Something in the description of Kate and Ben Frey’s concept for their garden design, as reported in the LSG Newsletter 2 weeks ago, has caught in my brain like a thistle on a barbed wire fence. They call their concept, “The Hermit’s Garden.”
“Man, the individual, in his heart retains his original needs and satisfactions, but the unquenchable desire of the masses for everything the earth has to offer has drained the land of water and life. The hermit cannot avoid the shared momentum of his destiny and strides forward toward this harsh and unforgiving future, propelled by man’s propensity to move forward, whatever the cost.” This tone is not exclusive to them—a number of the other designers have also expressed acute, and occasionally despairing, awareness of the mess we’re in, but this is more somber than most.
Clearly everyone who has more wit than a stick can see we’ve got to change our lives, but nobody does it, not you, not me. At least, not enough. I’ve amped down, sure. Light oil spray is about as toxic as my horticultural armada gets. An electric weed whacker, infrequently used, is the extent of my power tools. Though I’m vegetarian, believing that the less that’s killed for one’s “original needs and satisfactions” the better for all involved, I’ve willfully ignored for years the blood and bone in the “organic” fertilizers I use in my clients’ gardens. Last week I bought instead a box of kelp meal, but wasn’t sure I wasn’t just exchanging one unsatisfactory remedy for another. Where were they getting the kelp, and how? Even alfalfa meal, which I put on roses, is probably being genetically engineered by Monsanto and grown on land owned by Archer Daniels Midland. Here again is the Withey and Price conundrum: Can a garden actually be ‘sustainable’?
There’s a danger in getting narcotized by doom-laced thoughts. Isn’t this a central raison d’etre for the Show, to come together and get ideas and inspiration for the way forward, to forfend the “harsh and unforgiving future” the Freys allude to? Say yes. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden, back to earth.
Meanwhile the raison d’etre of this blog, the Show itself, will soon be a thing of the past. I called the first post, “In Orbit”. The line on which to hang my musings, the metaphor of berrypicking, has turned out to be sturdier than I might have imagined. I hope, dear Reader, you’ve had as good a time as I in this hazy precinct of the blogosphere. Perhaps we’ll meet face to face at the Show and recognize each other for the half-fictions we are.