I can vividly recall a certain day from second grade. I was trying to make an ice fort for my GI Joes out of the contents of a huge jar of glue and some Popsicle sticks I found in the art room closet. It would have worked, too, had the art teacher not stopped me with the question “Honey, what kind of fool are you?” This was back in the day when teachers could both call a student “Honey” and insult him freely. There was mastery in the way she did both at once. And since that day, it seems as though my life has been one long quest to answer that very question: What kind of fool am I?
It turns out that there are many answers to that question. My wife has more than a few thoughts on the topic as well. But I have found a new answer by thinking about Loree Bohl’s garden featured in Many Plants, One Garden. Loree is like many of us: fond of plants, and given to bringing home as many of them as possible. She adds and adds to her garden, and things only look better. You can see the lush beauty of her garden in every photo.
I, too, bring home a large number of plants. Some even get planted and survive. But my garden is nowhere near the level of Loree’s. There is more happening in her garden, and in any decent garden, than just a lot of plants growing. Loree has ideas on what plants should go in certain areas. I put things where there is open space. She reflects on what is working and what needs changing. In my garden, if a plant is doing fine, I don’t want to mess with it. If it is struggling, it will soon yield some open space for another plant that I just had to have.
A successful ornamental gardener needs to have an eye for the artistry of plants and how they work together. Such a person must have the courage to try, and when the attempt doesn’t work out, to try something different. Often it is this courage that helps develop the artistic eye. And it is the eye that sees that a garden isn’t about the number of plants it holds, but how those plants play a part in making the whole space more beautiful.
So to succeed, one needs to think, act, and reconsider.
Any fool can plant a lot of plants. And that’s the kind of fool I am.
—Steve Aitken, editor at large
From Fine Gardening #196
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