My enchantment with plants dates back so long I can hardly remember how it started. To the best of my recollection, a brief residence in North Carolina after I graduated from college got me interested in orchids. Who knows what prompted that. A plant at the grocery store checkout counter-it could have been. Within just a few months, I was spending more on orchids than groceries. My rental house in Chapel Hill had orchids in pots and on boards hanging from the trees. The mild climate made it easy to cultivate them outdoors. The slipper orchids-loved them. Who knows why or how, but I became intensely interested in plants. All of a sudden, I was noticing them everywhere. In parking lots, and in residential yards. In buildings. In wild places, left to their own devices. What was growing behind the garage, or at the ocean shore. The plants-loved each and every one of them.
The moment that I became aware of plants was not a momentous day. Just an ordinary moment. But in the years since, I can see that the life of the plants has altered and greatly influenced the course of my life. Wildflowers. trees. tree peonies. rock garden plants. herbaceous perennials hardy in my zone. the annuals that live but one season. Ferns. Dahlias. Woody shrubs. herbs. evergreens. succulents. vegetables. bulbs, espaliers. moss and lichens. Tropical plants. The plant kingdom-the organizing metaphor, the language upon which a landscape or garden design is built. Why am I thinking about this? Our spring fair opened yesterday. 10 growers brought their spring plants to exhibit and sell. We moved our fair inside-the cold, blustery, and snowy weather was so terrible. As much as I hated to host a spring fair when fair spring weather was not in the forecast, I was ready for a spring celebration. Lots of other people were ready for spring too-notwithstanding the current cold and gray.
As reluctant as I was to move the growers with their plants inside our shop, they were pleased. And the many hundreds of people who came today were happy for a venue indoors too. Our warehouse style garage was packed with people all day long-looking at the plants. I was astonished to hear the general consensus from all of the growers in attendance. We like being indoors, in close quarters. The feeling-community-like. I personally observed gardeners in that garage for hours-looking over the plants. They were dry, warm, and comfortable. They had lots of company. Why should I be surprised? It is the plants- around which no end of different people express their delight and connection with the natural world. There was a lot of talk. A lot of looking. A lot of exchange. I feel certain, after a Saturday that was jam packed from start to finish, this spring fair was above all, about the plants.
I had lots of confirmation today that there is an instinct in people to make something grow. Better than that-a love for making something grow. People who had never met before, were deep in conversation, and making notes. Over the plants. The peonies from Wiegands and the hellebores from Arrowhead Alpines-sold out. The wildflowers from Starr Foster-all but gone. I was so worried about the weather for our fair. Tonight I realize that the gardening people and the plants made the weather a side story. The main attraction? Making something grow.