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August 24th 2009

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    I used to work with a poetic man who had great ability.  In a former life he had been a fund raiser.  I believe he took to the life of a jobbing gardener because it gave him an opportunity to drift around Washington DC hunting down perfect fried chicken while avoiding the various hearts he had broken.  

    Occasionally we would pause to do a little weeding, plant the odd shrub and meet with what we grandly called clients.  Here we would enter the home through the front door and engage in that endless discussion that so often emerges from the world as described by coffee table books, advertising agencies and by politicians.

    Of these clients, those who had come to the city from colder places wished to have replicated the stability of the North in their gardens.  Those who came from warmer places wished to see the long bloom and color of their own heritage.  

    They all had a new vision of home, recreating some mystical moment, and usually they wanted creativity applied to recent consequence of long and painful contact with the construction industry and those who regulate the construction industry.  Never did we work for someone claiming to be born and raised in the city, they generally were far too cynical for us and anyway they knew better than to actually try to do do anything.

 

    

    On a hot day, there was nothing better than to sit in air-conditioning, surrounded by magnificent picture books and fictional magazines and contribute to the philosophy of planting.  And my friend was a master of the "gentle aside".  A subtle innuendo suggesting the client might not be able to afford us, which usually ensured a second or third or fourth visit.  

    I always knew the direction of conversation when my friend referenced a plant called "Meadowsweet".  Beyond the imagery of its name, neither he nor I ever really knew what "Meadowsweet" was, but often it became that plant which so perfectly doctors a glamorous photograph and yet which is not quite in focus, making identification impossible to all but those who claim the status of expert.  Which status was central to our tenuous position in this most transient community.

    Usually discussion would be cut short because my friend's acute senses would suggest he was within a couple of miles of freshly fried chicken.   Sometimes though, these discussions would be cut short by a client who had the audacity to rudely point out we had no idea what we were talking about.

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tim candler

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(Georgetown Washington DC)