The Late Show was fun and inspiring. (Fanfare for Robin Parer and everyone else who worked hard on putting it together!) I attended on a beautiful Saturday in Sonoma. The threatened 100 plus heat wave, in effect on Friday, was swept away by a breeze. It was just hot enough to relish shade.
On arrival my friend Randy and I made a quick tour of the design gardens, greeting and meeting along the way. I’d be hard-pressed to choose which design was Most Metaphoric—top choices were the Grow Melt Project (the ice had mostly melted into curb-sized chunks by Saturday—there were pictures) and the Hermit’s Garden, but to my eyes all of them were metaphors. The water was not water but a metaphor. Likewise the oaks and the dirt below them. This is not a complaint. It is what I expected, was looking forward to. I know there was practical information to be gleaned, but I missed it.
No matter. I heard more potentially useful stuff than I could absorb from the speakers inside the Lecture Barn, some of which I wrote illegibly in my notebook. I heard 5 presentations, running the gamut of garden philosophy from Conceptural/Architectual (Topher Delaney) to Plant a Native and Save a Moth (Phil van Soelen). Roger Gossler and Tom Fischer narrated slide shows of plants that promote the kind of irrigation called drooling, while the team of Withey and Price wrestled in public with their notorious conundrum: Can a Garden Actually be “Sustainable”? They didn’t come right out and say it, but somehow in their calculations of how much energy it took to truck stone from Pennsylvania as opposed to shipping it on the train, the answer was immured.
I don’t want to know what it is.
Back in San Francisco yesterday I finished replanting a front garden on Clay Street which I had begun Thursday, a 30- foot long, 8-foot deep, congestion of half-acceptable plants 3 feet above the sidewalk. Two street trees, Chinese elms, put all into a considerable shade, such that Santa Barbara daisies prosper without one glimmer of spark. So I eliminated the daisies and the way too numerous francoas, repositioned the ferns, shovel-pruned the buddleia, shaped the pieris, created a suggestion of an outcropping with the dozen or so stones on site, and finally, scattered a spritz of white and lilac cyclamen roundabout. Helene, a co-owner of the house, came out just as I was in the last phase of clean-up and gushed, “Oh I love it love it love it. Oh, it’s so beautiful. Oh don’t you love it, too? It looks cared for. Oh I am so pleased. I am ecstatic.” Helene’s dial tone is exuberance; who but a grouch would mind that?
And I do like it, even as I stand back and see not one native plant, not one interesting exotic, not one bird or butterfly. There’s nothing here that any of the speakers would glance twice at. Most people walking by don’t glance once. But Helene saw it, and I do, too; an ephemeral beauty that, it might be argued, is as sustainable as anything gets.