For the time being

February 16, 2009 / On making something for the present instead of for the future.

[snowy woods at sunset]
While walking with Genie at Wadsworth Mansion, just a few weeks ago

Kris recently reflected that:

The stories of old people planting trees, knowing they’ll never see them grown, are lovely for their message of faith in a long future that can’t be claimed. But equally beautiful is the thought of building something for the time being, knowing it may not last out the decade—or the year—or even, quite horribly, the week—and doing so anyway because what there is today matters as much as the possibility of the future.

For most of the time I’ve lived in New England I haven’t had a garden of my own to take care of. But almost from the beginning I noticed how Connecticut residents do exactly what Kris is talking about: every spring they plant flowers that will last for only a few weeks or months. They take it completely for granted, and they take pride in their work. Bulbs, potted plants, garden beds that sprout and then leap into colour. It reminds me of Toowoomba a bit.

Back in Brisbane—where my only prior experience looking after gardens was helping my mum in hers—I know that you can leave a potted plant outside all year long. Here, you can’t, if you want to keep your pot in one piece.

So far my accomplishments in the garden amount to keeping plants trimmed, the grass cut and getting a few geraniums to hang on from the summer until last fall. It was a start, not so much at a garden that persists, but at the habit of working without thinking too much about the future.

5 responses

  1. Adrian Cooke

    Flowers, like trees, can out-live the people who planted them.

    I like that. All the knowledge and planning though… I’m not so sure. Baby steps here, Allynn, baby steps!

    February 18th, 2009 at 4:02 pm #

  2. Allynn

    Hmmm…. I think I’ve got a couple of gardening books I need to lend you! There are annuals which only last one season but may freely re-seed themselves forever. Then there are perennials which come back year after year (despite the brutal winters). Quirky bi-annuals grow the first year and manage to survive (some even staying green) throughout the first winter only to flower and die the second season. Many bulbs actually *need* to be planted in the Fall because they need a period in the cold ground in order to flower.

    If you are walking in the woods and find a clump of daffodils, look around because you will almost certainly see a very old house foundation. Flowers, like trees, can out-live the people who planted them. Now pots (and ponds ;-) are a different story!


    February 18th, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

  3. kris

    I think taking care of the geraniums seems a very poetic act. It’s a small act, and its implications are rather larger.

    February 19th, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

  4. Adrian Cooke

    Thanks. They feel old and familiar. I love how they smell, not the flowers so much as the plant itself.

    February 20th, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

  5. kris

    For me, they smell of my Nanna’s garden.

    February 23rd, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

Zero to One-Eighty contains writing on design, opinion, stories and technology.