You see some gardens and they’re just fantastic, aren’t they? Sometimes they complement a similarly spectacular house, sometimes they look like they may be hiding or at least drawing attention away from a neglected looking hovel. Either way, oftentimes a lot of energy is put into gardens.
Like clothes in some ways, into which some folks invest a great deal of time and effort in order to enhance or compensate. It may be just a hat, a pair of shoes, or it may extend to an entire outfit that speaks a particular style and announces a set of deliberate choices.
Offices, too. You are given an office that’s the same as almost everyone else’s, a corporate cube featuring bland furniture and décor chosen for its longevity, its stain resistance, and its compliance with health and safety regulations. So you attempt to personalize it; anything from the odd picture to rugs, coffee machines and maybe even special furniture helps. You stamp your individuality on it just enough so even if visitors suspect that your building is full of interchangeable corporate drones, you’re definitely not one of them.
Then you go home and if you’re lucky you have a patch of ground you can call a garden. Here’s another opportunity to create and extend your personality into your surrounding space, to compare and contrast with the neighbors.
But wait. You go to the garden center and there’s a collection of stuff that you see everywhere, especially in the ‘native plants’ section. Damn — have to do some hardscaping as well, maybe a pretend dry stream bed or a water feature. No — too many water features. Dare I do a round bed? Would a tree get too big or drop too many leaves? What does partial shade actually mean, and do I have it? This is not so easy as laying that rug from Target in the office.
Perfume. Here we exploit the sense of smell instead to impress our personality on our surroundings. In this case it can be dangerous to be too different, so we usually play it safe and buy a smell that’s popular or is associated with people we admire.
Haircuts — maybe the toughest to get right. How many times has a $15 supercut failed to make me look like Paul Newman? At least as many times as an extra splash of Old Spice has failed to make up for it.
Spectacles. How come some people look like their spectacles were designed for them, or somehow sprouted from their very dna, when any pair we try on look about as natural as a welding helmet? Nevertheless, the massive selection of available glasses and their immense cost is evidence of our common struggle to make an uncommon impression in the world.
So — locations, streets, houses and apartments, gardens, hats, clothes, shoes, glasses. Smells and sounds, offices, haircuts, custom coffee drinks. All opportunities to make our mark on our surroundings, announce our individual presence, separate ourselves from the masses.
We extend our boundaries; whether just beyond our faces in the case of a new pair of glasses, as far as the street with our front garden, or into unbounded space with a pungent choice of perfume.
And that’s what gardening’s all about.