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Monday, December 11, 2023

Real Life — an artist’s eye


Gardening books, forty strong, march along my office shelves.

Picture books, patio design manuals, and organic pest control references are just the beginning.  One set, a collection of seven, arrived by chapters each month. Snapped into green binders, they sit at the ready for any question that might arise. When I pluck a tome from its perch, the pages take me on tour. Post-it notes peek out, marking preferences from gardens past; for gardens, like people, grow and change.

My first household gardens were vegetables, utilitarian and tasty. Vegetable gardens pair with my love of cooking, but tree, shrub and flower gardens speak to my need for art. The art of planting is purposeful, much as an expertly crafted quilt is stitched from many fabrics, but unites to form a harmonious whole. Exertions of time, thought and planning reward patient tillers of the soil with outdoor rooms of depth, dimension, and even awe.

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The popular platitude, “Bloom Where You’re Planted,” is wrong when it comes to gardening, and maybe people, too. Plants, like people, are individuals. They have food, light, and environmental requirements. Get these basics wrong, and the plant will whither in the worst case, or, perhaps as upsetting to an artist’s eye, mingle incoherently in zany patches of unrelated chaos.

When we planted our front garden, we set out to anchor our home to the earth, and create a context sheltered by natural beauty. Spring bulbs and flowering shrubs, thirsty for early sun, give way to the shady canopy of leafing summertime trees. Decades of growing time later, spindly, spent specimens were dispassionately pruned out, presenting new choices for filling holes in the portrait, or perhaps creating openings for contrasting voids, portals for fresh air and dappled brightness.

Though weeds are always with us, the tranquility of a well-tended garden settles the soul. Nature’s silent sentinels, bending faces toward nurturing light, pass peace to garden artists: healing messages from the wild.

© 2012 Patti Koltes

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Patti Koltes
Patti Koltes
Real Life © by Patti Koltes. Contact her at pkoltes@gmail.com.


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