God it was good to be alive. The breeze was from the east, the warm inland. Hortisexuals were in short shirtsleeves; there were even some naked knees. The tour consisted of 3 gardens in Pacific Heights created, in part or in toto, by Piotr Mazurek. The focus, according to the way the tour was advertised, was container gardening.
Some container that first garden, descending deck to view-of-Pisgah deck, down to a stream, gurgling as if it had just eaten the fatted calf, and finally to a lower patio showcasing sculptures…every pot on the decks, every nook of slope chockablock with the most winsome plant, many familiar, some not, masterfully composed. Did he say puka? Did I say perfect? Not quite. There was a leaf with hole. I imagined Piotr wishing he’d snipped it off.
“How do you get that begonia to look so good?” I asked, and he lifted his eyebrows just enough to signal, “Oh come on.”
I was not the only one struck by the buffedness; an explanation was wrangled. Monthly fertilizing with Miracle-Gro. James Whitmore flashed like an electrified leprechaun in my mind’s eye, under a spray of rainbow. Hmm. Should I? On the begonia?
The sculptures, I am happy to say, were mostly overlookable, the chief exception being the one suspended above the upper deck, looking like a body hung by his tongue. I didn’t look too closely.
The second, smaller garden, a short walk away, was even better: it was to Nature what Faberge is to free-range chicken. Piotr tried crowd control; take groups of 7, but we know how that worked. No matter. Each angle yielded some visual truffle; the blue hanging pots, the amber gravel, the echeverias blooming yellow amid polished gray pebbles. Periodically, he said, the client gets bored and wants something new so poof, out come the pebbles and the echeverias to be replaced by some other little wonder. “Doesn’t that break your heart?” someone asked,
“No, I just take the plants to my garden.”
I don’t remember the 3rd garden well. I was in chat mode. “Oh you’re so smart to bring a notebook to write things down,” said Suzanne.
“Yes, I am. Look. The last thing I wrote here is ‘Echeveria’. Very useful.”
I asked Demi if she liked the garden, adding, I know, a stupid question. She said it wasn’t. Well, getting pretty close to the edge. We talked about gardens that are about tranquility and calm, and gardens that are meant to dazzle, how it takes balance. She seeks tranquility foremost. Where in the scale did this garden fall? Did she say? I could imagine, without the buzz of Hortis, this dazzle in a tranquil mood, although maintaining the level of perfection might create some mental noise.
Barbara and I, after I failed to identify another plant, agreed that nature is imperfect. Perfectly imperfect. Wasn’t there something not natural about nature being perfect, sans bugs, slugs and gardener fugs? Neither of us could quite see ourselves doing the monthly Miracle-Gro routine. I’m not sure what other philosophical beachhead we reached, except that I got closer to justifying the parts of my garden that flirt with slovenliness.
Was there a touch of bitters in the chatter, a whiff of envy? What was there to envy, apart from lavish talent, energy, pruning wizardry, and budget? So, not really. The day was fine full as it was.
Upon leaving, I asked Jim, another gardener, if he learned anything. “Yes. Hire this guy.”
I came home to my garden and picked some more of the pippins before the squirrels get to them. Every year I’m paranoid about the harvest; worms, rats, now squirrels. This year, like every year, the crop is as much as I can handle happily. Saturday is pie-making day with Lily.