A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Shoulder To Shoulder Gardening & The No Haircut Haircut
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

IN 1988, two years into our new house with garden, I remember Hilary was studying on the lawn. I was excited as I was taking pictures with my large RB-67 mounted on a tripod. There was a view under the hawthorn tree with tulips and a hosta that was specially handsome. I asked Hilary to take a look through the viewfinder. Her answer was terse, "I am not interested in your garden." And that was that. Perhaps I am trying to get even by giving Rebecca (and recently, Lauren) potted roses, hostas and a rare Rhododendron 'Golfer'. Rebecca tends to her back patio garden and in the spring I show up with bigger pots to transplant the roses. We prune them together. I bring good dirt and some manure. To induce (so they say) new basal shoots on the roses I bring a mixture of magnesium sulphate (epson salts) and alfalfa meal.

My guess is that Rebecca's neighbourhood friends must think her strange to have her own garden. The irony here is that my mother gardened and I played a lot in our Buenos Aires garden. I climbed the many plum trees to feast on the fruits but avoided eating from my father's kaki (persimmon) tree. But I had strung a rope from the tree to a wraught iron fence and I zoomed down using a y-shaped branch. While I was too young to be really interested in the garden my mother's plants registered in my memory so we have iris and calla lillies in our Athlone garden to remember my Buenos Aires garden. There are other plants but they will not grow in our climate.

So now as Rosemary and I prepare the garden for the Ballet BC House and Garden Tour for the other weekend I think of my mother and how she would love to discover our plants and what she would feel on seeing Rebecca and Lauren play in it. Their mother, Hilary is interested in medicinal herbs but the garden still does not seem to faze her. I might have to wait for her to buy her first house and hope that it has a garden so that I can feel that somehow this family garden interest is being transfered.

I also think of my friend W. George Schmid. I wrote about him here. Rosemary is stressed and worried. We brag that our garden is a "shoulder to shoulder" garden. George came up with the term that defines a garden with beds that show no dirt as plants lean on each other and weeds are supressed. Will it be, indeed, a shoulder to shoulded garden by May 24th and 25th when we open the garden? We hope that yesterday and today's rain coupled with the coming sun will make our plants stretch out.

Preparing a garden for an opening is much like getting a no-haircut haircut. You want to make the garden look manicured but not manicured recently. Will I mow next Thursday? Time will tell.


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