Tuesday, June 19, 2012
"The New York City of Gardens"
The 30th Annual City of Wilmington Garden Contest, hosted by the Delaware Center for Horticulture, was held this past weekend. Dubbed the "People's Choice Tour," this year's contest was somewhat different. First, the city was divided into quadrants; there will be first (and presumably second and third) prizes in each quadrant, as opposed to single first, second, and third prize winners in each category. Second, contestants did not register for particular categories as we did last year. Third, there were no judges; rather, ticket-purchasing members of the public will vote for their favorite gardens. Finally, the event was held over two days as opposed to one last year.
On Saturday, I saw two cars slow, and then drive off, obviously caring not to stop. According to those who actually walked around, the rear shade garden was a treat, so not stopping was their loss. (Sticks out tongue, shakes finger.) Sunday was the slower of the two days, thought by early afternoon the pace of visitors quickened.
Most were complementary (really: can you be anything but?!), which only amplified the silence of three individuals. Perhaps small city gardens are not of their taste. Perhaps the fact that my garden was situated in the same quadrant as the Museum District and the Highlands (noted for their stunningly gorgeous mini-mansions--NOT McMansions, as these are stately old homes--and mature gardens) made mine seem paltry in comparison. Perhaps they were simply tired of walking or driving around town looking for all of the other gardens in the contest tour.
Regardless, two particular types of comments resonated.
The first concerned the Buddhas. Everyone loved the Buddha brothers, and many a camera clicked away.
The second concerned the sheer diversity of plant material and species present in my gardens (both the front sun and rear shade gardens). Some might construe that comment to have been underlined by negative thought ("he's one of those gardeners; he just can't control himself...and his garden shows it!") but I honestly believe that no one walked away with such an impression. After discussion of my design and aesthetic, most seemed enlivened ("ah! yes, I see it!" or "I love how you paired these two; I wouldn't have thought such different foliage would work well but they do!" and, one of my favorites, "You are an artist. No, really, I mean it. The garden is your canvas.")
But one comment stands out above all others: "yours is the New York City of gardens."
For the NYC naysayer, that was most certainly an insult: that scurrilous city synonymous with my garden!
But I love New York. In my estimation, it was the highest compliment--and the woman who iterated it meant it as such, uttering it immediately upon entering the rear shade garden.
And she instantly understood me as a gardener and my garden, a morphology constructed around a locution of foliage of varying texture, shape, size, and color, and flowers assigned various diacritic and punctuation roles.
A babble of languages!
A phantasmagoria of visual, aural, cultural, and intellectual stimulation!
And a freedom and an exuberance to call my own.