Monday Opinion: Cool

The word cool suggests plenty.  Cool may imply chilly temperatures in the fall, or early spring.  Cool might just as easily be an apt adjective for an unexpected design solution, a truly original landcape design, that product or place which is hip, current, timeless, or easy to fall for, no matter the time or circumstance.   Cool might be an entirely involuntary expression given exposure to an extraordinary and surprising individual expression.  The word cool may be a low key response that just pops out there, given an expression that is shockingly hot beyond all belief.

The cool expletive has been in my vocabulary for decades-it was especially popular in the 60’s and 70’s.  I hang on to my history for all I am worth-this seems fairly normal.   A sisterly and equally energetic expression-far out.  I get curious stares when I use either expression today-the winds of popular culture shift faster than I can take a breath. It is hard for me to believe there are people who were not alive in the 60’s and 70’s. Those post mid century post 80’s people have their own culture, and a language to go with all their own. Monica, the mainstay of our office, shot a 46 for 9 holes of golf yesterday.  Her husband trailed behind-whoa.  Her son of 29 years says to her: “You played lights out, Mom.”  ??  What does lights out mean, pray tell?   But back to cool-What exactly do I think is cool? 

Any person for whom a garden is a way of life.

Any gardener who takes the stewardship of a property seriously. 

Any garden or landscape that is home grown. 

 Any garden or landscape which is clearly stamped “individually owned and operated”. 

 Any gardener who will tear out and redo, given a new idea. 

Any gardener who will not walk away from trouble. 

Any heartfelt expression. 

Any gardener whose vision has been expressed clearly enough to move me. 

Any garden with a story to tell.

Any gardener who keeps coming back for more.

Any great book. My favorite book about gardens:  The Gardens of France by Anita Periere and Gabrielle van Zuylen, published in 1983.  This book includes stunning black and white photographs of my most favorite garden, La Mormaire.  Very cool.

Beautiful garden ornament-new, vintage and antique.  No matter the country of origin, the age, or the material, beautiful is beautiful.

On a lighter note, I find the following things equally as cool:

Dog-friendly gardens and landscapes.

A patch of grass big enough for said dogs to roll around on.

Vintage concrete garden ornaments, including but not limited to birds, angels, dogs, frogs, squirrels, rabbits and hares, trolls, gnomes and snails.

bins, wood crates and string of any description.

As for far out, I have lots of things on my list.  Here are but a few:

The northern lights, the blue moon, a good soaking rain, friable soil, spider webs, buds, flowers and seeds, the change of seasons, shells, twigs, clouds, the ocean, bulbs of any description, ancient breeds of cattle and sheep-as in Jacob’s four-horned sheep, mosses, lichens and fungi, you get the picture.  Most everything in the natural world-very far out.  There are a few exceptions.  I have a tough time with slime mold, woodchucks, Japanese beetles, slugs, shrews, and death. 

There are lots of cool things in the world of landscape and garden-who could begin to name them all?  There are even more far out things-most of those come courtesy of the natural world.  The distinction between cool and far out?  Who needs to make a distinction?  The relationship between talented designers and gardeners in conjunction with the natural world-the subject of a long essay about cool, and very very far out.  Most gardening discussions involve lots of issues. Any good gardener-they handle lots of issues.


  1. Interesting viewpoint onfthe ways different generations describe things they value…although I was born in 1977, I still qualify things as “cool,” and I must do it a lot, since my 2-year-old says, “That’s cool.” 🙂

    I think your list of “cool” gardening qualities could be summated as a list of people who 1) care about gardening and 2) are in it for the long haul.

  2. This post is, well… Cool!

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