What wry folly is gardening.
Am I the only one who learns more from seeing other people’s gardens in the flesh rather than in magazines? Hort porn, that’s all those are. You feel that frisson of anticipation and you think, I can do that. I can buy that wonderfully weird exotic plant; water it, feed it. It will look just like that centrefold. Some do – fuchsias seduce me every year. And after the courtship, we become proud helicopter parents, nurturing our adoptive progeny, praising them for their mere existence. Magazines. I blush to admit it, but I read as many as I can get my hands on.
And that could be the secret. Maybe it’s the touch of the human hand we see in real gardens. (Often it’s many hands but you know what I mean.) Maybe it’s the vagabond weed here and there defacing the verdant resplendency that resonates with us. Ahh, imperfection. I can do that. We all function with a certain degree of selective logic.
And you need moxie when it comes to tussling with the flora non grata. Pretty soon I’m the dominatrix in a battle zone, disciplining weed thugs – and I’m on those intrepid intruders like the proverbial duck on a June-bug. News niblet: Weeds are like sinuous cats, oblivious to rules, above democracy. I thought my daily assaults on their appalling anarchy would spread the word in the ‘hood that I was the boss. Silly me.
Between you and me, the halcyon havens depicted on glossy pages are harridans in disguise. I wind up adding to my inventory of shortcomings with hand-wringing envy and heart-breaking speed. Usually by then summer is well underway and our expectant dreams of swoops of tulips have spluttered like a deflating balloon. Dead with a palpable shudder. And garden art? What we hoped would be the perfect fillip among the filipendula comes off as…kitschy. The fine line between whimsy and chaos no longer fits the rubric of our winter musings, she says with a sigh.
But expectation always exceeds reality. Not quite the picture-perfect fantasy the magazines whisper in our ear perhaps. There is such hope with sensuous spring, isn’t there? May is an arousing amphetamine. “The world is mud luscious [and]…puddle wonderful.” The excoriating gales of winter give way to gently wafting zephyrs. Little noses poking through are like tiny green pets I don’t have to walk. It’s the serendipity of discovery, the joy you feel when a prized newcomer has made it through its first winter. You can find me fertilizing my fritillaria and exulting in the “leaping greenly spirits of trees“. I think e.e. cummings knew a thing or two about spring.
Yet expectation is where we have to start. Do we hear symphony or cacophony in garden serenades? One minute, smiles abound all around; the next, seedlings are starving wraiths reaching for the sun, needy and clutching. Go out for groceries and return to scraggly, used teabag-looking corpses-to-be. Stuff the milk in the fridge and grab the watering can. Does the siren lure of the magazines dash our hopes on the rocks or make us step up to the challenge? Well, let me just say, there I’ll be, once again all sweaty and hat-headed. And once again I will experience pleasure so sweet I would have to call it pure satisfaction. Hort bliss. Tantric, even.
by Elaine Coish