The Ephemeral Garden:
A friend of mine collects ephemeral art, which means things that are fragile, not easily conserved, and usually made of cheap paper that are disintegrating as we speak into tiny paper crumbs. These are lovely, personal old things such as antique valentines, postcards, bulletins, sheet music, newspapers, etc. She goes to swap meets and shows where other people share such items. It's not surprising that people love these things because of the personal notes on them that brings the past to life, and people collect them, even while knowing that the objects are falling apart, and there is not one thing you can do about it, except maybe photocopy them. These things were printed on very acidic paper, and were never expected to last when they were made.
I was looking at a new bloom on a daylily this spring that I had planted last fall, and it was it's first bloom. The thing was gorgeous, and I was so excited, and wondered who I could call to come and look at my daylily! But no one could come, and the bloom would only last one day. Hence, the thought came to mind that a garden is like ephemeral art, except it is a living, breathing, growing art. It won't last, it is always changing, and next year will be somewhat different. Even great oaks will all die someday. Yet, knowing this, gardeners will keep on planting things in the hope that they will grow, and become beautiful. And often they do. Some things are so beautiful, they take your breath, and you think, "Because of me! Because I planted that seed, this plant, or this shrub, God graced my part of the world with wonder! Then the novice gardener is hooked forever, and will keep on trying, and keep on learning, and keep on planting stuff that they might make it happen again! And it does! So the gardener plants more things, and some of the plants die, some linger and should, and some plants are so much out of their climate zone, and need so much care, that the gardener wishes it would. But that is how we learn, and gardeners keep on trying out new ideas, and visit other gardens see how other people do it, all for that breathless moment of seeing and smelling and hearing a garden in gorgeous beauty.
Yet, the flowers will fade and go to seed, and the birds will go south for the winter. Then, that is when people will want to come and take pictures of the children in your garden. You cry, "If you had only come yesterday, or last week, or last month, when the garden was in full bloom!" But it is too late. The guests missed the show, and it won't come back until next year, because the beauty of the garden is ephemeral.
The task of a master gardener is to find ways to make the garden always interesting and beautiful, no matter what the season. But, this takes a lot of research, planning, and effort. Only really dedicated gardeners achieve this high goal. Nevertheless, the moments of beauty that a garden brings is rewarding enough, such that we spend an amazing amount of money and effort to keep our yards and gardens beautiful, and collectively we can all enjoy each others conception of a beautiful garden. A garden really is an individual's personal interpretation, because it is a form of art, and as different as our fingerprints. But we do learn from each other; how in the world we got the idea of trimming our shrubs into balls, cones, and cubes, is beyond me, except somehow the manicured gardens in Europe caught people's imagination, and became the standard in the United States of how a garden is done. But the stubborn English common man never got that bug. They let their cottage gardens overflow with plants of all different colors, sizes, and textures, all mingled together in a carefully planned, but seemingly haphazard, careless manner. But that doesn't mean that they don't care for their gardens. Oh, no! There is no nation on earth that loves their gardens more than the English people. Every bit of space around every yard is planted such that they can clip the small bits of leftover lawn with scissors.
Personally, I love the cottage garden look. I am glad I live in the country or else I might get fined for a messy yard! My neighbor was very kind when she said our Hummingbird Hill looked very "natural". But, people don't know the amount of labor, love, and dedication it takes to make your garden look "natural", because a garden is never truly natural, unless you just let everything grow. First would come poverty bush, then mesquite, then ceder, then hardwoods, and before too long, you would have a very natural forest. So no matter how natural you want to go, you will still have to plant, divide, weed, and grub up things that you don't want in your bit of maintained earth. Just talk to any rancher trying to maintain a pasture for his cattle, or to keep a clean hayfield, and they will tell how much work that is. Nevertheless, no matter how much sweat equity put into our gardens, gardeners still thrill to the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, the songs of birds, the rustle of the the leaves, and the grass blowing in the wind. Then we cry, "O come see! Come see!"