For me, life in the garden has been both formative and essential; it has given me gardener’s eyes and an extra way of looking about me, and an abiding and enriching engagement, whether I have been out there and hands-on in the garden, or just gardening in the mind, planning for the future, conjuring up virtual gardens.
The gardening self becomes a separate persona, waiting to be indulged when possible, and never entirely subdued–always noticing, appreciating, recording. . . . Gardening has this embracing quality in that it colors the way you look at the world: everything that grows, and the way in which it grows, now catches your attention; the gardening eye assesses, queries, is sometimes judgmental–quite opinionated, gardeners.
When you find that you are a gardener, things change; this latent addiction does not take over your life–it can’t, you have other commitments–but it gives it new direction. Not just in terms of spare-time employment, but you now have extra vision–gardening vision. . . . I think it is true; you see the world with gardening eyes, you see what is growing where, you appreciate and assess and you wonder what that is if it is unfamiliar, and furthermore your situation in time is subtly changed, part of you lives now in garden time; you project forward, and back, you are no longer stuck always in the here and now.
What cannot be disputed is that gardens themselves are eloquent, in that they speak for their owners. By their gardens ye shall know them.
There is always this sense that the garden is a living entity, with its own agenda–hundreds of conflicting agendas–and that you are in control only up to a point, a precarious relationship in which it is not clear who has the upper hand.
Weeds don’t just grow, they grow with intent, they grow aggressively. Well, they do, as any gardener knows. They sneak in and swarm up when your back is turned.
For me, there is this abiding astonishment at the fury for growth, at the tenacity of plant life, at the unstoppable dictation of the seasons.
We garden for tomorrow, and thereafter. We garden in expectation, and that is why it is so invigorating. Gardening, you are no longer stuck in the here and now; you think backward, and forward, you think of how this or that performed last year, you work out your hopes and plans for the next.
Forget design for a moment. Design has beomce a terrible, stupid, and expensive tyrant. The emphasis here is all on content. Such a flower garden should have the same beauty as an allotment. It says: This is what I felt like having this year.
All but the tidiest, most obsessively controlling of gardeners look forward to those plants that hop around. At first they are placed near the front of the border. Next they find their way out onto the path, into the gravel or the cracks in the paving. And the first time this happens one thinks: Now my garden is beginning to show that extra panache–this is maturity in miniature, and these will be my signature plants.