You know when you see those little groups of men working on the road, where only one appears to be working and the rest are standing around? Though I had never before considered the possibility, I now think it is entirely possible that the one who is working is the guy who believes that only he can use the tool correctly. Everyone else is standing there trying to be supportive.
This is how the garden construction was at our house yesterday.
Things are perking up in the front garden, and we got the back garden planted. This circumstance caused me to think about the contrast between the two, which is in many ways a picture of the contrast between my husband and me.
Or one of them. We balance one another in a number of ways.
The front garden is intended to look wild and natural and sort of as though it were a particularly lavish little woodland glade that ended up in front of my house. #2 son and I planted it a couple of years ago, and I add stuff every year.
My husband never criticizes this garden. He waters it sometimes, and helps me weed it, and tolerates it.
I like them all squished in there together.
When the perennials need a little help, I put in a flat of impatiens, which will spread out soon and cover all the exposed soil.
I like the crowded effect, the enormous variety of textures and shades of greens, the rambunctiousness of the flowers in summertime.
The centaurea — bachelors buttons or raggedy sailors might be what you call them — are really too tall for the front, but I let them bloom there for a while. I planted them in the back years ago, but they apparently wanted to be in front (where there might be a few rays of sun), and I have a few volunteers out there every year. They get cut for the house once the rest of the flowers are blooming profusely.
Everything spills out onto the path and looks modestly riotous.
I would do this in the back, too — and I suppose to a limited extent I do, since I have planted roses and herbs in just such an untidy confusion between the house and the vegetable garden. I also encourage the hedge of brambles and honeysuckle on the other side. And I have planted daylilies and zinnias and irises here and there, too. These flowers might not really have all ended up out there together on their own, but by now they have a fine jungly look which I like to imagine looks natural.
My husband does not want his garden to look natural. There is plenty of nature around. His garden is a work of art.
We built the edges (or rather, he did, while the rest of us watched admiringly), dug in plenty of humus and composted manure, and planted the vegetables in nice rows and blocks. The one plant by itself at the front is basil, because there is only one. He tried to let us say where to put things and to be open to suggestions and all that, but we can tell it is artificial. When I suggested putting in some beans, he said “Beans?!” with the tone of voice Chanthaboune would immediately recognize as calling for the rejoinder, “Someone’s been making sock monkeys?!” I should have planted the beans earlier if I wanted beans. However, we will be adding cucumbers. A space has been left for them.
The whole thing has been thoroughly watered in, and we should have plenty of nice vegetables all summer. Much more and better vegetables than if I had been in charge of the planting.
I have to confess that even while my husband was raking this lovely rectangle into Zen smoothness, I was thinking about messing it up. I could plant trailing nasturtiums around the edges. I may or may not resist the temptation to do so.