Gardening is Just Too Hard

Even if you spend many thousands of dollars to cover most of your whole yard in black plastic tarp and to cover it in river gravel, there is no guarantee of success at beating global warming at its own game, public responsibility or beauty.P2000274

It’s just plain hard, that’s what it is. Instead of beautiful sterile gravel, picture perfect like in a Japanese monastery, you get a dry land sandbar being reclaimed by weeds.

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Even if you spend more money yet and do the whole driveway in asphalt …

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… or concrete …

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… those darn weeds ruin your artwork. How can you have a desert when stuff grows in it?

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Plant pots are no solution. Or decorative wells.

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That peat moss looses water like a sieve, although it does achieve desert status quickly…

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… yet somehow doesn’t quite look like the hills of South Africa like it’s supposed to. I know. I tried marigolds in an old wheelbarrow last year, which was fine until they all withered up, and then the wheelbarrow fell over. What a mess. Here’s a new idea for the transition from irrigated gardening to desert temple:

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The entrance arbour, pegged in with wooden shakes, and honoured with a couple of plastic funerary urns. You don’t need plants to climb the arbour, you don’t need a path, you don’t need gravel, you just need the gesture. Priorities, that’s the thing. In the old Canada, you might have painted the peeling stain on that house before the wood was completely shot, but in the new Canada, the one in transition to a responsible global paradise, there are no rules, and gardening is just plain hard. Why, in the old days you might have sat under your cherry tree and enjoyed its coolness, while you sipped some wine you made of last  year’s crop, but now the wind might blow over your chinese manufactured shade arbour, and then what? Use the wine carboy for decoration, perhaps, but somehow there’s a nagging je ne sais quoi about the whole thing.

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Canadians, you see, do what they’re told. And don’t do what they’re told. All at the same time. And there’s no predicting which it’s going to be, except for disobeying rational traffic rules, neglecting to wear life jackets, and throwing cigarette butts out the window in fire season. That’s predictable, but gardening, no, that’s just plain hard. Sometimes you just have to give up halfway. Those damn rocks are heavy, and they don’t come cheap! Saving the planet, that can’t just be on the shoulders of one person now, can it?

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And if you want to beautify things a bit, say, if you’re a professor of French literature, perhaps, living in farming country, why …

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… your flower stand gets to sit beside a farmer’s bin of junk plastic (to make the soil hotter than it is already) and junk irrigation piping (to deliver water more efficiently) and it all makes for a nice effect, but maybe not the intended one. Such is life in the age of steampunk, by which I mean the age in which gestures are cobbled together from every known source and applied as shakily as the spray from a can of paint on a wall, and with as little regard for context..

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In the city of Kelowna, the city pays to have any such spontaneous display of territory painted over in defence of private property rights and public safety.wall

As you can see above, human weeds are to be dealt with quickly, although not consistently. The vegetative ones not at all. Still, someday it will all look like the image below, in the alleys where Kelowna’s prostitutes hang out, waiting for men to wander over from the parking lot or the tourist street with its street bars and chic bistros …

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It is just freaking hard to inherit a country based on biology, rebellion and renewal and to turn it into expressions of  artistic and legal order. Humans are as bad as weeds.

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Still, sometimes you achieve perfection, with order and flowers, or at least one flower …

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Of course, one prostitute was waiting for custom on the wall facing this one. Hey, a girl needs flowers, doesn’t she?

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I have been reminded lately that to become a popular writer I need to write about people, not landscape. People love to read about other people. We live in a social universe. Yeah, they’re right.

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Unfortunately, it is built upon the earth, and biological history, and those things just won’t obey, darn it.

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They just won’t. Gardening is hard.

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Hans Holbein

Sheesh. We’ve gone from this human habitat …

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… to this one, with razor wire and open temptations …

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… in only 150 years. Sure, more law and order, that will do the trick.

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At the risk of sounding immature, might it be, just maybe, that money can’t buy happiness?

P1810542 And urban planning systems can’t buy gardens?P1790236 And that the image below is not a romantic, ruined, farm building but a social ruin, from the weed-sprayed bottom land, to prevent (sic) weeds from growing on it, to the weed-choked, unproductive grassland on the hill?P1810479

Remember that, next time you get attracted to an image of luxury built on water in the desert. (click)

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Or feel like you might like to romanticize it like this:

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You are the one being gardened, and that is hard work. It will take a lifetime to fit into your plot, but you’ll make it in the end. Don’t worry.

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Chief John Chukuaskin Ashnola’s Grave, Upper Keremeos

This was once the old Smlqmix village of 2000 people. Now it’s Keremeos, the haunt of 1330. Progress, folks!

Someone might knock the cross off, yeah, but the weeds will still be there, hiding the gravel bit just to the left and the highway just to the right. That’s comforting, right? For all of this, I have three words: context is all. It starts here:

University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, Kelowna

I think we’d better start getting serious, fast.

3 thoughts on “Gardening is Just Too Hard

  1. Спасибо. Всё информативно, убедительно, и…грустно. И у нас, всё тоже. Особенно эти надписи, которые не закрасить и не искоренить, потому что они в мозгах тех, кто их делает. А это зависит не только от общей культуры, но и от личной. А каждому в голову не залезешь. Поэтому всегда будут моральные уроды, анонимно выражающие свою закомплексованность в надписях на стене. Это бич времени, и никто не знает, как с ним бороться. А на счет камней… С природой трудно спорить, тем более бороться. С ней можно только дружить.))

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    • Writing on the walls is about ownership of public space, but it is spoken in poverty, because mostly what gets written is either silenced (ie the commons is silenced) or is, ultimately, just people writing their names. We need a new story, to give people voice in a more meaningful way. Humans don’t obey very well. The question is always “why?” Creative work seems to be a goal, but neither graffiti nor the antidote are particularly creative.

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  2. We spoke about gardening recently when I commented on a previous blog posting. I have just returned from a trip to Italy where the people have been creating gardens for over 2,500 years. They felt like very private affairs on apartment terraces, rooftops etc. Italians are very extravert but gardens seem like an expression of inner life. We English like to use them to tell others about ourselves. We are quite introvert but our gardens can be an expression of our face to the world.

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