Guilds date back thousands of years. Originally they were associations of craftpeople-metal workers, stone carvers, textile weavers- and the like. Groups organized around an interest and practice of a certain art or craft make perfect sense. The exchange of knowledge and experience of an individual in a group setting an activity most people take part in regularly. The PTA, the AMA, the Michigan Bar Association-these are giant guilds with complicated agendas. The Independent Garden Center association is a guild which meets in Chicago every year; I am on my way there next week.
That’s me, in the lime green shirt-hosting a meeting of the Gardener’s Guild-in my garden. I have been speaking to various groups on various topics for the better part of twenty years now. I think I am a decent horticulturist, a committed gardener, and a good designer-but there are plenty better at all of these topics than I. What I do think I best have to contribute is that I am willing to present a cohesive discussion of how I came to garden, what influences me, how I make choices, where I think my landscape might be headed.
I have a voice, and should you ask me to use it-I will. The Gardener’s Guild is an interesting and attentive group. All of them dig in the dirt, and drag hoses. They work their gardens. For this reason, I like being a member of their guild for a day. In general, I am not so keen to meet around a conference table and talk about plants. Part of what I so like about gardening for myself is when I am alone with it-the sound of the cicadas, the weeds I spot in the gravel when I am watering, the panic grass waving in front of the sentinel yews, the sight of the corgis blasting through the boxwood. I am not so group oriented.
Lauren Hanson took all of these photographs. She worked for me in the shop for 3 years; a better job for her husband took her to Texas last November. A trip home to visit her family included a visit with me. I can see in these photographs that she misses our guild. How she composed these photographs makes me feel good-the guild gave her something that changed and endowed how she looks at design. This photograph-all about the interaction of people and plants. Never mind how I garden on my own-she recorded an exchange-a guild meeting.
When I say I like this group, I really mean that I value their focus and attention. They asked questions about every plant, every design move-they followed my discussion. I saw more than a few notes being taken. Not that I think I have anything to say that warrants recording-no one knows better than me that the gardening world does not revolve around me. But I like when a meeting is convened where I am the speaker, that all of the attending parties take it seriously. Should you be serious, I have no end of time to talk gardening with you.
This occasion made for more than I expected in return. Almost every Guild member in attendance made it their business to talk to me individually. Though I do not belong to any guild, each and every exchange with this group had something interesting going on.
This group of dedicated gardeners? Truth be told, I think they are vastly more interesting than my landscape and garden. My property was this day filled with voices-all different, all compelling. Each individual with a story to tell, a pertinent question to ask, made me think. No gorgeous landscape lives on beyond the patient and committed attention of the gardener in charge.
Star, in her linen overalls, looks better than great against my Limelight hydrangeas. She is as serious and committed gardener as I have ever met. This was her first visit to my garden; she seemed pleased. Members of a guild-they are all different. All individual. But all after the same thing-a great garden.
Many thanks, all of you members of the Gardener’s Guild. The two hours we spent together yesterday-loved it.