The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten F

With her Visitor’s Center completed, the President sits back and wonders what memento she should give herself to celebrate her success. She’s converted a garden into an Art Center, she’s built a café on the ground floor of the North building of which any restaurateur would be proud, and she’s transformed an old garage into a Visitor’s Center around which the Institution can evolve and grow in the new millennium. Best of all she’s converted Horticulture into one of the keenest retail garden centers in the metropolitan area. After all, she muses, gardening isn’t an art, it’s a hobby. But in spite of her success the Treasurer’s words continue to sting, undermining her happiness. She pulls out the Mission Statement and reviews it.

The former estate of King Total Power’s man is a 28-acre public garden overlooking the River Slang and The Great Wall. Our mission is to encourage each of us to pause from our hectic lives and reflect. We hope the visitors will find in the gardens the peace and beauty that will sustain them when they return to the daily grind. Our goal is to preserve our gardens and landscapes, without slavishly adhering to any particular garden fashion and to preserve the garden’s magnificent views. In this regard the garden’s educational programs encourage the students of New Draak to explore the natural and unnatural world found in our gardens and to distinguish the difference between the created world of the garden and the wilderness world of untouched habitats. We hope our students leave with an understanding that horticulture is one of the many valid pursuits that Humans use in the search for meaning.

Odd, she thinks, how I’ve interpreted this document to help reflect my understanding of the world. It’s easy for the Treasurer to write something idealistic since he’s already made his fortune. What about the rest of us? Am I to be a garden aesthetic instead of an avid consumer? It’s easy for a rich man to tell the poor man make due, we live in a sustainable society now. Besides, my idea of beauty is different from his! Sitting around a garden being eaten alive is hardly my idea of an artistic experience. I find more beauty in a dry scotch than a daffodil! I’d like to see the Treasurer give away all his wealth. I might as well wait for the ice caps to melt and raise the world’s sea level than wait for the rich to raise the standard of living for the world by giving everything they have to poor. Over the next few weeks she tinkers with the Mission Statement. Of course the Treasurer will argue that having wealth isn’t the sole purpose of life. He will say he believes offering alternative views of success is the key. He might even undercut her achievements by claiming he made his wealth in the private sector, while accusing her of using the public sector to make hers. He thinks there’s a distinction. So she’ll force her revised Mission Statement through the Board when the Treasurer is away.
With the weather still warm, the President decides to visit the far corners of the Institution, like Charlemagne in feudal times. With Development, Public Relations and Horticulture in tow she starts in the parking lot. “The parking lot is too small,” she tells her retinue, “the Institution is important now. Perhaps over there,” she points to a coppice of holly and witch hazel; “we need to get twenty or thirty more cars in here.” She takes the same walkway that had so impressed the Gardener his first time at the Garden and which she had found confusing by her own admission to the Board on the day of her interview when she laid out her plans. Without looking toward the greenhouse, she walks directly down the brick walkway toward the lawn where Captain Morning Glory’s installation had drawn so many visitors. Brightly colored signage on aluminum poles point in all directions. “We need a plaque with his name and picture highly visible here,” she tells PR, who stands beside her, tablet in hand, daydreaming of that fond time when Morning Glory’s heroes wooed her behind the big tree over there with the grey elephant-like skin.
Gardener – The purple beech, Fagus sylvatica purpurea.
Gardener – Horticulture comments on the sunlight striking the palisades. She shrugs her shoulder, “it will be the same tomorrow.” With her train behind her she walks up to the front of the Visitor’s Center. “Horticulture, can we get something more festive.” “Next year,” he promises. “I was up at the Mall the other day, window shopping with my nieces in mind and just loved what some of the retail stores had done in front of their windows, just marvelous, cutting edge, purple and pink cabbagy things. You really need to get up there and see what they’re doing.” Since she goes into the Center daily she continues down the road toward the North House, then stops by the entrance to the Public restrooms. “We need a docent here with a survey,” she says turning to PR, “I want to know why people are here, you know, are you interested in seeing the greenhouses, the Visitor’s Center or the restaurant. We’ll discuss this later,” she adds, turning on her way. In front of the restaurant they stop. The bustle of servers rattling trays, coffee cups and silver ware can be heard through the open door. She and her staff eat there everyday. “Horticulture, must your work always be so drab,” she comments, “we need color here.” They back around past the kitchen, which is no more than a prep room with a dish-washer, since all food is prepared off the premises, and continue down the road along the meadow to the nursery. “I’ve never been down here,” she admits. In the nursery many of the gardeners are finishing up the days work, turning pots of trees, shaping shrubs and trees. She nods to Horticulture, “well done.” They turn south down the gravel road and enter the woods. Even Horticulture has not been down past the nursery since he was appointed years ago. That’s not to say he’s been unaware of what’s going on down here. Like others in management, the volunteer in the room behind the broom closet keeps him up-to-date on the movements of his staff.
“What are all those lovely berries,” asks the President, stopping to admire clusters of fruit in shades of teal amid walls of yellowing leaves reaching up fifty feet at least. The berries are the color of the soup bowls she buys in Chinatown. Horticulture tells her “they’re porcelain berry.” But he is aghast. He realizes, too late, the woodlands are lost. Although in the weak light of fall they have literally caste a romantic sheathing over everything, he knows the trees beneath the vines are dead or nearly so. They continue along the path, the vines lending an exotic air to the Woodland.
