Rake Season

In autumn sunlight gilds the birches at the edge of Green Lake in Seattle.

Far from the maddening mud fight of politics, the world of gardening spins steadily along. Days shorten, temperatures drop, and leaves skitter across the lawn.

Gardeners are immune to the vagaries of political power struggles. Regimes and movements come and go. Conditions get better or worse, fortunes rise and fall almost as predictably as the tides.

Meanwhile, in the quiet backwaters of real life, gardeners carry on. We rake and clip and mulch and dream of other summers, other springs. It’s not all roses.

Murderous storms, withering heat, deadly cold and relentless bugs provide a gritty ballast to keep even the giddiest gardener from harboring illusions of success. But there are moments.

For people caught up in the madness of horticulture, the troubles of the fractious grasping world recede to a background static. We sympathize with the passion and the agony of those trying to make the world a better place. But the world is such a big place. Perhaps if everyone made a start in their own backyard?

For me, the madness of gardening began as a child. I planted radishes and Indian corn, not from any desire to eat either of them, but because it was an adventure to plant a seed and watch what happened. My gardens in the last several decades have seldom lived up to my dreams, but my dreams still sustain me when reality fails and negativity don’t pull me through (thanks be to Bob).

Yet even the most enthusiastic gardener occasionally yearns for a little encouragement from a kindred spirit. I have been blessed with some wonderful gardening friends, but the constraints of time and distance limit our time together. However a good book can work wonders. I recently discovered “Garden People: The Photographs of Valerie Finnis,” by Ursula Buchan. Published in 2007, this remarkable collection documents the colorful and personal gardening styles of legendary British gardeners by one of the greatest of them, Finnis herself.

Her unmatched passion for horticulture and for sharing and encouraging others is an inspiration.
As this gardening season shuts down and another dark winter looms with forecasters predicting all sorts of weather-related mayhem, I plan to hunker down in the company of “Garden People” and dream of other springs.

At the National Cathedral the Bishop's Garden offers a glimpse of classic British garden style.
At the National Cathedral the Bishop’s Garden offers a glimpse of classic British garden style.


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