Saturday, August 18, 2018

How to be an open minded garden visitor...and not

I have been gardening most of my life in one way or another and have gardened this particular space for 38 years. It has had many iterations but the current one is a result of a number of things, most importantly my retirement 3 years ago. At that time, space set aside for children's play in my family child care home reverted to mine, all mine. With a few specific goals in mind I forged ahead. I wanted a wildlife friendly (at least birds and insects, not so much rats and squirrels although I have those too), water sensible, manageable play space for myself. A place to relax, putter, enjoy. A place with room for a few veggies and plants that I think are pretty or at least interesting. And that is what I now have. It is not done evolving because there is always something new to try, some new obsession to indulge.
I have visited many gardens over the years in many parts of the country and a few out of the country and I have always found something interesting, evocative of that place, sometimes a new idea, sometimes a wonderfully done old idea. I hope I have never gone to visit a garden and immediately criticized everything because it was not the same as my garden, like a recent visitor did in mine.
A friend of a friend asked to come see my garden as we were finishing a Pilates class. I suggested she come over right then after class and that is what we did. As we walked through she started to tell me what I should let grow taller (the fruit trees purposefully kept short according to back yard orchard culture ideas ), what I should get rid of (the "pointy plants" like iris that apparently are bad feng shui and the wisteria which loses its leaves in the winter and therefore "looks terrible"), and what I should add (a bridge. Really, a bridge. In my flat garden). There was more but by then I was kind of in shock. She did say she could tell I worked hard...damned by faint praise.

You may have realized by now that this visitor had a very narrow view of what gardens should be like...she has a well thought of Asian garden. Very meticulously and tightly designed according to feng shui principles and kind of the antithesis of my garden.  Which is fine. I visited her garden when it was part of a tour many years ago and while it was not to my taste and felt claustrophobic to me I could appreciate the work and style and goals for which it aimed. But it never occurred to me to tell her to loosen up or tone down all the red accents. Even though I am not a fan of much red in the garden. Because it was her garden and I could tell she was happy with it, even proud of it.
So, to get to the point of the title above, here are a few of my thoughts. Don't isolate yourself from the huge range of gardens that exist. Go into a garden that is new to you with the idea of seeing what someone else gets pleasure from creating. If it is so far outside your frame of reference that you really don't get it, ask questions! If the gardener is standing right there try to find at least something about which you can make a positive comment. Don't critique if you have not been invited to do so. OK, critique as much as you want in your head but don't say it out loud! I almost feel that this is a ridiculous thing to post about since it seems simply common curtesy and good manners. So maybe this is just a way of working through my feelings. As I sit here writing in my, to me at least, peaceful and inviting garden I will think about the many people who have appreciated my results and try to remember always to look for things to appreciate in other gardens.