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.
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
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.