Sunday Opinion: The World Series of Gardening

Every year I try my best to wrap up my spring season by the 4th of July, so I can enjoy my holiday. This sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it?  I came close enough this year to feel like I could spend a little time at home.  This sounds reasonable as well, doesn’t it?   But there I was, prowling my garden, making mental notes of all the things that need to be done, and wincing about all the things that are not  right. This critique part borders on nuts and I rarely make any decisions under this kind of duress.   It’s a miracle I have a garden at all.  Too big a block of time at home can spell trouble on what should be a relaxing day. 

 For me to have six uninterrupted hours of time in my garden over two days is the equivalent of no small amount of rocket fuel igniting under my obsession with gardening.  As I am expounding to Buck about how one section of taxus densiformis needs to be flat on one side, and concave on the other, he interrupts with a withering and sardonic look and announces he is going in to read a little before he takes a nap.  So all afternoon I am out there fretting, sweating and scheming like I have ten minutes to live.   Trying to decide if I prune one lower leaf off a single Princeton Gold maple, will the overall effect of the mass of them be better.  No kidding.  That’s what I was doing.  I finally got worn out with all this milling around,  laid down in the grass, and laughed my fool head off.  I design for clients with equanimity all the time; when I go home, I get so out of hand.

The British would have you believe there is a World Series of Gardening.  Thank God I don’t live there, or I would apply for a spot at Chelsea every year. I might need medication, were my proposal turned down.  The Chelsea Garden Show is a vetted extravaganza every year at the end of May. Gardeners all over this country talk about it.   Designs are approved, and built. A huge effort is made by lots of people.  The Queen attends;  gold and silver and whatever medals are passed out, and the place is mobbed for the duration of the show.  I say “show”, as they are not really gardens.  They are not even reasonable facsimiles of a garden, as they don’t exist long enough for nature to administer her exams.  The show is however great garden theatre;  people seem to enjoy it thoroughly-especially the competition part.

When I am of sane mind, I know there is no World Series except in baseball.  There did come a day when I realized the world did not revolve around me, and that there would be no list in horticulture heaven listing the top ten gardens of all time,  which would hopefully have one of my gardens near the top of the list. Some time later I realized I would never make a garden which would be perfect in every regard.   (Incidentally, I had no plan for what I would do with myself after that garden was finished. Nor did I understand there is no such thing in a garden as “finished”)  I did finally figure out that aesthetic evolution is not a bus ride from A to B.  Great work could be found everywhere and anywhere, and nothing is better than good company.  Shocking.  In other words, I finally grew up.

It takes next to nothing for me to get out of hand when a garden hangs in the balance, but I do have some grace as an adult.  I am truly garden-obsessed, but thankfully not persistently self-obsessed.  There may be those who think otherwise, but they have not seen me rolling in the grass in my garden, laughing at the funniest self I have ever seen.


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