GARDEN REFLECTIONS





My favorite time of year is right now, this time when the seasonal dance of change really picks up the beat. Passing are the lazy, light saturated afternoons of late summer's swan song those hot, bright afternoons of stopping by the tomato patch & reaching under the strategically placed coffee can for the magic salt shaker, to sprinkle upon the perfectly sun warmed skins of perfectly ripened tomatoes and then biting into them as if apples, juice filling the creases of smile dimples before jumping off the chin and straight onto the shirt. Gorging myself until my belly is full and my satisfaction over runnith. Ah yes, how sweet the taste of sun-warmed Abundance!

I've been a gardener my entire adult life and I absolutely love tending my living, breathing, garden every summer. I think it started out as much as a practical endeavor as anything. You know, the best thing you will ever eat is something you've grown yourself. I believe, far and away, that's true. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how much my garden has changed over time and of how my perception of it and my connection to it has evolved. You know how they say that an owner and a pet will take on and share certain characteristics of one another over time? Well that's what I've come to believe is taking place between me and my garden. Let me explain.

I've always had it in mind that I wanted to live simply and close to the earth, and I have. Some have intoned 'monk-like' but it's a personal balance for me and believe-you-me I'm not known for denying myself too many earthly delights. At least the ones that still hold my interest. It's just that I don't need nor want a lot of stuff....or more importantly, too many diversions.
Simple.
When I started gardening, it was pretty much a labor of love. I worked hard digging in the dirt, which I physically enjoyed. And my first gardens were well planned, organized and orderly. They also were a point of personal pride due to all of the effort I put into them as well as all the pleasure I received from them.

As time rolled on and more and more I became a captive to my Art, the garden itself started to pale in comparison to my earlier efforts. And as I asserted myself more & more in the studio, the garden, without much notice on my part, seemed to change. And it did change, because my perception of it changed. And in my eyes, it slowly evolved from being a big creative summer project with many yummy dividends to taking on a life of its own basically as a moral support group for this highly impulsive artist. It became the yin to the yang of my steel shop. When I would get frustrated in the shop, I'd go to the garden and dig in the dirt or eat tomatoes off the vine or berries or whatever was ripe. Lost to me however were the larger ramifications of what was really taking place and that was that as I became more committed to my artwork, I had less time for my garden so without really realizing it as it was happening, the whole dynamic of my garden changed for the simple fact that my whole dynamic had changed. And in looking back, I see the variety of faces my garden has worn over the years and am reminded of it's simple uniqueness and of the different elements that have made it that way.

For instance I have a composter I made from an old barrel into which I faithfully dump all my organic kitchen & garden matter and each spring I spread the black compost over my garden. I've done it for years & years & every year I find the same old string of baby blue Mardi Gras beads buried in the blackness of the compost and I have no idea how they got there. Smile. So each year after spreading the compost, I toss the beads back into the barrel. It's become a Spring ritual unique to my garden.

Another thing I've noticed is that over time my well thought out & faithfully executed garden plan....well, just isn't anymore because I don't have one. The garden, you see, has taken over that responsibility all by itself. At some point I started growing almost nothing but heirloom plants. Another thing I did was to start patches of stuff like asparagus and berries, greens that reseed themselves and perennial flowers. All these plants come back pretty much by themselves each season and with the addition of spreading compost laden with heirloom seeds every spring, I am getting closer to the nirvana of a fully volunteer garden.

I've also noticed by allowing the garden to run things, it has taken on a...well let's just say a bit of a 'wilder' appearance. Not only do I not have a problem with that, I've come to revel in it. I've allowed and even promoted such plants as golden rod to skirt the borders of my garden because I simply love them. I let the morning glories run free after the veggie plants mature & they quickly take over like a conquering herd of barbarians cast upon the innocents. How deceivingly beautiful they are sporting their delicate blossoms of royal purple and heavenly blue, serving as the masks of blood lust. But the one element that made me start putting all the pieces together, at least as far as the idea of the garden and myself starting resemble one another, is the story of the trellises.

For some reason, maybe its the sculptor in me, I love to build bamboo trellises for the plants who need extra support to flourish. I think it all started with pole beans. I would build a series of 3 legged pyramids and attach horizontal connecting pieces which made the structure strong enough to support the exuberant bean vines. They were symmetrical and sturdy and I was always pleased to build them & have them in my garden. To the point where there were occasions where I would plant vine plants just so I'd have to construct a trellis system. What can I say, they made me happy. I even had someone comment to me once that it looked like a little Japanese man lived here & tended the garden.


Watashi no niwa e yokoso!

When I looked at my current trellis system the other day, as I was having the revelation that my garden & I were becoming one, I was immediately struck by how much my whole approach to trellis making has evolved. They are anything but orderly and are built to in such a way as to follow a wildness or a chaos of sorts. I'm now incorporating automobile grills in some of my trellises and I don't trim the bamboo anymore but let their full length sprout up from the garden floor and wave into the sky at offbeat angles. No tomato or bean plant will ever grow that high and that's not the point. The point is this that I am able to find or see an asymmetrical balance in nearly everything and that my idea of order has evolved. The world, at least as I have come to know it, is balanced by some sort of agreement between chaos and order... and I see it and ultimately will taste it, in the tomatoes growing on my trellis.

-Scott Cawood