Threats to the garden—to the integrity of plants, to the architectural elements, to the design itself—come in many forms. Plants confront mold, mildew, blights, fungus, insects, slugs, snails, hail, snow, heavy rain, clay soil, sandy soil, and lack of nutrients, among others. The garden’s architecture suffers from hail, snow, ice, heavy rain, roots, heaving clay soil, and rot (if wood is the preferred medium for trellises and the like), among others. And the design itself is under constant threat by omnipresent weeds, pesky neighbors and neighborhood residents who may walk by and pick flowers at will (as happened to my tulips and paper whites early last spring) or rip out a plant in anger or love (as happened to one of my white chrysanthemums last autumn), and by the gardener him or herself. How many times have you gardeners out there (yes, I assume someone is reading this) decided your design isn’t working, or you no longer like it, and thus assume the personality of the Intrepid Realist gardener (about which I wrote in an earlier blog entry) and begin destroying all that hard work?
Animals, too, pose threats to gardeners. One particular species, the rare, regal, and exceptionally handsome Gramsci-cat, poses “Severe, Red level,” Homeland Security type threats to my beloved hosta collection and my (rather expensive) Japanese Hakone grass. Notice the contraption I had to build to protect what remained of it after his initial intake.
Gramsci loves to sun his belly. In the spring, as I caught him doing this morning, he likes to catch the sun in the seemingly-bare beds. This might be no cause for concern; but for all those hostas spikes, his rather hefty body acts like a drum-roller, crushing innocent young sprouts as he repeatedly rolls over and over, purring as he does, perhaps thinking his actions are one damn good massage.
Gramsci also has a different idea of watering and fertilizing than me. Many times while cleaning the detritus of winter from the beds did I inadvertently grab a rather wet and mushy pile of Gramsci-fertilizer (always deposited, it seems, on top of the hostas). I will refrain from posting photos, which is easy to do as most of Gramsci fertilizer ended up on my hands.
And then there is the issue of Hakone grass. Gramsci thinks he is a dog, and very much acts like one, but I am also convinced he is one third sheep for he grazes all day long on grass (this is a good thing since I have failed to purchase a lawnmower and am forced to cut my small patch of grass with scissors—ahem, yes, scissors—or shrub sheers if the grass is particularly high). But Gramsci, like his daddies, has expensive taste; hence my beloved Japanese Hakone grass may not be long for this world.
But Gramsci is my gardening-buddy. He’s with me every step of the way, purring me on, helping me identify delicious grasses or decide where not to place plants. Like his namesake, Gramsci subverts dominant paradigms. More importantly, he permits me the opportunity to see through, and slowly dispose of, my hegemonic ways.