By Jeff Salter
Our weekly topic is gardens — experiences, memories, and mental images.
I should begin with the admission that I’m no gardener. I admire those folks with green thumbs who know their soils and plants and tend them carefully. And I enjoy the beauty of a colorful garden. But I’m not cut out to garden myself because I lack the patience. When I plant something, I want it to grow — right now. And don’t piddle around for weeks or months. Grow now.
My mom grew beautiful camellias and azaleas in part of the yard where I grew up. She was a member of a local garden club and even did some grafting (which fascinated me). Each season, she’d spray for bugs. In another part of the yard, she had some roses and a magnolia tree. Elsewhere we had two or three fig trees. When nature’s weather didn’t provide sufficient moisture, she’d water those plants.
For at least one season (and possibly more) my parents planted a vegetable garden — probably about 30 X 30 feet. We had corn, beans, tomatoes, and likely other things. We kids were required to assist with weeding and picking, but I don’t remember much about it. That plot occupied roughly half of what later served as our “football field” and we made considerable use of it in that athletic capacity. Also softball, as I recall.
My own direct experience deals only with flowers. In kindergarten, I was involved in a smallish flower bed in front of our house. Don’t recall what got me interested, but looking back on it, I have to assume it came from kindergarten itself — you know, like a take-home project. In any case, my portion of that little flower bed had colorful pansies.
Years later (different city), outside my bedroom window was a circular flower bed in which I tended some sort of colorful flower… though I can’t recall what it was. About that same time, originating from a Cub Scout project, I dealt with a certain type of sunflower.
Though I have no green in either thumb, I have certainly noticed how invested some people are with their gardens and plants. They have a peaceful sense of serene harmony about them and the flora they nurture. I admire that and sometimes envy it.
Of course, the Garden of Eden is a powerful image — both for its initial purity and completeness… and (later) for its spoiled beauty when the human inhabitants ruined everything through disobedience and were banished.
In many movies, gardens are invoked as frightening places with dark, ominous shapes and arrays. When you venture into those gardens, you step into danger! The gardens which feature mazes are particularly excellent at invoking fear. Especially at night.
I have only a vague recollection of it now, but I recall reading a Hawthorne story about a garden with poisonous plants… and the professor’s daughter who was so imbued with that poison that a regular human couldn’t even touch her. Or something like that. Here’s the summary if you’re interested: http://www.enotes.com/topics/rappaccinis-daughter
Here’s a 2006 movie which combines garden and horror: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436343/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2
Don’t think I’ll watch it though!
Do YOU do much gardening? Do you view gardens as lovely and light? Or scary and dark?