“We are stardust, we are golden…..And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”   –Joni Mitchell

I am more than just occasionally tardy and I know it is a bad habit. I was late to an evening appointment today but I feel it was for a good reason: the sun was on the lemon-yellow tree peony with such bright perfection I had to stop and take a good look. And a photo. And then I saw a pink peony which had just opened this afternoon, it’s first blush of delicate unfolding petals apart just enough to reveal a cushion of pale golden stamens. Sigh….It was all I could do to tear myself away from this peony orgy.

Peonies are what I call a “fifteen minute” flower but what a grand fifteen minutes it is. Many other garden flowers bloom briefly, too–some even just a day–but they don’t quite have the star quality of a peony’s red carpet style. All gardens and the plants in them have a certain style which in my years of visiting with clients and their gardens it seems as though the garden is an extension of the gardener.  Some time ago I took one of those fun online quizzes that claimed it would reveal my personality as a shoe style. My results: loafer. “But I want to be a stiletto!” I bemoaned to my friend, Marie, who kindly replied, “But you are a loafer, the go-to shoe; grounded. And you walk way too fast for stilettos. Besides, you can’t wear stilettos in the garden.” True that. I also knew Marie would give me a straight-up answer, delivered with point blank precision.

Marie’s garden is a mirror of her personality: big, and generous and colorful. Diminutive plants wouldn’t stand a chance among the robust shrubs and tall perennials and Dinner Plate Dahlias. If there was a single weed in there you’d never know as the tapestry of her garden is rich. She sometimes calls herself a haphazard gardener, but I’d say her intuition is spot-on with color choices and textures. Marie is just as likely to drink a beer with you on the patio as take a trip to the art museum. She is a grand and good friend.

On the other extreme from Marie, I once knew a tiny gal not quite five feet tall, who didn’t have a plant in the garden any taller than herself, except some really tall trees with very high canopies. I wondered if she felt in the world among people as her plants did among these very tall trees. She didn’t like white flowers so nothing with those, and she said she removed the white flowers from her Hosta so they would just be green. Her garden was meticulously and lovingly cared for with a series of soaker hoses all set with different timers so everything could be watered with precision. Lucky the plant that made its way to her garden. Maybe except for the Hosta.

I think of my mother’s garden, the Professor’s Garden, a rich and complex composition that could also describe her many talents with lots of layers and an occasional punctuation mark for fun. Just as she would pour herself into the scholarship of her work but would turn suddenly if she heard me walk by and was quick with a smile and bright laughter.  She tended to her garden just as she did everything else: with artistry and thoroughness and dedication to the work at hand.

If there were a quiz, “What Your Garden Style Says About Your Personality?” I wonder….At this point in the garden year I would say, “Upright”–meaning it is a miracle I am still in a relatively vertical posture. Or maybe “Satisfied”–because I take huge delight in the all of it from the design to the planting to the maintenance and of course to gathering flowers. Perhaps most likely “Tardy–” because it is important to take the time to smell the roses. And photograph the peonies.

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