Tuesday Opinion: Tolerances

Tolerances in industry refers to the tolerance for error. (please tolerate this overly simplistic and largely uniformed discussion of industrial tolerances)  Parts manufactured for a coast guard cruiser have to be as close to dead to the right size as any manufacturer can make them.  A government contract may demand parts with a tolerance of .0001-one one thousanth of an inch-or better.  Even closer to perfect. Why would they need a product with this level of accuracy? Many companies may contribute to the construction of that boat.  All the parts from all the manufacturers have to fit together, and fit together remarkably well, for the boat to work.  The time to discover that a part was sloppily made and not working, is not when said cruiser is three miles from shore in a storm. Buck makes strap steel spheres at Branch-some of the 5.5 feet in diameter.  If two pieces of steel cross over one another at just slightly the wrong angle when he begins, that error will compound itself on every cross over to come.  This level of error makes for a sphere that will look out-of-round.  Not life threatening, but not pretty either.  There are those times when a lack of tolerance make sense.

The difference between a landscape drawing and the installation of the drawing can be big, and still work out.  Frequently, maybe always, I have to make adjustments from the ideal-so easily drawn on a piece of paper-to the reality, which is an existing piece of ground.  This and that and more can be shifted and interpreted such that the spirit of the design is intact once it is planted.  The process of landscape design and installation is a big fluid situation, quite unlike getting a space ship into orbit.  Many years ago on a spring melt down day, Rob reacted fiercely.  “Deborah, we are not performing brain surgery on a human being who has a life and family. We plant gardens and landscapes that delight the eye.  We make people happy.  We plant flowers.”  Who could argue with that?

Designers whose tolerance for variation from their design that approaches .0001 inch-whoa.  I wonder how they get through the day.  I am sure there are those whose cache makes that possible-but who would want such a life?  I do not tolerate change from my design with clients-I welcome it.  I adjust, and rethink.  Every person’s experience of nature is not only different than mine, I owe them the respect I tender to any other living thing.  I don’t always need to understand.  I only need to tolerate those ideas which are different than mine.  I want to get through the day.  I want to see the project realized.  I don’t want to live obsessed about a point of view that varies from my own.  An obsessed life works fine for me.  I apply my obsessions to my own life, and my own garden.

Gardeners are a very passionate and opinionated lot.  Of course this includes me.  We like some plants much better than others.  There are those of us for whom the sun rises and sets on a well grown stand of shasta daisies.  There are others whose idea of a decent leaf is measured solely by its square footage.  There are those gardeners who would not think of planting any annual plants.  Some gardeners revere what readily reseeds more than any other plant.  There are those gardeners that grow everything that strikes their fancy.  Some like but three plants-and they grow these three plants in profusion, and in every possible configuration..  There are those who devote the lion’s share of their ground to tomatoes, brussel spouts, and herbs.  Farmer gardeners-very passionate!   There are those who have a plant they intend to explore in depth.  Thus the life of the Camellia Society, and the Peony Society.

There are those who favor wild and native plants.  The wild gardeners love the beauty of the little and ephemeral plants.  The native plants only people garden and mission at the same time. Though I have never felt the urge to convince another gardener to see the natural world how I see it, I respect the sincere feeling that motivates a sense of mission.  There are those who exhibit competitively the dahlias they have grown-a great dahlia show is a pleasure to attend.  There are groups who meet over orchids, and roses.  Gardeners who belong to groups-sociable gardeners.  Some gardeners are only in it for the dash to the finish-an event or wedding or graduation at home that asks for a gardener’s touch.  Some are in it for the long haul-growing gingko trees from seed.  Others value the solitude, and their individual experience of nature.

There are those of us for whom well rotted and garden ready compost is a crowning accomplishment.  Other gardeners are not so hands on.  They may love the beauty of a garden-from afar. They might be so moved as to hire me to design for them.  Another gardener might spring for a master plan, and do the work themselves.  There are those who like orderly, and those who are happiest when the garden is wildly exuberant. There are grower/farmers who intend to feed the planet.  I respect that intent.   There are those growers who serve that small gardening group whose interests are focused on organically grown produce.  Organic milk, specialty vines, heirloom daffodils and apples.  There is room for everyone. A beautiful landscape and garden-there are so many paths to that end.  So many interpretations.

Anyone with a big love for the garden and the landscape gets to be seated under a very big tent.  A seat under this tent is just that-one seat.  Of course your seat can be by itself, or near other people with a similar seat.  Those gardeners around you that love the lawnless look, the wild flowers, the hybrid peonies, house plants, foraged greens, the mowed lawns, heritage tomatoes, perennial borders, hellebore hybrids, espaliered fruit trees, outdoor kitchens, grasses of note, pruned boxwood, pressed flowers, ponds-everyone gets a seat.