It’s late, almost near closing time when they see through the yellow enveloping leaves someone moving around. They look for an entrance, but finding none, call out. The Gardener appears. “Ah,” says the President, “the Gardener, working far from his High Garden. I suppose you knew this,” she says, turning to Horticulture. Once again Horticulture is caught in the middle. Does he admit he doesn’t know and risk sounding incompetent; or does he say he knows and risk having to explain why the Gardener is working down in the woods? Why, he thinks, does the Gardener always put me at risk. He admits to the President he doesn’t know. She relishes his discomfort. “Since Horticulture doesn’t know, why don’t you tell us what you’re working on,” she asks. The Gardener tells them he’s growing plants for the High Garden. “A nursery,” she asks rhetorically. “Odd we didn’t know about this,” she says with raised brows, looking at her retinue. “No,” he says pointedly, “you wouldn’t know about this.” “And what funds have you been using,” she asks, nodding her head to the side. “My own,” he replies, smiling, “or the donations of my friends. I know what difficult times these are for the Garden.” “Did you ever think the Institution might want to use this area for something else,” she enquires as if talking to a child. “I’ve always assumed that when that day arrived, you wouldn’t hesitate but move forward with some new change. For now I assumed you have no plans for this area.” “Don’t we,” she says, swinging around to look Horticulture in the face, “don’t we have plans, aren’t we going to cut down all these trees and extend the nursery this way?” Horticulture nods his head weakly. “Of course, we’ll leave these lovely vines,” she concedes, walking on.
A week later an official decree reduces all benefits – the word used by the President is entitlements – for anyone working at the Institution twenty years or more, with one exception. The original decree had no exceptions, but Development had suggested the President exclude the Gardener from the new reductions. “What,” asked the President, shocked, “let that renegade retain all his privileges; he’s the reason we’re doing this!” “That’s true,” admitted the officer, “and there is no reason that can’t be known, still by separating him from the others, we tarnish his aurora.” The light in the President’s eyes widened with surprise. “That’s brilliant,” she remarked, “but as you know, we’ve trained personnel to avoid discussing salaries, so no one will know; on the other hand there is the possibility we’ll secure his admiration.” “Not likely,” was Development’s opinion. “Still, no one wants to lose money,” the President continued, “he’s married, isn’t he?” According to Resources, “he has two children.” “That consoles me,” the President sighed, “he is competent, so highly competent.” They stood quietly, nodding in agreement, waiting with their cups in hand as PR finishes pouring her coffee.
Following the decree, the President instructs Horticulture to approach each of the new gardeners privately and give each of them merit raises. “You need not look surprised,” she comforts Horticulture, “the Institution thinks of you as a brother.” “But I thought merit raises were not being considered,” he asks. “We found the funding after all. Finance will give you the confirmation memos – they’re already drawn up for each of your recommendations, yes, your recommendations. You will see the amount of the increase you have recommended for each of the new personnel, signed by me naturally. We’ve taken care of everything.” When the new gardeners open their sealed envelops they are shocked and elated. Management has heard their disgruntled cries. On the other hand, the older three crew members are angry and discouraged by their curtailments. Once again contrasting moods threaten to split the gardeners again. The “volunteer” in the room behind the broom closet is surprised one day to see the older gardeners standing in front of the secret camera in the Shade Border, giving him the finger. But in the potting shed basement where the new gardeners have their lockers, he jots down in his log, “new gardeners excited, elated.”
