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Friday, March 9, 2018

Musical Chairs

An unwilling participant in the game.

I'm always changing things, in the garden. Moving them around. Pots, plants, piles of dirt, whole beds (conspiracy theorists will insist that a mythical "paisley bed" once existed in the middle of the backyard—preposterous, of course), and the kids' plastic play slide, which never fails to suffer spontaneous disintegration into its component parts in protest every single time. It is, I suppose, one consequence of never having given a moment's forethought to the overall design of one's garden. 

Instead, the design process here at Fencebroke has been compressed into a series of ultra-dense, creative vortices, in which I swirl around frantically for a few minutes while the kids are sleeping or distracted and lest I collapse forever into the imminent singularity of too much to do in too little time. While I flirt with this event horizon, my tried-and-true process is to gather up as many plants in my arms as I can carry (which, after a career spent largely working at nurseries, is rather a lotthis I mention not to boast, merely to paint a more absurd picture of myself biting off more than I can chew) and then run back and forth around the yard setting plants down at more or less random intervals until their composition is at least generally inoffensive if not particularly inspiring. Inevitably, to achieve this gold standard of Generally Inoffensive I will be forced to dig up a few existing, happily-rooted plants that were plopped down in the same haphazard fashion during a previous vortex. Plants excised in this manner are then added—raw, exposed roots dangling down with pathos—to my enormous, mighty armful, which unfortunately changes in composition but never seems to shrink. Then I just go back and repeat the whole charade until time runs out. It's like musical chairs. There's never enough space for all the plants, so there are always a few left out when the music stops. Pfff—a few—who am I kidding? By the time the needle slides off the record when Rowan falls off a patio chair or Daisy uses a little too much of the rain barrel for her "mud farm", I usually have more plants in my arms than when I started. SO many plants in my arms, and they're heavy, too— 

Okay, okay, now I'm boasting—give me a break, I work in horticulture, there aren't many opportunities.

The results of each round of Musical Vortices attest to a given moment's random and unbridled creativity, which in no way meaningfully communicates with any other moment's random and unbridled creativity. What once, briefly, passed as Generally Inoffensive in its own right will inevitably rear up as Generally Appalling when viewed at a later date and in the context of the garden as a whole. When this happens, the music starts up, the tidal pull of distant creativity swirls, and I start grabbing plants again. This is an approach to the art of garden design that cannot, and indeed, should not, be taught. But it's the way I do it. And frankly I don't have time to do it any other way.

So ... who wants to see how many plants I can really carry? 


  1. Hahaha!! Well, it occurs to me that, while it may seem haphazard to this gardener......isn't that really what creativity is all about?? Spontaneous scattering can EASILY be called artistic energy emergence, right??? Just sayin'..... :)

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