You begin with a plan, a design as the experts call it. For me, it was blue: a blue themed garden that would complement the stately, semi-detached brick city row-house that my partner and I own: three stories, formal features including dentil moldings, bay windows with hexagonal hand-cut slate siding, pillars once adorned with Corinthian flourishes but now barren, yet elegant in their simplicity. Blue, I concluded, would accentuate the steel blue grey of the slate and the accompanying woodwork. And so I began my quest for blue flowers and blue and silver-hued leafed plants. Twice, the ghosts of gardens past rewarded me: one day a blue columbine emerged from the soil, the tiny seedling developing into a boisterous plant. Another day, I spied a tiny leaf that I immediately identified as hearty blue geranium. My plan, my design, was coming to fruition—both by rational design and, improbably, by divine gift.
But then my promiscuity reared its ugly head: there, in the corner of the garden shop, spring 2009, the new love of my life appeared. A dizzying array of delicious, melon and lemon diminutive flowers covering the wispy, grass-like outstretched arms of Lena Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) beckoned me (I bought two), and she found her way into my blue garden. And this year, the lithe masculinity of Kerria japonica pleniflora seduced me with his almost chartreuse stems, promising me an abundance of bright yellow flowers for my backyard shade garden in late spring and early summer. I desire him, think of him every day, and once this early spring cold snap ends, I shall go and claim him as all mine (unless some other whore got to him first).
So the best laid (um…that wasn’t intended) plans of men are, well, un-laid. Gardening is a process, never a final destination. It is properly speaking an act, a performance, a performative. Designs work, true; formal and semi-formal gardens are, necessarily, wholly reliant on them. Yet even in the most cultivated of gardens—I refer not to the elegant and staid English and French formal affairs, but yes, to the uber-austerity of the Zen-inspired Japanese garden—there remains the element of chance, the element of passion, that permits the unexpected to occur: the single cobalt Japanese iris that, perhaps by dint of squirrel, became separated from its kin and randomly appeared in an outcropping of carefully arranged rock. With all due respect to the English and French (save for those ever popular English cottage style gardens), that iris would be plucked for the cacophony and discordance that it introduces in its indiscriminateness. But the monk, the Zen, the Buddhist, and the garden whores amongst us would look upon this haphazard occurrence and smile…and most likely wonder: “is there more where this came from?”