A day later the Gardener, under the guise of helping each gardener with chores, invites the gardeners to his house after work. The Gardener’s wife and kids are there to greet them. There’s wine and cheese and everyone is chatting; but after his wife and kids retire, the Gardener says, “it’s time we open up and tell each other what we’re making, what our benefits are.” Everyone hesitates.” “None of us,” he continues, “became gardeners to strike it rich; am I right?” They nod tentatively. “The experts tell us money is necessary, the lubrication greasing the wheels of commerce; we all need money; none of us questions that; but we didn’t come into this field for the love of money but for love of plants; am I right?” Again the nodding of heads. “If money’s the grease of commerce and we the wheels of production, then the grease has hardened. It’s come between us. It’s causing friction. We distrust each other. We work against each other. It’s destroying our efficiency.” They all look at each other. “This is my salary and my benefits,” and he tells them. “The managers took nothing from you,” the Pruner says, shaking his head. “They’ve taken nothing,” admits the Gardener. “So it’s easy for you to talk,” adds the Old Timer. “You know I’ve never asked Horticulture for more or for less.” “I don’t know anything,” says the Pruner. “That’s why we’re here, so we can have it out now and settle our disputes; if we can’t trust one another, there won’t be anything left to trust.” The Pruner is staring at the floor. “Think about it; we spend the majority of our waking time with each other on the job.” “How can you talk such bulshit!” the Pruner says with tension in his voice, “you’ve sacrificed nothing.” “All I wanted to do was make retirement in one piece,” adds the Old Timer. “Am I the enemy?” “I didn’t think so.” “I’ve lost nothing,” the Gardener continues, “but I’m not the reason you’ve lost everything; if we let this be, then it is so. . .” “He’s got the most to lose,” says one of the new gardeners. “What does this money really means, this currency at the heart of our way of life; is it working for us?” “Not me obviously,” says the Pruner bitterly. “Or is it working for someone else who is using it to destroy our way of life, the life of the gardeners.” The Old Timer is looking at him as if from far off, like a stranger. “When the Garden is destroyed,” he plows on, “where will we work; who will we be?” Again no one answers him. “We became gardeners because we love plants; we became gardeners because we love beauty.” The Pruner shakes his head. He exhales, as if spitting. The Gardener hears his own words and they sound hollow, like those of a con-man. He doesn’t trust himself now; so he drowns out his own doubt. “Look, we’re gardeners. In our work we can’t take anything for granted; a late frost, a storm, drought, there’s no dependable stability other than what we put into our work. And as much as plants need us, to water and weed, we need them, all of them, and all the rest of the living spectrum, to survive; we can’t force them to grow where they can’t; sure we can spray them, fertilize them, hack them back, but in the end it never works; we all depend on each other’s respect and co-operation; all of us, no matter what Domain.” “I needed work, that’s all,” counters the Pruner, “I came here on a federal work program.” “Whatever your reasons, you stayed; you became a master of your craft, you worked with the Porcelain Man.” Those that knew him and those who knew of him nod respectfully. “You wanted work but you helped create the perfect place, a paradise.” “Yes, we loved the Garden,” the Pruner admits, “but that’s over.” “I grew up here,” the Old Timer says, “I wasn’t seeking anything, it’s been my home since the beginning, it’s all I know and all I want is to make it to the end.” “Still, you worked under the Wizard; you knew the Porcelain Man,” says the Gardener; “some of you have been here only a few years, but not long ago many of us felt that we had the best of all worlds, even you, Old Timer; we were the heirs to Eden; a place of our own making; we loved our work.” The older gardeners nod. “So what’s happened to us; why, with all our talents and abilities, are we counting the minutes and the hours until quitting time; why are we happiest on Friday afternoon when we leave work; why do we dread Monday morning so deeply; is this why we are gardeners; is that why we are so concerned now with how much each of us is making?” “It’s all gone to hell,” says the Pruner. “I was the last to give up this view, remember; you told me the President and all the rest of them wanted us to fail; I didn’t want to believe you.”
“They don’t want you to fail,” the Long Border gardener tells her mentor, “they’ve taken care of you.” “I remember when you were new, an intern; I spent many hours teaching you the ropes.” “Probably that’s why they’ve taken care of me now.” “You,” the Pruner asks. She tells everyone about her raise. The Old Timer gets up to leave. The Gardener holds him. “If you leave, we’re lost.” “I’ve already lost,” he replies, “I’ve never had a raise like that and I’ve worked at the Garden longer than any of you!” The Pruner and the Tropical House gardener stand. “I’ve lost nothing,” says the Gardener, “and I’m no happier than any of you; I’ve watched my work reduced to that of salesman in a sales operation; I’m no longer a gardener, I’m a practitioner; I grow plants, but I sell commodities; we’re the heart of a sales division which produces well being for others at our expense; whose dream are we supporting?” “It’s unfair,” says the Old Timer. “Nothing’s fair,” exclaims the other new gardeners, taking out their own recommendations; “you never argued for fairness when they shortchanged us!” “Yeah,” they argue, “we work just as hard as you.” And they reveal what they’ll be making at the end of the present pay period. “We’ve been singled out,” says the Pruner. “They want us out,” the Tropical House gardener agrees. “None of us,” the Gardener argues, looking at the newer gardeners, “resents any one else’s success, unless that success is used against us; no one can expect anyone to live with a frozen wage if some else is profiting by it; in spite of what we’ve heard, the cost of living is caused by someone’s profit, not by someone’s wage.” “We were making so much less, yet we do the same work,” the Long Border gardener says. “Some of us have more experience,” says the Gardener, “so we’re worth more; and experience should be valued because it makes us more efficient in our pursuit of beauty.” “Just because someone’s worked here a long time doesn’t mean they should be subsidized while I do all the hard work,” says one the new gardeners. “No one is slacking,” argues the Pruner. “It’s only natural to work for a personal advantage,” the Gardener clarifies, “but it’s also to our personal advantage to work with each other.” “Why should I defend someone who tries getting by doing less,” asks another. “Who are you talking about,” asks the Pruner, jaws grinding. “None of us,” says the Gardener, looking from the senior gardeners to the younger gardeners, “has ever favored reduced vacations and lower starting salaries for you new people; under normal circumstance all of us who’ve worked here a long time would be happy that you’ve gotten merit raises; but you’re being merited without even having the full experience of years of work; the strategy is to divide and conquer the work force.” He asks the Pruner and the Old Timer to tell everyone how long they’ve worked here and how much they make.
