Archives for June 2009

Sunday Opinion: The No Idea Day

Everyone has days where nothing comes. I have plenty of them.  My tactic-the stall. If I don’t have an interesting idea, if the hair is not standing up on the back of my neck,  if things don’t seem to be working-I say so.  To my clients, that is. It’s tough to say “I have no idea (yet) what to do here”.  Much tougher for me, than for a client. I am better able to cope with a not-much-cooking day in others, than in myself.  Hedging helps out.  Its easier to say “I don’t know” if you tack on the end, “but I will find out for you”. 

My scientist Mom went back to work after raising her 3 kids-not in science, as she said too much had happened in the scientific world between 1950 and 1968 to catch up.  So she got a Master’s in Education, and taught high school biology until she retired.  Late in her career,  budget cuts dealt her 3 classes in chemistry.  She took to her bed, certain that these 17 year olds would figure out she she was no expert in chemistry.  I mean, she really took to her bed.  I had to go over to her house every day for 3 months, make her get up and dress, fix her coffee, and escort her to her car when it was time to go.  I made a point of being there at the end of the day too-why wouldn’t I?  Had she not done the same for me countless more days?  It was a good day when she finally understood that no 17 year old would ever come close to challenging her understanding of chemistry, much less her ability to teach it.  And that if she were ever asked something she didn’t know the answer to, she was eminently capable of any research required.  Not that this ever happened-it was her fear that threatened to knock her down.

I also subscribe to the notion that if a design is important, it’s not an emergency. If it is an emergency, then the design is just not that important. As a designer, I have to sort this out both for clients, and for myself. Some people truly do not need or want design, they want something else entirely. If I am lucky, I can figure out what that is. 

Being a designer is not that easy; it takes fortitude to relate to clients regularly, in a fresh way.  I have seen designers  ignore fresh, and berate their clients with their history, reputation and the like. This is lazy, and commerce oriented, although I do understand what it is to be swamped with work. Sometimes its good to just take a day; its an easy thing to recommend, and a very tough thing for me to do.  Yesterday I took 45 minutes to go and get a haircut-it was good fun.

Some clients ask the wrong questions, and reduce the impact of their issues, as they have trouble sorting out what truly means a lot to them. They have all kinds of pressures too, and sometimes their mind’s just not focused on it.  Some design exchanges that work can be attributed solely to timing.  We all are ready for things when we are ready-not before, or after. The evidence of an active imagination and a sure hand is not ephemeral-its just on holiday sometimes.  It can be such a relief to just take the day.

At a Glance: Venus Dogwood, Week 4 in Bloom


Miss Dirtiness

planting1My crew hates when I come to the job.  I get dirt all over the furniture, at best, and at worst I am tinkering with the design when they want to get on with business. But when I am home, I can be the Miss Dirtiness I have always been. 

planting2I cannot abide gloves of any description.  Even if I could stand to have them on, I invariably loose them, or pitch them out with the trash.  Diana never plants for me without gloves-everyone has their own way of doing, which makes for an interesting gardening world. I like to plant with my hands whenever possible.  As you can see, I have no fear of dirt. I have no fear of it in my wine, down my socks,. or in my hair.  I have on occasion fallen into bed, dirty.  After all, the table can be cleaned, and the sheets washed.   

planting3I like everything I am working with right there in front of me.  Buck was horrified the first time he saw me put dirt on the dinner table, but he is mostly over that.  Its a good thing people cannot see the organisms on every surface, and in the air.  It would make the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds seem boring.   Most organisms are friendly, even necessary-that’s the scientist in me.   I like giant tropical bugs, worms, and toads. However,  I could never bring myself to eat a snail; I can barely look at Buck when he eats them.  Go figure.

planting4In spite of his tolerance for my habits with plants and dirt, he is always relieved to get to the cleanup part.   Pretty soon, we will be over the dirtiness phase.

Roses Representing

roserep1My little collection of roses is starting to “represent”, as my Texas friend would say.  I only grow a few.  The dwarf climber Jeanne LaJoie is perfectly hardy and willing  for me; it does not mind at all being planted with the electric meter.  Mini-Jeanne  is paired with a voluptuous large flowered climber named Eden-the flower is so beautiful, and the plant is  so-so for me, although the foliage seems healthy.  This large flowered climber, also known as Pierre de Ronsard, and bred by Meilland in 1987, hasn’t flowered yet-but it is showy.


I grow the shrub rose “Carefree Beauty”  for good, and sentimental reasons.  Griffith Buck bred very hardy, very sturdy shrub roses-this is one of my favorites.  I alternate this with his rose “Earthsong”.  Some say its better than “Carefree Beauty-I can’t tell. But if your interest is in a low maintenance rose, these qualify.  The tall ,English bred shrub rose “Sally Holmes” has gorgeous peach buds, and large single white flowers; I have been growing it for years. One year it died back almost entirely to the ground, but came back.


I am not a rosarian by any means.  I am not really crazy about rose gardens either. But I do like roses in a mixed border. Roses are such prima donnas-they sulk if there’s anything growing at their feet.  So I try to keep my white Japanese anemones, and boltonia out of their hair.  I wouldn’t want to do without a few roses.