Any Other Love Affair

Our Life in GardensFrom Our Life in Gardens, by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterwood.

“To consummate an affair with agapanthus, we fear you must resort to shoving and hauling, smashing and splintering, to a cold bedroom full of nasty, yellowing foliage, always anticipating the pure bliss that will come. Not so very different, after all, from any other love affair.”

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If the management of any garden does not fall into a rhythm of comfortable routines, there will not be a garden at all but only an embarrassment and a reproach. We treasure the routines of our garden, all based on its seasonal demands, to which we play close attention, not only to assure its health and beauty but to give pattern to our days. It may help that any deep love one has—for a friend, a child, a dog, even a simple canary in a cage—is treasured essentially because it does that.

We have come to feel that an ordered movement through days and months and years is essential to happiness, or to our happiness at least, for we do not pontificate. Of all the  many joyful obligations of our existence, the garden here has been the most sustaining just in part because it is the most rhythmic, through winter, spring, summer, and fall. It actually has taught us to love every day of our life. One cannot ask more of love for a garden than that.

The Garden

But of course one might. One could ask that it all go on forever, that it last, as the  Countess in Strauss's sublime opera Capriccio sings, "funfmalhunderttausend Jahre." There are some fine June mornings when one might wish for this, when all the roses are blooming and the year is new, and the garden's future holds infinite possibility. Such an impulse is usually the product of the moment--only a fool would ask that of any garden.

The vagaries of each season are an essential part of the gardener's experience, and the failure and decline of many a lusty specimen or fragile perennial that had done so well, and perhaps for years, teaches much. Gardens by their very nature are fragile beings that live in the two dimensions of time and care. for their very survival they are dependent on weather, on soil conditions, on predators that come silently in the night, on the neglect or inattention of their owners, for none of us lives forever or particularly wants to. And there, precisely, is the question posed by any intensely experienced life in a garden, however long or short it might have been: What is to happen next? Oh, not next spring or next autumn, for so far as we know, we are able to plan for that. But eventually. In the long run.

Find “Plant Love,” a book review by Dominique Browning.