“After we’re gone,” the Gardener warns, “you’ll be the old timers; hard to believe but the years will pass and you’ll be standing here like us before a group of youngsters whose salaries will be relatively lower than yours are now – if you can believe that; that’s right and you’ll find that your salaries and your benefits – not entitlements, but hard earned benefits which make up the full value of your salary, will be frozen; and you’ll discover this younger generation sitting where you are, just as skeptical of you as you are of us; that’s right, and they too will be given merit raises and told that management is looking for ambitious frisky young things to replace the lot of you; why, because you can’t work as fast as you can now?” He stops and waits. No one says anything. “No, because management will tell them that you now feel entitled, to use the word coined by the Kings’ people; it won’t be enough to just work for your fair accrued share of the Garden’s success; no, your work, like all of our work, will be seen by the Kings’ agents in government as an entitlement, or as we understand it, as an infringement on the Kings’ profits; they have us believing we are lucky to be working for them, that we should be grateful for any salary they deem our work is worth; they don’t understand that the same negotiation that happens between the butcher and the housewife, must happen between the butcher and his employees.”
It’s a bright November morning, as warm as if October, the leaves still glowing on the Maples when the first hint of trouble appears. The President gets out of the elevator on the second floor of the Administration Building in high spirits. The evening before in her commentary to the Board, she proudly stated that half of the maintenance department as well as a few of the older secretaries in education had been eliminated. These positions are now filled by one of the Kings’ Employment Agencies, “thus eliminating further entitlements,” the President boasts to the Board. Her Master Plan, conceived and pitched five years ago when the Board interviewed her for the job, is nearly complete. The once invincible Horticulture offers residual resistance, but “once the dead wood is removed,” she states jocularly to Development moments before entering her office at the end of the hall, “the rest of our tree will shape up.” She loves the Horticultural metaphor. No sooner is she in her office the phones rings. It’s the Leader of the Borough, a professional agent of the Kings’, who not only holds his elected position as Leader but is also an honorary director on the Board. He calls the President and tells her that an irate member of the gardening staff cornered him last evening at a public event. He was angry and told the Leader that as his representative he wanted an investigation into wrongdoing at the Institution. She thanks the Leader and tells him she will look into this problem. She laughs to herself, thinking who in that department thinks one of the Kings’ agents will help them! The second hint comes an hour later from the Borough Assemblyman. “Do you remember that Hispanic gardener you introduced me to one day,” he asks, “you better watch out for him.” She thanks him as well for the heads up. She is contemplating an act of retaliation when her secretary enters and places today’s mail on the desk, as she was instructed years ago, beneath the Joshua Tree paper weight from the Spiny Cactus. That’s when she notices the address of the Department of Labor on the corner of an official envelope. The envelope is addressed to her. Talk about dead wood, she mumbles to herself; that labor board has outlived it’s usefulness. Why, if anything, it’s labor policies are leading us into a depression, not out! The notice within announces that certain workers in her employment want union representation. “Why of all the nerve,” she cries. The union is the Public Employee Union of America, DC # 9, and the employees seeking representation are the gardeners. According to the notice she must comply with Federal Labor Laws. “What about them,” she shouts, “do they comply!” In fact she herself must post the notices indicating the rights of all gardeners and maintenance workers to vote as they please either for or against without fear of intimidation in their work spaces! She is floored! “Who is intimidating who,” she screams. And what’s worse, she must now inform the Board.
Aside from the Treasurer, the rest of the Board has always supported her demands. She’s always understood that one of the principles operating in every boardroom is that of tradition. While change is the operating force on the ground floor, at the top stasis is desired. No one on the board, especially the Chairman, wants to find a new manager, let alone take over the reigns of management in the event the manager leaves unexpectedly. As the chairman once told her not long after she came on board, “the Board of Directors are here in an advisory capacity. We don’t run things, we watch over them.” As long as management doesn’t rock the boat, that is, disturb the status quo at the top, then management is safe to carry out its agenda. She knew the word, Union, would strike a harsh chord among the directors. But she is surprised at the amount of anger she encounters. At the emergency meeting held that evening she feels, for the first time in her career, she’s lost control of her Board. They are all talking at once. None of them understands where this Union business has come from. “Did you know this was coming,” they ask frantically. “Where was the warning shot?” “We thought you had brought peace to the estate.” They all want to know at once how she missed the cues.
