Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wind Through The Trees

Our gardening heritage stems from an ancient kernel of admiration, respect, fear and deification of nature. How easy it is to forget this when browsing the orgiastic horticultural library that is the modern nursery for a new acquisition to round out a bed (oh, something evergreen, with scented flowers, grows fast but doesn't get too big...). A springtime nursery, with customers lasciviously stalking endless tables overflowing with petals, stamens and carpels; sleeves and noses dusted with incriminating pollen, resembles wild nature like pornography resembles courtship: it's all about reproduction, but somewhere along the way bits of subtlety and context have been lost.
So how does one regain the awe and respect of plants that led ancients to see in them symbols of their own gods? A couple suggestions: if you want to feel the calm beauty of plants as they interact with and help compose nature, sit beneath a mature Douglas Fir tree and listen to the wind blow through its boughs; if you want to feel a slightly more terrifying beauty and seriously question your chosen vocation, spend a whole day gardening beneath a forest of mature Douglas Fir trees and listen to gale force winds howl through their boughs, snapping off limbs like dry twigs for kindling. Try to concentrate on weeding as the sickening groans and cracks punctuate the air above you like some primeval air raid. Now place said trees on the side of a steep, supersaturated, landslide-prone bank and continue blithely raking up leaves as nature and the botanical world become vengeful gods around you. Hopefully, with the help of a little adrenaline, you might see: this is not about the right plant for your little yard; this is not about finding a Hosta with the same blue tones as your shutters; this is certainly not about countless potted plants served buffet style with helpful little name tags. The carefully arranged green things in your garden owe their existance to ancestors who survived to reproduce in a dangerous world.
It is not my intention to spoil your next trip to the nursery, but I must warn that if you do take my advice and cultivate this new perspective within you, you will not soon look at those rows of friendly, pretty plant genitals the same way.

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