February 1, 2007
EVERYONE'S A CRITIC
Garden Quote : " this is the garden : colors come and go, frail azures fluttering from night's outer wing strong silent greens serenely lingering, absolute lights like baths of golden snow. "- e.e. cummings
Can April be far off ??
True story : A thief broke into the home of a famous artist in London and stole his VCR, TV, stereo, etc. , leaving millions of dollars of abstract paintings hanging on the wall. The title of the article summed it all up : " Everyone's a Critic. " My kids call me a " garden snob " because I frequently critique others gardens. Can't help it. I'm obsessed.
After visiting the beautiful gardens of England and Ireland I was more impressed with the unpretentious ones of the humble cottages than those of the grand mansions. Without exception, every cottage had a charming garden filled with roses, poppies, daisies and other colorful flowers.
Chicago's motto " Urbs in Horto " ( City in a Garden ) is more talk than substance as far as I'm concerned. As an avid gardener and a garden designer I've visited numerous neighborhoods without spotting so much as a flower . Many front yards contain overgrown evergreens on their last lap and deciduous shrubs that are probably older than Moses.
Then there are the newly built McMansions in the trendy neighborhoods with no front yard at all, a real pet peeve of mine. The public parkway, full of huge trees with extensive root systems, is their little planting area. And they want a lush landscaped parkway. It's like a story a beautician friend of mine told me about a little old lady with one hair on her head who came into her shop and said " make me gorgeous. " With what ?
After surveying one potential client's parkway I told her that I couldn't plant the huge shrubs she wanted under the Norway Maples due to their impossible root structure. I could see she wasn't about to take no for an answer. OOOKAY, take a deep breath and remember your genteel Southern upbringing. Don't lose it now. " " Tell you what, my dear, why don't you take this ax and shovel , dig a 2 x 3 foot hole and I'll be right behind you and drop the shrub in. "
Well butter my butt and call it a biscuit but I thought she'd eaten green persimmons her mouth was so puckered. I think my public parkway planting days are over. I just can't deal with them anymore. A person's gotta draw the line somewhere.
A few of my fellow designers and I decided to go to one of Chicago's oldest and best known garden walks a few summers ago. The neighborhood was filled with beautiful old homes and Million dollar plus McMansions. Out of the more than 30 gardens we visited, all of us agreed that only one or two could be even remotely considered well done. Impatients were the most popular flowers of choice and like the critics we are we renamed the event " The Impatient
Walk . " We also were of the opinion that we were ripped off because we got nothing for the money we paid to get in .