To understand their surprise, we need to look at one of the reasons the President used in the past, to explain her need for overhauling the Institution. She promised prosperity by creating a profitable non-profit to use the words she heard used at the Spiny Cactus AAPI conference years ago. Like most of us she believes prosperity brings peace. Unlike many of us she feels unfettered free enterprise brings prosperity. The only clarification we need from her and those that support her premise is prosperity to whom and at the expense of what? She told the Board that when she arrived on the grounds she found the garden under the iron-fisted policies of the Wizard and his Department of brown shirts. Under the guise of genius he had established a narrow dictatorship, pushing an aesthetic agenda that benefited only a few garden lovers. Instead of moving ahead with the rest of the country he maintained the grounds as a backward fiefdom in the public domain. In those days, the taxpayers had to support the staff, even if the taxpayers weren’t interested in gardening. During that AAPI conference she learned that jealousy was behind the present day green movements. The priest – he wore a white collar – who had told her about the Joshua trees, also told everyone at the morning prayer, about the farmer who killed the shepherd out of jealousy. We all know the story, Gardener. Before the expulsion, the first humans lived in the Garden of Eden, where food was gathered easily from all that grew there. Work wasn’t necessary. Then came the hard times. Young Cain worked hard in the fields trying to recapture the life his parents had lived. He had heard them speak of the fruits and leaves and deep roots that they had eaten. His brother Able, on the other hand, having tasted the blood of an animal, raised sheep and goats on grassy hillsides which grew without any effort on his part. And when the grass was gone and the wind blew the dust, he moved on to the next hill. One day Cain decided to thank the earth for his success. For reasons never explained, his offering of vegetables were found unacceptable. “We can imagine Cain,” said the evangelist at the podium, “piling tubers and leafy vegetables on his fire and the fire sputtering, smoking, everyone coughing. Only a fool would have tried that!” Able, on the other hand, didn’t have this problem. There he was sitting on a hill with his herd of sheep and goats while he fashioned wind instruments to wile away the time. The night wears on so instead of going out and looking for wood, he threw the fatty parts of a slaughtered sheep, which he didn’t want anyway, on the fire, and the flames leaped up, licking the sky. “It’s obvious who god favors,” said the priest. “Jealousy,” said the minister, “was the reason Cain killed Able.” According to this holy man in a white collar who opened each day at the Spiny Cactus with a prayer, jealousy was the reason the small farmer hated the giant farms. “Jealousy,” he announced to the congregation, who sat sipping coffee while waiters passed out platters piled high with scrambled eggs, toast and bacon, “was behind the organic farmer’s hatred of the corporate seed makers, who inherited Able’s inventiveness and to whom god had revealed the secrets of life. The farmers hated progress, hated change,” cried the charismatic in the white collar, raising his arms to heaven. “That’s why,” he told her, told all of them, “we’ve been pushing back against the farmers and the gardeners ever since.” Of course in all fairness, Gardener, we must represent the other side since the gardeners and the farmers say that Cain never built a pyre out of vegetables but a compost out of refuse. Cain was grateful for what the earth had taught him. He had learned that the unseen creatures who had once lived in Eden thrived in the rich material of his pile and when he turned it, the smoke from the heat inside, did, indeed, rise up. All farmers and gardeners agree that clever Able was always looking for an easier way. He didn’t like hard work, so he hated his brother for it. Some say he tried to burn the compost and laughed when the wind drove the thick smoke to the ground. But others say Able drove his sheep into Cain’s fields where the goats ate the grain to the roots. Whatever the reason, the brothers fought and Able was killed, leaving an invisible though indelible mark on Cain. The generations since have born the genes of both and have tried to understand that mark but have failed to stem the violence that created it. Great humans have appeared with holy remedies to erase the scar, but still, the differences between us continue feeding the fire of hatred. And from the embers of that first fire the raw metals of the earth were eventually fashioned into plows then later pounded into swords and now into guns. When the President first arrived on the grounds, she didn’t realize she was an instrument of a higher order pushing back against the Wizard. Only later after the priest described their mission to save humanity, did she understand how the Wizard and his plant people had lorded over the rest of us. She never told the Board about this. She herself only believed it as a convenience. She simply told them that she was healing the wounds caused by the years of abuse during the reign of the Wizard. In her world, everyone was happy now. “The Wizard doesn’t like people,” she told the Board, “he has an unnatural love of plants.”
The Treasurer asks her “why, if you are the salvation of all parties, have the new gardeners, gardeners who’ve never known the Wizard, signed the cards asking for Union representation?” All the directors nod their heads, all ask why? She looks at them with eyebrows raised. Have they forgotten all she’s done for them, the great parties she’s thrown at the fund raisers, all the new money she’s brought in from the Kings’ charities. The value of their homes in the neighborhood have risen. She is disgusted by the lot of them. They’ve obviously all made money with the Treasurer. He’s bought them all. “The older gardeners have poisoned their minds,” she claims. “But what about the merit raises,” asks one of the new directors, an investor, who unlike the Treasurer, raises money to buy and sell failing companies, telling the shareholders they’re creating jobs and wealth at the same time, “I was against that measure but all of us agree that everyone loves a raise.” “Yes,” they all agree, “everyone loves money; why would they throw all that away; yes, it’s unheard of in these times.” She can’t understand that herself, “why would they sacrifice everything to save a few lazy slobs.” “Someone told me,” says the Chairman, “the Spanish one, what’s his name. . ?” “You mean the Pruner of Yews,” she asks incredulously, wondering if the Borough Leader had called the Chairman as well. The Leader never attended meetings. But, she understands, someone must be behind all this. “Yes, that’s the one.” “What about the Old Man,” asks another director who is also a lawyer and who paints on the side and is writing a monograph on a well know contemporary artist. She helped the President by convincing the Board of the importance of Captain Morning Glory’s art installation when a few of directors were afraid of bad publicity. The President nods her head, “it’s possible the Old Timer is behind this, but with retirement near, I doubt it.” “Then it must be the Pruner,” the lawyer says, taking out her MePhone to look at her calendar. “Well, you promised peace and prosperity,” they all agree, “so you better nip this in the bud before the journalists take a bite out of all of us.”
