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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Lucy Hardiman

April’s constant showers have made it difficult to spend much time in the garden let alone think about May’s flowers.  During a brief respite several weeks ago from the Northwest’s so-called liquid sunshine, I dashed outside to soothe my fevered brain and immerse myself in the sights, scents and sounds of the garden. A pair of Anna’s hummingbirds were whirling and cavorting overhead pausing only to drink deeply from the garnet-red tubular blooms of Cestrum newelii before darting away. I watched, spellbound as they danced on the breath of the late morning breeze. 

With my spirit renewed and feeling quieted and soothed I went inside to eat lunch. I randomly grabbed an unread garden magazine from the enormous pile by the bed and sat down to enjoy my salad and indulge in a quick read. Several paragraphs into a story I was stunned to read that in certain horticultural circles, in a city that shall remain nameless, gardening is perceived my some to be viewed as a “competitive sport.” Although the notion of gardening as anything other than an endeavor or art form that has its origins in the heart and soul of the garden maker is an anathema to me, there is more than a glimmer of truth to this assertion.

Over the course of the past several years there has been a noticeable increase in the game of horticultural oneupsmanship. In certain quarters, only the newest, most esoteric plants are worthy of inclusion in the garden. The fickle finger of horticultural fashion dictates what is hot and what is not in garden style. Gardener’s rush headlong to copy the latest trend in hardscape elements or art  and are so busy replicating what they have seen in a book or magazine, on television or on a garden tour that they are circumventing the creative process that is the foundation of gardening.

Gardening shouldn’t be about keeping up with the neighbors but creating your own, personal paradise garden, be it a garden ornamented with gnomes, pink flamingos, a container garden on a deck, an edible or an ornamental garden. It is about gardening from the heart.

I have always enjoyed visiting open gardens whenever possible. Any garden, no matter what kind or size, has something to teach us. We come away energized by meeting and talking to fellow travelers, those who understand and share our passion for plants and garden making. Visiting other gardens allows us to see different styles, plant combinations, sites, art, etc. There are as many different kinds of gardens as there are gardeners – that’s what makes this endeavor so exciting. However, we seem to have entered a phase where good manners have gone by the wayside.  Rather than celebrating with and thanking garden hosts for all the time, effort and courage that it takes to host an open garden a small cadre of guests find it de riguer to loudly critique each garden they visit, often in earshot of their hosts. How cruel and unnecessary!

As I climb down off of my soapbox and head back out into the garden I can only hope that we come to our collective senses. Gardening is what centers many of us, providing that inexplicable link between nature and nurture. It is what keeps me going when life gets tough – keeping me focused on what is real and, hopefully, important.

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