“Like all gardeners, I was learning that plots are more easily maintained when set apart in some way, whether by hedges, paths, or walls….”
- Anne D. LeClaire from her book Listening Below the Noise
Form and dynamic. I was introduced to these terms my first year of seminary thanks to 20th century theologian Paul Tillich. It’s kind of abstract but here it goes. Form (that is, shape) without dynamic (think spirit, energy, creativity) is dead, lifeless. The result: outdated (and at its worst) irrelevant and meaningless modes of living and relating. Dusty and dry formality. Yet dynamic without form is chaos. There exists an essential tension between the two. We need both you might say. Both-And.
Paul’s domain was theology and philosophy. But I think “form and dynamic” also applies to other areas of our lives. Like the garden. Hedges, paths and walls are forms in which our beloved flora depend, design-wise that is. If we really want to see those delicate astrantia blooms or dramatic serrated edge to that melianthus we need some bones to set them off. Garden bones being the equivalent to Tillich’s form. And foliage flair? Yes. Together now -”dynamic.” A stretch perhaps.
Hedging plants are important in the garden. They conceal but also reveal. Like paths and other structures in the landscape they also define a space. When planted hedges can create a sense of welcome or the very opposite – exclude in its aim to keep unwanted critters away or nosy neighbors. Privacy via the hedge doesn’t necessarily mean malicious rejection but perhaps is for some more of a statement of value; the enclosed being worth protecting. Hedges are Both-And too.
On our (me and milo’s) self-directed garden tours I have been obsessed with hedges. See, on the west side of our property which spans the length of our house we have about a 5 foot wide space from the edge of our house to an extremely exposed fence that really needs some softening or covering. I had plans to plant a narrow perennial border against its orange-hued stained slats (per previous owner) but I have concluded that no matter how much flower (all dynamic) I fool myself into planting I will not achieve my desired effect: a visually clean, clear semi-permeable boundary that creates a little bit of privacy (our neighbors are not nosy but GREAT), meanwhile offering some green low-maintenance lushness. I need me some form.
But I refuse arborvitae. With a vengeance.
Evergreen huckleberry? Maybe.
Fall is a great time to evaluate your garden forms. Trees defoliate. Perennials die back in preparation for next spring’s uprising. Over these next few months we will be really able to SEE our gardens and evaluate its current ability to enclose, invite, keep out, protect. Gardens are easier to maintain when they are set apart in some way. So are our lives. We can’t do it all. We say no. We erect our own interior hedges but in some cases we do this not to exclude but to preserve that which we hold especially dear – our deepest selves. That I think is definitely worth protecting.
It is Sunday afternoon and we are having family time at Caffe Fiore on Queen Anne Hill. There have been many cups of coffee had on this hill here with this hubby of mine but he was pre-hubby then and we, pre-child. It was on this hill too that we often asked one another, I think he first: “What was your perfect moment today?”
Everyone defines their perfect moment in their own way. There are no right or wrong answers. Just yours. And you know it best.
My perfect moment today was sitting down to a large round wooden table to a steamy latte, a stack of coupons to rifle through, baby Milo on lap, my mate to my left, and Jean Bradbury’s exquisite oil-paintings keeping watch over us all the while. I was immediately drawn and after reading her blog I can see why – she’s a gardener for one. 2) She likes the poet Billy Collins whom my friend Morgan just introduced me to and 3) She pays attention to the little things. I sure like what Jean sees.
Thank you Jean for contributing to my perfect moment today. I especially love your “Plenty.”
What was your perfect moment today?
Been reading this book called Listening Below the Noise. It’s been a real treat. Like a gentle bowl of tea that you hold with two hands. Just the other day I had a couple minutes to go outside – solo- to harvest the last of our zinnias growing inur back patch of sun and noticed the dusting of frost on this here sage plant. There was something so soft about the look of it. And centering. Which is what this book is about. How silence centers. How silence teaches one how to listen and most importantly pay attention to what’s inside of you. As well as outside. Both being practices of the heart.