The next morning she tells Development that members of the Board believe the Pruner is behind this. But Development shakes her head. She believes “it’s the Gardener.” “I thought we secured his love,” exclaims the President. “Well, we gambled,” replies Development, “But you know as well as I, he can’t be bought.” “None of them apparently.”
The following day Horticulture climbs the stairs to the High Garden, looking for the Gardener. The Gardener is surprised to see him. “Wow,” says Horticulture when he sees the flower buds on a giant dahlia beginning to open up.
Gardener – Dahlia imperialis, we grew that on the east path, and if it was warm enough it bloomed at Christmas, but rarely.
Writer – He finds Horticulture pruning back the old Peonies. . .
Gardener – Probably Paeonia delavayi, we grew it back there too!
Writer – Another world, Gardener, not the world of this story. Please keep that in mind. “It could bloom,” exclaims Horticulture. The Gardener, not you, agrees. Horticulture walks back and forth, stops and starts then stops and studies a label stuck into the ground behind a clump of stems already gone dormant. “The President wants to see you after lunch, at one punctual, “ he says lurching forward, his foot on the stone edging, stopping himself. “Look, I wish you would stop encouraging the gardeners,” he adds; “nothing is going to change, what’s done is done.” “I’m not doing anything,” he says looking at the ground. “The others look up to you,” says Horticulture, “you’ve got to stop encouraging them.” He is shaking his head. “She didn’t cap your salary,” he continues, “you’re making as much as the Assistant.” “Oh that’s consoling,” says the Gardener, standing up; “he should be making a lot less!” “But where is all this going to lead?” “You know as well as I do where,” the Gardener emphasizes, stepping out of the bed. “We’ll have more bureaucracy; you’ll have another boss,” says Horticulture. “Look,” says the Gardener, “I’ve never encouraged anyone; she did, by giving huge raises to the least experienced; then she threw salt on our wounds, giving nothing to the most experienced, even reducing their benefits; we’re all demoralized.” “You didn’t lose anything!” “How can I feel good about that; how can the new gardeners feel good about their raises when others get nothing; I know it’s not you,” he continues, feeling sorry for Horticulture, “you’re in the middle.” He doesn’t tell him that everyone hates him, the ineffectual boss. “I’m glad you understand that. But you should see this through our eyes.” “Oh, I do,” the Gardener assures him; “there will always be workers who don’t put out; one of them is your Assistant; but considering that’s not the case here, refusing the older gardeners a cost of living raise flies in the face of common sense.” He shakes his head, “I just never understood how arbitrary these decisions are; but from what I’ve seen, the President hasn’t been using common sense for some time.” “Please, I need you to move on,” pleads Horticulture. “I can’t.” “I should never have taken this job,” says Horticulture, walking away.
The Gardener finds her in the wood paneled office, sitting at a right angle to her massive mahogany desk, typing on her keyboard. He knocks on the open door. Through the window he can see above the wooded hillside, the great bridge over the River Slang he once crossed on his way to meet the Wizard. Without looking up the President invites him to take a seat. He takes the seat in front of the desk and waits for her to finish. Then she swings around, puts her hands on the desk and looks at him. What does she see? A medium sized man in brown work pants and a brown shirt. On the shirt pocket the Institution’s logo Change Is Good is stitched above a silver dollar backdrop on which the green razor sharp blades of grass seem to grow. He has come to her still wearing his holster with pruners. He’s been working hard. She can see his body has completely relaxed in the upholstered chair. A sturdy man, she thinks, square jaw, sandy hair, eyes that are shifting from her to her surroundings, the pictures, the bric-a-brac, her small prizes of success, the little things she has awarded herself, after each victory. She picks up the paper weight of the Joshua Tree. “ I bought this after my first AAPI conference. There was a forest of these cactus, or do you say cacti, growing in a valley near Palm Springs.” “I’ve been there,” he says, “And I’ve seen this down at the end of the hall, on Horticulture’s desk.” “Oh, yes, I forgot that I gave this to all my chiefs. And do you see that one behind me?” He sees the enormous framed poster with her logo and points to his shirt pocket. “No, below that.” He sees another smaller framed object, this one an embroidery illustrating a dust pan crossed by a small hand broom. Over this, in red stitching, are the words, Waste Not, Want Not. “Each of these mementos commemorate an achievement,” she explains; “I had that one created after the Wizard left; it seemed appropriate, don’t you think?” “It all depends, I guess.” “Gardener, we have a lot to talk about.” “I thought you weren’t interested in what I have to say,” he replied, “or any of us for that matter.” She sits there for a moment appraising him. He can’t believe he said that. “I know of only one person who speaks to me as frankly as you do and she’s down the hall. Now I’ll be frank with you. I want you to desist. I want Horticulture to succeed. There’s no one here who is irreplaceable. Even I can be replaced. The Board can replace me any time they choose.” The Gardener feels a cold chill shooting down his spine. He’s afraid she’s going to fire him and that will be the end of it. He doesn’t think of anything else but that. It’s as if all his assets, his strong points, the reasons why he might not be fired, have disappeared. He’s empty. And guilty of something, of doing wrong. Can she see this, he wonders.
