Monday, June 11, 2007

The PDX Garden Experience

In the life of any self-respecting middle-class American dude comes a point when his heart turns to yard care. Perhaps the least interesting form of this syndrome is the obession with Lawn Care and its associated chemical treatments, tools, and grotesquely out-of-scale riding mowers. Let us speak no more of this.

To really embody the PDX experience [I hereby pre-emptively copyright the term "PDXperience"], though, you gotta garden. It's as much a part of being a Portlander for us early middle-aged types as bitching about how the Portland Police were total Nazis at your Anarchists for Bicycle-Friendly Greenspaces event is for those in their 20s. Or, like, tieing your dog up to the bike rack while you get your $4 coffee. It's part of our culture.

So, it was with glad hearts that Mrs. 5000 and myself drove up to reasonably beautiful Scappoose, Oregon this weekend to spend some quality time at one of our favorite nurseries. "We won't necessarily have to buy anything," I had reasoned. "It will just be a nice excuse to get out of town, and browse through the demo garden. Plus, they have cookies!"

Naturally, we bought quite vigorously. Here's the take:

They are, left to right: Penstemon "Margarita Bop," Melianthus "Antonow's Blue," Draconculus Vulgaris, and two of Delphinium "English Seedling." Don't look like much, do they? But then, why do I get all giddy just thinking about them?

Here's why:

plants are pets: Living things whose lives I've taken responsibility for. Their health and well-being depends on my care. I need to make sure they have adequate nourishment and water. And in return, if they aren't exactly what you would call "affectionate," they will still reward me by thriving and performing tricks such as blooming and producing interesting and attractive foliage.

plants are science projects: All of the plants I bought this weekend will grow to be at least five feet wide, or at least five feet tall, or both. IF I do everything right, and am willing to wait a few years. It's just freaking amazing.

plants are puzzles: Where do I put it so that it will look good? Will it need more sun/water/shelter/mulch than it will get there? What will it look like in five years? Should I cut it back or just let it rip? Will it spread? Will it spread out of control? If it looks great in July, what is that spot going to look like in January? How is it going to interact with the fifteen other plants around it?

plants are an art project: Because you are trying to compose an attractive image with them. Duh.

plants can be really freaky and weird: Of the Dracunculus, for instance, it is written: "On a mature inflorescence, the smell is reminiscent of rotting meat, designed to attract flies for pollination. The smell only usually lasts for a day but it is still not advisable to plant it right by your house." Oh hell yeah! (and yes, I am TOTALLY planting it right by my house.)

plants are a social lubricant: Don't know what to talk about? Walk around the garden. All sorts of conversation pieces. Plus, it's all peaceful and like that.

And plants probably have other excellent virtues, too, but that's enough for now. Suggest some in the comments if I missed anything.

1 comment:

Karin said...

Okay, here's another way you and I are very, very different.

While I enjoy a garden, I enjoy them like I enjoy children--I'm glad they're yours and not mine. I can see the beauty, I can find the joy, wonderment and peace and all that, but I have no desire to actually care for a garden of my own. If something requires my attention for its success, it's doomed and that just stresses me out.

That whole puzzle solving thing is enough to make me reach for the remote and a pint of Chocolate Peanut Butter Zig Zag Soy Delicious.

But hey, I'm glad Portland has a wealth of early middle-aged green thumbs around, because I do love a nice garden. Really.

And thanks for giving me insight into the minds of Those Who Get Plants.