Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Book passage/One Man's Garden
It's human nature, or at least a gardener's nature (which is not quite the same thing), to want to live at least one and preferably two climatic zones warmer than where he gardens. Thus, in Washington the gardener wishes he could grow the flora of New Orleans or at least Savannah. Such a gardener is forever trying to find hardy oleanders and Confederate jasmines. In Boston, though, they are not even thinking about oleanders or gardenias, but as someone recently wrote me from there, "What I would give if we were warm enough for evergreen hollies." There are gardeners in the far upper Midwest whose dreams are simply to be able to grow the rambler rose 'American Pillar'.
I spent a little time on a paradise island once, where the air was full of butterflies as big as saucers and the trees were hung with glossy vines laden with scarlet waxy flowers. It was there that I woke up one morning with a scorpion sitting on my chest. I had an excellent view of him until he stung, at which time I rose up with greater speed than usual, and this has colored my view of tropical paradises. The pain was no greater than that of a wasp sting, but an egg-sized lump swelled immediately over my sternum; it subsided in forty-five minutes, and I had no aftereffects beyond new insights into the folly of envying those in warm climates.
As Eudora Welty once wrote in her fiction (a country school-teacher's exhortation to her pupils as a tornado approached), "We're in the best place right here." That could be the wise gardener's motto. Wherever one gardens is the best place right here.
Henry Mitchell, One Man's Garden