Successors will call in the chipper to take care of your garden
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 8:47 am
By: By Jimmy Williams
It goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway. Advancing age carries with it a more philosophical approach to the possibility of death. Nay, the certainty of it.
The phenomenon affects the philosopher as well as the philosophy. The former is you (or me) as one muses on one’s own demise. Benjamin Franklin said that death and taxes are the only certainties. The latter, in the present context, is this plant or that in your garden. It will die, sooner or later. Sooner, more likely than not.
Well, a young white oak will outlast you pretty surely. A hollyhock or coreopsis pretty surely will not.
I once would get all balled up every time a plant under my jurisdiction (I thought) would up and die. The degree of balling up would be in direct proportion to the price of the plant. That lousy $3 coreopsis, advertised as perennial, could go under and a mild tranquilizer would suffice to salve my heartache.
But let a “Globosa” blue spruce or a “Red Dragon” Japanese maple take a ride on the chipper truck to the great compost heap in the sky and I would have to seek counseling and bring out the big guns, Valium perhaps. Even then, it would sometimes be weeks before I could quit sucking my thumb and existing in a fetal position.
Those latter two cases would still cause consternation, to say the least. But I spend less time thumb-sucking now than I did years ago. In fact, the quicker I can plug the gap the quicker some degree of satisfaction might return. After all, the philosopher has less time today than I did yesterday to set things right following visits by the Grim Garden Reaper.
Realism must have its say, though. If a 30-year plant goes down, it is a downright certainty that 30 years from now I won’t be around to see an identical plant come to maturity. So, what to do?
The easy way out is to forget your successors and plant a cheaper, faster, specimen. However, it is at the behest of those successors that we should (perhaps) keep up the quality and go with something near the same value. The parenthetical “perhaps” was added because of another very near certainty. That is, the grass won’t be green over our graves before some revisionist will bulldoze the whole shebang and build a trailer park or condo. It has happened to gardens of far more note than yours or mine.
One of the top three or four garden authorities of the 20th century was Gertrude Jekyll, the famed colorist and mother of the perennial border as we know it today. She died in the 1930s after an illustrious career of garden design commissions and creation of her own masterwork at Munstead Wood near London, England.
Her beloved garden succeeded her by only a very few years. Successors at the place sodded over the famed borders and even some of the woodland. Only in recent times has an effort been made toward restoration.
Yes, the chipper truck will be busy for a while after we are gone. Almost nobody wants to be burdened with the onus of a high maintenance garden; most would rather golf or play bridge. So, the sensible thing is to be philosophical. Or, maybe the rapture will come soon.
Published in The Messenger 6.1.10
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path