September 22, 2003
Going native

Joel was interviewed by Jenny of 111:2, and made a point about California's beauty:

I prefer that people who come here don't try to make it like it was back at home -- all green trees and grass. You need to develop an appreciation for the khakis, the wheats, the turquoises, and the olives when it comes to color out here. I wish developers would stop trying to make us into New England.

I couldn't agree more, especially since it always winds up looking like a second-rate New England. I know from my gardening days that while constant care might keep a plant looking OK in a climate that really isn't suited to it, you just can't replicate the vigorous and happy look of a plant that's getting the right climate 24/7. And since most homeowners can't even give their plants that amount of care, they end up looking pretty sad.

My mother went on this learning curve after we moved here from Pennsylvania. We inherited a garden that was already on the East Coast model (lawns, birch and plum trees, etc.), and she tried to add some of her favorite eastern plants, such as ornamental roses that were constantly plagued by black spot. Over the course of time and after a few droughts, though, we started getting into the California aesthetic -- the lawns got replaced by flagstones and ground cover, the plum tree by a crabapple, the roses by a Syrian species of hibiscus.

California's natural beauty is certainly more austere than that of the east. I remember when I'd go to college in Massachusetts after a rainless summer in California, the greenery seemed almost obscenely lush, like a jungle. But that's the tradeoff you've got to make: move to sunny California and adjust your aesthetics, or stay back home and learn to love the rain.

Posted by Camassia at September 22, 2003 12:13 PM | TrackBack

When I was new to gardening, I read in one of the many books I consulted that "gardening is all about control: control of what grows and what doesn't, where it grows, and how it grows--tall, flowery, shrubby, etc."

I resisted this idea at first, because I wanted to think of a garden as a natural place full of happy plants. Later I understood that "control" was another name for all the work gardeners do. Now, after many years, I'm more inclined to see cultivation of a garden as a meeting-place between me and the natural environment, and if I'm ever foolish enough to get into a power struggle with nature, I'm put in my place.

There's an old adage that I can remember only the gist of, so forgive me if you know it with different details:
If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk.
If you want to be happy for a week-end, kill a pig.
If you want to be happy for a week, get married.
If you want to be happy forever, create a garden.

Posted by: anne on September 23, 2003 09:26 AM
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