Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

If you can't be a marigold, be a daisy. Or, whatever...

(Originally posted here on February 19, 2009.)

"It is not a bad thing for plants to express individualism. Not everyone can be a marigold." - Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

My husband, the non-gardener, gave me this really thoughtful gift. It is a book called Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd.

I'm in the midst of reading another book at the moment, and since I'm a one-book-at-a-time kind of reader, I haven't actually started my official reading of this book yet, but it looked so interesting, I couldn't keep from dipping into it. Once I started dipping, it was hard to put it down.

It seems to be the love story of the authors and of the gardens they have created and loved together. Their joint history starts in the 70s in Boston where they created a garden in their apartment. They even had chickens!

Later they moved out into the countryside where they could spread their roots as gardeners, and, a couple of years after that, they found some property in Vermont which they bought. They built their house and started their garden, and they live and garden there still.

Their garden is called North Hill and it is on some lists as one of the best gardens in North America. This book seems to be mostly about what that garden has taught them - about gardening and about life.

After a brief introductory chapter, the remaining chapters of the book are arranged alphabetically from agapanthus to Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata, a rare and endangered plant from Australia that the pair had luckily acquired before it was designated "rare and endangered." It seems an imminently sensible way to arrange a book about gardening or a book about life. It imposes order on what is essentially a disorderly process.

So what could a garden located in the Vermont of long and brutal winters have to teach me, a gardener in subtropical Southeast Texas? The plants are different, the climate is different, and the lives of the gardeners are very different from my own. And yet from my brief introduction to their book so far, I feel a real kinship.

Maybe gardeners really are the same all over the world, no matter what their different circumstances. We all worry about too much rain or too little rain, too much cold or too much heat, insect pests, and, of course, weeds.

In the end, we are all attempting to create something of beauty in our gardens and in our lives. I think that's the central lesson that Our Life in Gardens has to teach. Just like the flowers at North Hill, we can't "all be marigolds." But we can be ourselves and that's even better.

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