Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Gardener in Exile

Gardeners have periodically been exiled from their gardens, beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing to this day.  Eve was perhaps more prescient than Adam and, when offering the apple, might have suspected there was something beyond their idyllic existence.  The sons born after the expulsion carried the full range of emotional complexities, which their descendants now carry into the present generation, depending upon your religious persuasion.

Since the original expulsion from Eden, gardeners have struggled mightily to impose a semblance of order over nature’s chaos to create a place of repose. We see this repeated through the centuries in both great gardens and small.  For the gardener in our time, exile can be a cataclysmic move, or nothing more than the painful notion of missing a weekend. 


Memorial Day found me away from the Catskills’ garden after a brutal storm closed the roads as trees fell on power lines.  The following weekend, although I was in Washington for a meeting, reports followed me. 

Rhododendrons, 2008
“The rhododendrons had never been more beautiful.” 
“More so than in 2008?” I asked, and added, “See attached.” 
“Much more so,” was the response.  “But by the time you come next weekend, the peonies will be at their peak.” 

The weekend afterwards I did finally arrive, only to find that a new storm had leveled the peonies.  The next few days were spent in the garden, but under dripping skies with not a ray of sunlight.

There are a few lessons in all this:

1.    If someone offers you an apple, take a bite. 

2.    Although the past winter was very hard on us, it was great for gardens.  While everyone who could do so fled south, plant life was taking a protected rest under a permanent blanket of snow, and drank in the moisture when spring thaws arrived. There are mysterious surprises: A climber that for generations was a weak wild rose throwing off an occasional peaked pink flower, is now sporting vivid purple ruffled blooms.  Laurels invisible on hillsides for years are now dressed all in pink and distracting drivers.

  1. The lot of the weekend gardener holds few rewards.  Instead of Saturday/Sunday visits, you must be in your garden every day so as not to miss a thing.  Then you can give to all visitors the classic lament of the gardener.  “Oh, if you had only been here last week you would have seen….” Or, looking ahead, “If you could only come back next week you would be just in time for… “
Great show of lilacs in 2011

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