“We’ve made a big mistake,” he says. “We,” she asks with raised eyebrows. “Yes,” he continues, “we’ve singled out members of our team for no raises; yet all of us have shared the difficulties of the last few years; isn’t it possible to delay this new policy until we all get our heads above water; the Visitor’s Center is complete; that gives us time to coalesce, time to get back behind Horticulture for the good of the Garden.” “The Institution,” she pronounces drily. He runs out of words. “And I will not,” she emphasizes, “treat Horticulture any differently than I treat the other departments; everyone here works hard, Gardener; Horticulture isn’t the only department; this plan to bring salaries up-to-date according to market value has been in the works for some time; I’m not going to favor some employees and not others.” “You’ve done just that,” he says impulsively. She folds her hands tightly, then unfolds them. Her fingers are shaking slightly. She moves a stack of papers from one side of her desk to the other, but she never takes her eyes off him. “I know what I am doing, Gardener, and I do it well; when I arrived here the place was a shambles; I brought it back.” An edge in her voice tells him in no uncertain terms, Don’t Rock The Boat!
Then she sits back and straightens her arms. She relaxes for a moment, still keeping her eyes on him. Then with a sigh she returns her elbows to the table and tells him of her epiphany. She’s been troubled for some time by the fact that the gardeners ignore her managers when they see them. “You’re friendly enough,” she says, “but the rest of the crew ignores my staff; who do these gardeners think they are, I’ve asked myself; what have my managers done to deserve this rude treatment?” She pauses and stares at him with indignation. “Then I received a startling insight; I realized I’m to blame; I’ve spoiled your department.” Again she pauses, looks down at her desk then back at the Gardener. “No other department treats either myself or my managers with so little respect; only Horticulture.” She stops, then asks him if he understands. He does. Now she laughs. “Every so often I have these little epiphanies; I decided I won’t put up with insolence from your department; I told Horticulture if he didn’t get the Old Timer or the Pruner in line, I’ll get rid of them, and that little Tropical House queen, too.”
The Gardener apologizes for the rudeness of the gardeners. “It won’t happen again,” she states, “the next gardener who ignores one of my managers is gone! simple as that.” “We’re eccentric,” he explains. “Well, I’m not,” she replies, “to be honest, I don’t give a damn if someone passes me without saying hello, I have a thick skin, but when they insult my managers – that I won’t tolerate.” “I have a thick skin,” he tells her. “I can see that, Gardener.” “When I walk by Development and smile and all I get in return is a scowl, I tell myself, she’s got a lot on her mind.” The President doesn’t say anything. “But it’s possible,” he continues, “some members of the staff are afraid to say hello, afraid they won’t get a response; in any case, freezing salaries only makes matters worse.”
“The Institution has to make choices,” she replies, refolding her hands tightly; “anyone whose salary has been capped are being paid what their work is worth; take the Pruner of Yews, his responsibilities were reduced, so he cannot be paid more.” “What about cost of living,” the Gardener asks. “What about it,” she counters; “the cost of living goes up for everyone because he wants more money!” “Everyone wants more money,” the Gardener replies, “why should his wants be less than anyone else’s.” “The market determines that,” she snaps; “you should see it from my point of view, Gardener; I’m here to keep the costs down; if we keep them down, the cost of living doesn’t go up and the Pruner has enough money to satisfy his wants, if he lives within his means; waste not, want not as my embroidery says!” “None of us are solely responsible for the rise in the cost of living.” “The market dictates.” “What market,” he asked abruptly, “yours?” “We all sacrifice,” she said curtly, “everyone works hard here, Gardener, not just your department.” “I never said we were the only hard workers.” “Change is the only dependable aspects in life, Gardener; we’re all replaceable.” “Well I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s as if he is watching someone else playing his part. “It is broken, Gardener, and I’ve just about fixed it and either you stay on board or you jump off.” “Well, ok,” he says, beginning to rise. “Let the past be the past, Gardener,” she interjects, “can’t you see we’re too big now to hold back the future.” “Whose future are we talking about,” he asks, sitting back down. “Hopefully all of ours,” she says quickly, standing abruptly. He thinks she ending the meeting; but she goes over to the window, telling him, “it’s hot, don’t you think?” A postcard picture of Total Power’s man is on the top of the lower window leaning against the glass pane. She tosses it on top the desk so it wouldn’t fall, then opens the window. “I wonder what he’d say,” she laughs, returning to her seat. “From what I’ve read,” says the Gardener, “he was an eccentric, too.” “I was on the internet surfing a bit the other day and saw dozens of listings of gardeners looking for work; they’d love to work here, don’t you think, it’s a beautiful place.” “It takes time,” he replies, “training someone, helping them discover their hidden assets.” “You excel there, Gardener,” she says. “A gardener’s work improves over time,” he continues, feeling encouraged, “especially when they work in one place a long time.” “I disagree,” she counters, “more often the gardener feels entitled and does less. “One of the greatest gardeners I know,” he says emphatically, “worked in the same garden from the time he was a boy until he died an old man; a love of the land comes through in the work and it becomes a work of art.” “Gardeners aren’t artists,” she says shortly. How would she know, he wants to say; you don’t understand the creative act; creativity works laterally, not according to your vertical hierarchy where the titular head prods the underlings to work in mimicry. He images her pale arms controlling a horde of white larva as they consume the needles of a pine.
