @