What’s Possible.

Some things happen very slowly in a garden.  I once scarified some gingko tree seeds, stratified them in my refrigerator for 10 weeks, and planted them out in pots in the spring-with the help of a parent. I probably was 11. Who knows how long it was before I could plant the seedling in the ground-it could be my Mom did that part for me.  5 years ago I went to see the house where I grew up-that gingko tree had become a substantial tree.  Last year I made another visit-the gingko had been cut down.  45 years to grow a substantial and handsome tree from seed.  Other things happen very fast in a garden; I am sure it took less that four hours to get that gingko down and hauled away.  A vision of a climbing rose redolent and weighted down with thousands of blooms in June takes years to realize.  It takes plenty of additional time to feed and prune, deal with the blackspot and the Japanese beetles, encouraging a plant to stay the course long enough to make that vision a reality.  A tomato seed can become a ten foot tall rangy plant loaded with fruit in the blink of a season.  For a gardener, a season is a measure of time.  Not short, but not very long either.  It seems like my coleus just got good when it started dropping leaves from cold.

A landscape or garden plan can slowly consume what seems like an endless amount of time. Any amount of time accompanied by the wringing of hands and indecision can becomes an interminably long slow time. One can stubbornly hold out for the perfect plan, and suddenly find themselves out of time-I am a guilty party in this regard.  I had the good sense to plant some small evergreens, thinking it would buy me some time to get the rest of a scheme together.  At fifty I awoke from my working every waking moment stupor to maturing evergreens and weeds in their early twenties; obviously my time to make the garden of my dreams was running out. I needed to step on the gas.

When I design for a client, my first act is to stew.  I stew over what a client has told me about what they would like to see happen.  I stew even more over the site plan or mortgage survey.  The stewing takes a lot more time, compared to the drawing.  Once I sit down to draw, I have an idea in mind-a concept.  The drawing has to work within the confines of a lot of givens.  The lot lines.  The physical distance from the home to the street.  The location of the driveway may or may not be a given.  In the drawing stage, I see how much more time it will take to make what I conceptualize work. The drawing goes slow at first. Maybe the concept doesn’t work very well at all; it takes strength to ignore the clock and start over.  Should everything be working, the drawing goes fast.

Once a design is in place and set to go, slow sets in like the project is coming down with a cold.  Projects need to be organized, and staged.  Plant material needs to be located and shipped.  The stone mason needs to see the job and quote the work, and set a tentative date to start. There is a chain of events which is bound to get tangled up.  A client approaching me in September about a project needing to be finished the following June-one would think that would be enough time for just about anything.  The project will finally get underway Monday October 18, some 48 days post the decision to proceed.  Who knows what lies ahead that could slow things down even further.

Pine Knot Farms is one of my favorite sources for hellebores.  I was looking at the plants I bought from them two years ago just the other day.  I am hoping this coming spring I will see my first flowers.  Nothing happens very fast with baby hellebores.  I have a fruiting olive tree in a pot which spends the winter in the green house; it has not grown an inch in the past two years-well maybe, an inch.  What the hold up is, I have no idea.  Neither a garden nor a landscape happens overnight.

But plenty can happen overnight.  A client may have a garden that needs a new dress and a good hair do in time for an unexpected event.  A tree can be blown over, or struck by lightening; I have had both of these things happen. Some people fall in love with gardening very fast, and fall out of love even faster.  Some warm up to the idea very slowly, and then presto- the warm feeling becomes a fire burning.  All manner of circumstances can change in an instant.  It is easy to recognize an instant when it happens.  It is harder to keep that possibility in mind every day, and garden accordingly.

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