Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letting someone else be the star (the plants)

End of the season Zinnias
The more I work with plants the more they shine.  They do what they naturally do and I stand back and enjoy the miracle.  People don't come to the Arboretum to see me, they come to see the plants.  That changes my perspective on the word 'show.'

The whole thing is kind of miraculous.  We don't invent plants, we don't sew or glue them together.  We plant the seed and it sprouts with a whole life plan laid out in its genes. Once it sprouts I become more an audience member than a performer, (well maybe a stage hand...)  Becoming a gardener really means becoming a guardian, observer and a care-taker...  I think this must be a little like motherhood....It's as easy to figure out the probable growth habit of a plant as it is to know the probable development of a human being, but the beautiful part is that we can't predict each detail, each reaction, we don't know exactly how things will turn out. That is what makes living things individual and significant.

The gardening season is winding down and we are onto tasks of cleaning, cutting, raking, & mulching. I have nearly worn out my gardening shoes and more than one pair of gloves.  All summer I kept the insect repellent industry in business, finally mastered the start -up of the leaf blower (in case you haven't been keeping up with my progress, read the Blog from July 10th -- this is BIG!) I love my Felco pruners and pretty much recovered from the ailment I like to refer to as 'gardener's shoulder.' I can spot poison ivy a mile away and so far am still avoiding the itchy rash. I can identify nearly every plant in the Friendship Garden and know how to repair irrigation. It's been fascinating see how the grasses shine in Fall, bulbs and trees are stars of the Spring, the sun-lovers take the leading roles in Summertime and the berries provide color on shrubs you never notice until it snows. Near the top of my "best things about my job at the Arboretum list" are the things I'm seeing about life reflected from the plants themselves...

leaves from a Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
For example: Contrary to my former belief, it turns out that Autumn is not only about death or endings.  Autumn is just a costume change. The leaves don't fall off the tree because they've lost their will to live.The falling leaves actually represent the tree's intense tenacity for staying alive. The tree knows that soon the only available water will be frozen, so it lightens its load and sends its 'kids' (acorns, seeds etc.) into the world to propagate, close to the ground where they can root.  Then it stops performing photo synthesis, which is the reason the bright reds and yellows on the leaves are revealed.  The tree sends its decorators (leaves) out for the season and sets its buds before it gets cold.  Then it uses the stored energy (glucose) as insulation for winter....Just when we think the leaves are 'dying' -- the tree is actually doing what it needs to do to keep living.

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
Marcel Proust 

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