The boiling hot Tuesday of my second week off in August I set foot in a garden. (Not mine. I set sprinklers as soon as I got home but avoided mine until sometime the beginning of September.) I have considered Layanee a good friend for the last 3 years at least but still hadn’t visited her garden – all the way over yonder in Foster, RI. By Rudeyelin standids, Layanee’s garden is days away from mine. In actual fact it took an hour and 15 to get there. Just in case though, I brought my mom because she likes road trips – and gardens – and getting “lost” on the gray roads.
Despite Layanee’s demurrals and apologies her garden was actually still lush and colorful – and full of puppy. It just doesn’t get more inspiring than that. I am disappointed in my pictures but I didn’t even really want to take any because it was such a treat to experience it for reals. Pictures don’t do it justice anyway. Even after seeing years’ worth of Layanee’s pictures from every angle in every season, I had no real conception about the lay of the land. – There’s simply no way to find your bearings in a photo unless you’ve actually been there. I realized – and I feel a little silly to say this because I should always be keenly aware of it – that feeling grounded and present is an enormous part of the pleasure of seeing a garden. Ledge and Gardens was both more intimate in parts and more spacious in parts than I imagined and the vignettes and combinations much more interesting and beautiful for being held within the whole.
I liked my own garden better after the roadtrip – I’m not really sure why since it’s cramped and wonky and young in any kind of direct comparison. Then again there is no comparison, and no competition in gardening. It’s apples and orangutans. There’s only infectious enthusiasm – even when we’re all hot and exhausted and kind of over it.
I went to my first ever Buddhist teaching last week. It was on karma and sort of incidentally the teacher monk guy person said that things don’t make us happy; we make us happy. True happiness is found within when we do good things (which is also v. good for the karma and after that it gets complicated. But I digress). Anyway, I don’t think Kelsang Dorje (the teacher monk guy person) is a gardener. Then again maybe he is. In any case, not a day goes by when I don’t think my garden (and consequently my capacity for happiness) would be complete without a particular plant or, as of this past week, a particular plant container that I’ve taken to walking by daily as if the owner might notice my desire for it and bestow it upon me as I pass (I’d have to go back for the car). But if only… If only it were mine! In my garden! Then true bliss.
Then again, I know me. Last week Gail (my coworker) and I went to one of our favorite nurseries to buy things for holes at work (see this post if you haven’t already and you’re curious) and more importantly, buy things for each other as a belated birthday extravaganza. We both fell for, of all things, wisteria. You probably already know what was on my wish-list for the arbor but I was completely taken in by the thought of a native wisteria that “reblooms” and is “easier to control” and “attractive to butterflies”. Never mind that it grows 20′ and needs constant pruning attention at the top of a tall ladder. Never mind that.
Anyway, at the time, standing there at Peckham’s cradling the wisteria like a baby, nothing would make me happier. But now that it’s planted, I’m not so sure. Maybe Dorje is right. Does this happen to you too?
Bear with me a minute while I try to work out whether I garden because my garden needs me or because I need to garden. To garden or not to garden is the question. Sort of. (Not really.) But I just spent a week in a full-bloom place where I wouldn’t dream of gardening. I had forgotten just how diverse and spectacular the plant life is on the island shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario. I could have spent the whole time cataloging rose, meadowsweet spirea, bunches of grasses, sumac, cardinal flower, mosses, ferns, lichens (bright orange!), chives, shad bush, chokecherry, beeches and wind whipped pines. Everything planted by wind and opportunity in rock pockets and more spectacularly designed than any LA’s dreamiest dream. I wouldn’t want to mess with any of it. But I had to wonder, if I was there longer than a week or two – say if I lived there for a whole season, would I feel the urge to edit? To add anything? To prune a little? Would the landscape be improved by my ministrations? I answer a resounding NO! to the last rhetorical question – but I would have loved to use snips on the thicket of dead twigs in the wild rose bushes and a few edibles in a raised bed or containers wouldn’t wreck the gestalt, would it? And can’t help but wonder what my own landscape would look like if it had always been left to its own devices. What if the invasive ornamentals like bittersweet, multiflora rose, Norway maples and goutweed had never been introduced? What lovely forest would surround my house? Would I, could I leave it alone? Since the milk was spilled though and the forest was cleared, I figure I pretty much have to tend my garden.
But evidently it grows quite well without me too. In one tiny week, everything that hadn’t even been close to blooming (or so I thought) opened up. I didn’t need to be here at all for everyone to get on with the business of growing.
The weeds also grew gangbusters and so did the Late Blight on the tomatoes and I guess that’s where I come in handy. My garden needs me after all which works out pretty well since I guess I need to garden too.
And it’s so nice to know I’m not alone. A little detour on the long drive to Curly Rocks brought me to the most beautiful garden in Slaterville Springs, NY where Nino had a chance to cavort with his new best Buddy, Z got to talk bikes! with Chris and I got to bask in the gracious company of a favorite fellow plantaholic. Thank you, Lynn – garden on!
The longer I go between blah-blahs the less I desire I have to post. It’s like making a phone call. Pretty soon I’ve just got to dial it or else the guilt eats me alive – and the resulting conversation is always a great thing. I don’t have any-much guilt in this case just an overwhelming sense that there’s too much to catch up on – and the longer it goes the more overwhelmed I feel and so I keep opting for another chapter and nap on the couch instead. But not really that much has changed – without further ado, here’s a nutshell synopsis of the last few weeks:
The dog still has very soft ears and has gotten over some explosive poop problems and is called “well balanced” and “so cute” by strangers on the street. The cats are practiced at their favorite sport – knocking-things-off. Tee time is 4:30AM. Z is still a saint who cooks lovely things, helps me dig holes and who spent weeks repairing a boat so that we could sail away any old time.
And in the garden: I’m filling it in. The deck is bedecked with houseplants (but the house is still decorated in dirty empty saucers). Last year’s Swiss chard has put up flower buds. The plume poppies along the path are still demure and the mint is still a perfect steppable. I’m in love with woolly thyme. I’m cultivating an ox-eye daisy farm apparently and have picked enough lettuce leaves the last couple of weeks for 2 salads for 2 people every day and I can’t keep up. The nine-bark I moved stopped sulking and bloomed its brains out. The clematis ‘Roguchi’ on the fence popped open this week and was leaning dangerously until we bought a handsome wrought iron crutch for it. I’m disappointed in the clash of my white rugosa rose anywhere near the filipendula but I have no idea which to move and where. I have begun to set in roof slates (acquired from work) around the beds and have only broken several. The 30 lb. Scotts silent push mower needs sharpening and makes me feel somewhat homicidal. (I’d kill for my neighbor’s horrid gas mower) but I’ve spent at least as much time every weekend taking out grass as I’ve spent mowing it.
The only thing I really regret about my absence from this portion of the blogosphere not keeping up with you all. I’ll be making the rounds again and meanwhile for your viewing pleasure, here are a few pictures not of my garden but one mine aspires to emulate – it’s completely lawnless! (and 30 years in the making.)