Monday, May 30, 2011

Divisions: The Thin Blue Line

Gardeners often speak of divisions. This is not to suggest that gardeners like mathematics, or speak in a private language framed by numerology. No, though I do surmise it may have to do with dollar signs and being "cheap." After all, garden centers (not Lowes or Home Depot, but those local specialty garden shops and nurseries) charge premium prices (albeit for very fine, very robust, generally disease resistant plants),and in these times we may feel the need to "economize."

"Division" refers to the act of digging up a plant and breaking it up (dividing) into smaller plants, each new plant equipped with foliage and roots (click here to see a brief video on how to divide perennials, or to read this article). The gardener can share these with others; keep the plants in one's gardens manageable by controlling plants' tendency to overcrowd; and expand one's gardens themselves by getting more plants for one's money.

Yesterday, restless, I ventured outside at dusk--at the fleeting moment of time when blues, especially, glow in the not quite daylight/not quite darkness. And there I saw a different kind of division: my own thin blue line.

I seem to recall the UN peacekeeping presence in Cyprus described as a "thin blue line" separating the Turkish occupied north from the Greek south. The description is apt: blue helmeted UN peacekeeping forces occupy a swath of land stretching across the island country, a buffer between the parties, both a symbol of the de facto division of the country and a symbol of the inability of the parties to come to a final agreement.
[Side note: A search for "thin blue line" yielded no direct application of the term to Cyprus, though it did produce references to police forces as the "thin blue line" between law abiding civilians and criminal elements and non-law abiding citizens.]

My thin blue line does not separate combatants, but rather the warmer yellows (Corydalis Lutea and the now blooming Sedum ellacombanium) from the calming, meditative whites (of the Siberian Iris, the Diamond Tiara Hosta, Husker Red Penstemon, and Feverfew).

It begins with the Blue Fescue (or Festuca glauca) Grass, extends to the Maynight Salvia, Spiderwort, and the other Blue Fescue Grass, onwards to Blue Star Lithodora (difficult to see in the photo, and at the very end of its flowering season), the Variegated Siberian and Purple Siberian Iris (now both out of bloom), and, on the other side of the garden, the Provence Lavender (though it is neither blue nor in bloom, but it does echo the color).

But no garden deserves to be divided along such stalwart, impenetrable lines. Colors must flow. The eye must be allowed to wander with ease. And so the gardener must visualize in the language of politics infiltrations, spies, and irregular combatants, and place them strategically in the garden to unite the parts and create flow. The red berries of Hypericum (St. John's Wort) and the chartreuse of Lysimachia on the "white side" are my irregulars, and converse with the warm colors on the other side of the thin blue line. The blues themselves, later in the gardening season, will begin to melt into the lower bed as the blue/purple day lily blooms and the Tall Purpletop Verbena rewards us with its July 4th fireworks-quality flowers.

And when the recently relocated Rose Mallow blooms later this summer--right in the middle of the thin blue line--well, then, the blast will no doubt resonate and the effect of the thin blue line will be lost.

For now, though, I enjoy seeing my little blue headed flowers march not in formation, but staggered, through my garden, drawing my eye and my mind into the future, imagining how the garden changes. 

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