I didn’t always believe this, this business of a cat’s love until I met my now husband nearly a decade ago. And in getting to know one another he shared: “I have two kitties…” And I recall with absolute clarity that he said “kitties” not cats. Kitties. I believe the word captured his affection for both Miko and Hanabi. And my use of it today does as well: Our kitty Miko is no longer with us.
It has been a sad week. Miko, short for Sumiko (meaning: “child of clarity”) was our rough and tumble garden huntress and top notch evening snuggler. But you didn’t want to cross her. At garden gatherings we always needed to make sure our medicine cabinet bore plenty of band-aids. Custom routine:
flash her oh so svelte black coat (it was really so dashing, the softest you had ever felt)
brush up against your leg
innocent beer drinking guests bends down to return to the affection
It really was quite cruel. And I would always feel like that apologetic parent of a child who SWEARS her baby never behaves like this behind closed doors. Never. Which is a little bit of a lie because we weren’t necessarily exceptions. But she did exhibit a bit more patience with us. We needed fewer band-aids. Miko has indelibly made her mark, LITERALLY and forever on our hearts.
I will miss her loyalty the most. And watching her relentless attempt to sit in Andre’s lap while he plays guitar. Her cuddles.
And most especially hearing the story of how Andre and Miko met. For some reason, in toddler-like fashion I would routinely ask Andre to tell me the story tell me the story when we three would all be hanging together on the bed. I never tired hearing it. Hearing it would make me laugh (again) and fill me up with good feelings (again).
This, we could continue however. This ritual. Those who love much grieve much. A client taught me that. And we loved Miko. Much. What greater gift than to love – a cat?
Love it. Which is why I love Fall. How can you not. You got:
1. Candy corns: I recommend eating one part candy corn with 2-3 parts salted Spanish peanut. Party in your mouth.
2. Compost: think of all the leafy goodness adorning our streets and gutters and in a season or two, our garden beds.
3. Pumpkins: I am sure you are hip to all of the varieties out there. If not, check out Cinderella or the warty Green Goblin. So cool. Or pair a new grandson with a seasoned grandma and voila you get the one-dimensional pumpkin above.
4. Really small hand-knit sweaters perfect for wearing to baby’s first pumpkin patch experience
5. And Fall Plant Sales.
For all the years of living in Seattle and working in what we call ah-hem, the “industry” I had never been to the Seattle’s Arboretum Fall Bulb and Plant Sale. I went on Sunday, the last day but it was probably good given my propensity to forget that plants cost money and the sudden illusion to believe that I am made of it. (I drove by yesterday and the sign said all bulbs 40% off!) But I was good. Just a flat-full of goodies gathered from their greenhouse (where they propagate plants from the gardens) and local plant donation area and a couple bags of bulbs. But to my surprise. Nothing orange. Here’s what I collected. I’m into lists:
1. Saxifraga hirsuta: I have another variety of saxifrage which I like to tuck in sunny crevices around the garden but this one is deep deep green.
2. Osmanthus fragrans a.k.a. Sweet Olive: I am pretty excited about this guy. It’s evergreen (sold), great for hedging , and emits a fragrance of apricots (sold) in the spring and summer.
3. Olearia moschata a.k.a. Daisy Bush: Think I will pop this one in a container all by its lonesome. Has the drought tolerant look, silvery foliage and is also evergreen.
4. And four varieties of asters. It is after all, fall: A. tataricum, A. frikartii “Monch’ (everybody’s planting it), and an unnamed cultivar from Heronswood Nursery. I will call it for my own record A. Heronswoodii.
Oh, and the bulbs. I went for daffodils. I like them massed in pots. Especially when they have green centers or cups like Misty Glen.
I am hoping to get out there this weekend to get these things in the ground. Which takes me back to another reason why I love fall: ‘Tis time to plant and also divide and conquer those herbaceous perennials. Ambitious perhaps as our days become shorter and my days fuller. I am hopeful though. But if the rain does come there is plenty to do inside. Like #1. And hunt for more #4. Or decide I am old enough in knitting years to transcend the scarf. I do have orange yarn. But a little less hopeful in accomplishing (or beginning) this endeavor.