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Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Building a mosque in France is a tortuous endeavor even in the best of times. But now it may get harder, with tighter restrictions on foreign donations under President Emmanuel Macron’s new law against Islamism. About two million Muslims in France practice their faith in 2,500 mosques that receive little or no public money.

Margaret Roach, who writes the In Garden column for The Times, wants readers to see planting and landscaping as more than outdoor decorating. She spoke to Times Insider about finding deeper meaning in gardening. Here’s an excerpt.

How did you first get into gardening?

In my mid-20s, my father had died and my mother, who was about 49 at the time, got early-onset Alzheimer’s. Since she was a widow, I came home to Douglaston, Queens, to manage the situation and I ended up getting a job as a “copy girl” at The Times at night and caring for her during the day. Someone thankfully gave me a James Underwood Crockett book, a companion to the PBS show “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” as a gift, and I just started doing everything in the book.

What did you take away from that experience?

It was occupational therapy. I had to be near my mother, but I could be digging in the front yard or pruning. So my initial connection with gardening was refuge. That was what did it for me — with the imprint of my grandmother Marion, who was a great gardener.

What do you hope readers take away from your column?

For me, the garden is kind of part Buddhist retreat, part science laboratory. It’s not outdoor decorating. There’s a lot of beauty, a lot of aesthetics — but that would be a shallow interpretation and a shallow experience.

I want to encourage people to dig into the whole garden, because it offers everything — it offers a lens into the food web, to the story of evolution and adaptation among species.


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