Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh, What a Head This is...

"Mind, not outward form, prevails.

"A fox entered a theatre director's store-room, and found a human head skillfully finished, so elegantly made that the only thing wanting was breathing; in other ways it was like a living creature. Taking it up in her paws, she said: 'Oh, what a head is this! - But it has no brain!'" Alciato's Emblems #189

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that about cabbage, I’d be able to buy a cup of coffee, if I also had about five bucks. My garden contains much that is planned and much that is beautiful. Unfortunately, that which is planned is not beautiful and that which is beautiful is not planned. My horticultural education has been erratic, and mostly of the “now see what you’ve done” type. Which, you might think, would discourage me from ever ordering another packet of seeds from a catalog based on the flower or leaf color.

But if it’s true that there’s no teacher like experience, it’s safe to say that my gardening experiences have been dripping with wisdom. I’ve learned so much about what not to do, I’m almost out of mistakes. Pretty soon, the only stuff left for me to try will be all the right plants and the right ways of growing them. While reading garden books suffices in winter to replace actual gardening, I am still determined to cultivate my garden my way once I get back outside.

Besides, everything you ever read in any horticultural book had to first be learned from experience. For example, it was once believed that mistletoe (Viscum album) grew from bird droppings because it only grew high up in trees, never grew on the ground. Of course, we now know that mistletoe is spontaneously generated from the flies that grow in garbage, and from there, they fly up into trees to get their bearings, leaving small mistletoe seeds that also spontaneously generate in garbage with the flies. So don’t believe everything you read.

I’m ordering seeds anyway. New seed catalogs fill my empty head with visions of gardens to come. The pictures are so lovely, they often prevail over reason. I believe that’s exactly what my garden should do. While I absolutely follow the zone restrictions, most of my selection decisions are often based on what I find beautiful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


kate said...

My gardening education has been much like yours ... the 'oh look what you've done now' variety. I think it just encourages us to figure out something else in its stead.

'Tis the season for dreaming ... it's certainly what keeps me going through these long, dark nights.

Shady Gardener said...

You are so creative! Having made nearly all the mistakes one could make, I also must be headed for doing things right! :-) Fun post.

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