Thursday, January 27, 2011

Education of the Garden

Grammatically, "education of the garden" seems to make no sense. Is an anonymous observer receiving an education of the garden (in which case the title should probably, and most appropriately in a grammatical sense read "education about the garden")? Is the garden being educated? If so, how? By what? By whom?

Given the closure of classes today because of the foot of wet, heavy snow that fell upon northern Delaware last night, I thought I would dispose of grammar and the spirit of education and use words improperly!

But, silliness aside, it is true: my garden--no matter how inanimate, no matter how incapable it is as a whole of "learning" in any active, substantive sense--received an education this morning. It earned, by virtue of its location, a doctorate as a matter of fact.

A Ph.D.

Yes: a Ph.D. as in "Pile it Higher and Deeper."

Look at all of this snow piled upon the improbably named sun-garden!

Look at the snow's effects in the shade garden: Viburnum, laden with snow and having dropped from its aerial perch by over 3 feet, now shelters the Buddha; the pendulous branches of Kerria japonica have an unexpected cousin in the neighboring Nikko Blue Hydrangea (both pictured at the top of this post, though seen in this wider shot); and the "sea anemone" that has become the Lady in Red Hydrangea (pictured below, in the foreground) appears less radiant, less spectacular than she did in the last snowfall as considerably more snow buried most of her medusa-like appendages (and let us not mention Nandina, behind her, reduced to a mound of snow).

The sight of the snow is delightful, magical, and even transformative. I think for most adults snow brings out the child in us, if but for a fleeting moment (though most adults I know will not admit this, preferring instead to complain and momentarily kvetch about inconveniences or sore backs from shoveling) before the realization that we need to reschedule meetings; possibly find daycare or take an unexpected "sick" day from work to watch the kids because no daycare was to be found; dig out the car and the driveway and the walkway and the garbage bins; and all other winter-esque chores associated with the falling of snow.

But for me, the moment of sophomoric giddiness dissipates when I realize that the snow is just too heavy to throw onto that patch far from the walkway where the herbaceous plants once proudly and dramatically stood, as opposed to on or near the rosemary or dwarf yew or Euphorbia which so graciously remain with us throughout the harsh winter months. Yes. That is the moment of truth, the inestimable moment in which a youthful fascination with winter immediately metamorphoses into a disgust or hatred. I think of the crushed Creeping Phlox or my beloved, but now crushed, Blue Star Lithodora (both of which remain with us, too, throughout the winter). I see the Lena Scotch Broom, burdened under mounds of heavy snow, and I try to rescue her delicate (but ever resilient) outstretched branches from the weight of matter by sliding my shovel under as many wispy branches as possible to shake the snow from its icy grips.

Yes, the snow plunges us into a veritable, cumbersome existential crisis--to bury alive or not to bury--that is pitted against another crisis--to walk sans encumbrance of ice or snow, or not to walk. We all know the answer. And for the tenacious gardener, there is always the city ordinance that demands property owners remove snow from passageways (and not throw it into city streets) under threat of monetary penalty for failure to do so.

And so there you have it, dear reader: the education of the garden. I piled it higher and deeper onto my beloveds, hoping they will forgive and reward me with blooms all season, from the earliest moments of March when Pieris graces us with its tendrils of miniature bell-shaped flowers to the last burning embers of sun in November just strong enough to sustain the hardy chrysanthemums before the death-knell of frost.

In the meantime, I'd better get back to the kind of work that demonstrates my own Ph.D., of whichever sort you interpret.

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