Taking the Agave Home

agave1I am the reluctant and sole owner of this giant agave.  Armed with vicious thorns and weighing plenty, it is an incredible ordeal bringing it out of the greenhouse-never mind trying to decide where to summer it.  Mark does a great job of wintering all my clients tender plants, but this one makes him grumble.   

agave2Mark’s staff person, the other Mark, is smiling here, but please notice the sunglasses, and the heavy duty gloves.  This plant is like trying to handle a blue heron that has its leg caught in a rock (that’s another story for another time) or some other similar disaster. At this moment, no one is thinking about how beautiful it is-only how deadly it can be. 

agave3Mark shows up with a long sleeve canvas carhart jacket-never mind that it is 78 degrees.  Rob is poised as if an unexpected left jab may be coming his way. 

agave4Finally these three slide it down the ramp, and off the truck.  It sat for a week in the middle of the driveway, marooned.  I finally said to my landscape superintendent Steve that it might be good to heave the thing in the dumpster, and be rid of it.  Steve, who is predictably unpredictable, was indignant that I could even think of chucking an old plant as beautiful as this one.  The “beautiful” part of his jolt of a statement set me thinking in a different direction.  If I did indeed think it was beautiful, then where would I put it? 

agave5I asked Steve to haul it home for me.  I did not dare go to photograph that planting scene; sometimes Steve is better left alone.  The tuscan rectangle, whose planting scheme had been bedevilling me for weeks-the perfect place for a giant, homeless, but very beautiful  agave.  Do these two not look made for each other?  The big design issue here is about the seeing.  Seeing  the beauty in a plant or an idea can inspire lots of good.  This massive and unwieldy pain of a plant is now the  star of its own show.    A lot of plants, clients, schemes, garden arrangements and ornament are loaded on my design bus.  All of these things need the right seat on that bus, on any particular trip,  to shine.  This is an issue which is mine to successfully solve.    

agave6Edward de Bono put it much than I ever could.  “We may need to solve problems not by removing the cause, but by designing the way forward even if the cause remains in place.”

Roses Representing Better

stage6June 15th my roses are usually in full flush-anyone who loves and grows roses waits all year for this moment .  These haughty queens of the garden do deliver.  The smell is divine, the colors breathtaking-and their shapes are gorgeous.  Carefree Beauty, looking good.

stage2Sally Holmes, as graceful and lovely as any rose could be.  It looks English bred, does it not?

stage3Jeanne LeJoie, the miniature climber, is covered with a thousand pink extra double buttons-from top to bottom.  How it thrives is part of its charm.

stage4The big flowered Eden, with a classic double rose shape, is irresistable. 

stage5These roses all seem to live together companionably-in form and color.  I like the idea of companionable.  My garden is too small for this standoffish plant and that sulky one.  Today the only thing on my mind are the roses.

Sunday Opinion: The No Idea Day

Everyone has days where nothing comes. I have plenty of them.  My tactic-the stall. If I don’t have an interesting idea, if the hair is not standing up on the back of my neck,  if things don’t seem to be working-I say so.  To my clients, that is. It’s tough to say “I have no idea (yet) what to do here”.  Much tougher for me, than for a client. I am better able to cope with a not-much-cooking day in others, than in myself.  Hedging helps out.  Its easier to say “I don’t know” if you tack on the end, “but I will find out for you”. 

My scientist Mom went back to work after raising her 3 kids-not in science, as she said too much had happened in the scientific world between 1950 and 1968 to catch up.  So she got a Master’s in Education, and taught high school biology until she retired.  Late in her career,  budget cuts dealt her 3 classes in chemistry.  She took to her bed, certain that these 17 year olds would figure out she she was no expert in chemistry.  I mean, she really took to her bed.  I had to go over to her house every day for 3 months, make her get up and dress, fix her coffee, and escort her to her car when it was time to go.  I made a point of being there at the end of the day too-why wouldn’t I?  Had she not done the same for me countless more days?  It was a good day when she finally understood that no 17 year old would ever come close to challenging her understanding of chemistry, much less her ability to teach it.  And that if she were ever asked something she didn’t know the answer to, she was eminently capable of any research required.  Not that this ever happened-it was her fear that threatened to knock her down.

I also subscribe to the notion that if a design is important, it’s not an emergency. If it is an emergency, then the design is just not that important. As a designer, I have to sort this out both for clients, and for myself. Some people truly do not need or want design, they want something else entirely. If I am lucky, I can figure out what that is. 

Being a designer is not that easy; it takes fortitude to relate to clients regularly, in a fresh way.  I have seen designers  ignore fresh, and berate their clients with their history, reputation and the like. This is lazy, and commerce oriented, although I do understand what it is to be swamped with work. Sometimes its good to just take a day; its an easy thing to recommend, and a very tough thing for me to do.  Yesterday I took 45 minutes to go and get a haircut-it was good fun.

Some clients ask the wrong questions, and reduce the impact of their issues, as they have trouble sorting out what truly means a lot to them. They have all kinds of pressures too, and sometimes their mind’s just not focused on it.  Some design exchanges that work can be attributed solely to timing.  We all are ready for things when we are ready-not before, or after. The evidence of an active imagination and a sure hand is not ephemeral-its just on holiday sometimes.  It can be such a relief to just take the day.

At a Glance: Venus Dogwood, Week 4 in Bloom


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