Gardener – You’re thinking of the sawfly larva. They generally feed on two needle pines, like Pinus niger or P. thumbergia. I remember whenever I touched the needles as I was wiping them of the larva, they would all move together, like dancers moving in unison.
Writer – And like those sawfly larva she and her managers will consume everything good, the Gardener thinks; she’ll replace those who are eccentric and creative and insolent with her well-mannered, talentless white lines of hunger; one day visitors will come and ask, “ghee what happened here, this was once a garden of world renown.”
“You did yourselves a disservice by telling each other your salaries.” He’s shocked from his reverie. Was there a mole in the group who told Horticulture? Then he realizes her remark is coincidental. Naturally she’s knows we’ve talked to each other. By now she already knows we want Union representation. “We’re always talking to each other,” he says; “we trust each other; our single concern has always been production, and personally I see high productions a direct result of our concern for each other.” “Perhaps you should be a manager.” “I’m a gardener.” “And your gardener’s salary has been preserved.” “I’ve noticed that,” he says. “Even though you too, Gardener, have reached your limit; you can earn no more as a gardener.” Again the cold chill runs down his spine. He can’t believe he’s sitting here, what’s this all about. “I’ve been frank with you, Gardener, because you are frank with me.” She has softened her expression. It’s as if she’s read his mind. “Everyone looks up to you, Gardener, they respect you; your opinion counts; I need people like you.” She pauses and watches him. “If you want the job of Horticulture, the job’s yours.” He stares at her in disbelief. She laughs. “Not what you expected, am I right, Gardener,” she says standing up. “There already is a Horticulture,” he mutters. She laughs again. “We’ve have a nice private chat, haven’t we, an opportunity to unburden ourselves in private.” “I consider myself a bridge,” he replies. “You mean you’re going to report back to the others.” “Yes.” “Do they know you’re here?” “I’m not sure.” “They might not approve; they might wonder if you cut a deal; in any case one of us could be breaking the law.” “I’m here because you asked me.” To his surprise she comes around the desk and hugs him. His arms automatically touch her shoulders, her waist. He nods stupidly, again he sees the white larva consuming pine needles. “You have a lot to think about,” he hears her say as she ends the meeting. She is chatting to him about the weather and all that climate change nonsense as she shows him the door. He walks down the hall and then down the stairs and out onto the service road. He is stunned, shaken. He is frightened by President’s power. He has a family. Again he forgets all that he can do and sees only what he can’t. There were moments he felt he was reaching through to her, but it was an illusion. The sun is still bright, the air calm. No one is around. It’s as if he had gone into a time warp, lived a century in some parallel universe and returned to the exact point in time he had left. And yet he is different. He is changed. He is afraid. He walks back to the potting shed, loath to meet anyone. He feels tainted, as if he has betrayed everyone. He could have been more forceful, more angry. Instead he tried, like a coward, to reach across to her, bridge the differences. He would have compromised. Instead she controlled everything through his fear of losing his job. He could go to the union and complain about intimidation. But he won’t. Instead he feels as if he and the President have conspired. In the potting shed the Tropical House gardener sees him and asks him “what’s wrong, you looks to pale.” “Nothing,” he smiles with phony enthusiasm. A moment later he is grateful she didn’t pursue it.
A dispute arises between the Institution and the Union over which employees should be eligible workers for union representation. The Chairman of the Board, after consolation with his partners in the law firm of Such & Such and Such & Such and So Forth, decides to go out of the network of familiar faces and hire one of the best labor lawyers on the market. The lawyer flies in from the nation’s capital to discuss the matter. The Treasurer points out “he’s expensive; we could have spent far less money making the gardeners happy; that would have been money spent on the garden.” With the Board Chair’s consent the President signs a contract giving the new lawyer full authority now over the Institution. In the document is a list of financial obligations. “If one added up the cost of phone conversations alone, one could easily arrive at the two percent cost of living adjustment asked by those who have worked on the staff the longest,” is the acerbic appraisal of the Treasurer. The first act of the new lawyer, his silver tie shimmering under the fluorescent lights of the conference room, is to establish the rules of engagement. The client, that is the Institution, must stop all communication with those seeking Union representation. “That is why I’m here,” he announces, “to speak for the Institution.” In other words no one in management must engage in conversations of any kind with the workers, unless they’re strictly work-related. If anyone wants to pass on information to the staff they must move through a single conduit, the one designed by the lawyers, connecting the lawyer for the Institution and the lawyer for the Union. “How do I manage the gardeners activities,” asks the Assistant innocently. “Unless strictly work-related,” the lawyer repeats, closing his file, “through me.”
Because the lawyer for the Institution disagrees with the Union lawyer about which employees are eligible for union representation, the Institution on Drake’s Tongue and the Public Employee Union, DC # 9 must go to court. When the President arrives at the courthouse, she is surprised to find herself in the same elevator with the Pruner of Yews. “Pruner,” she says, as if they’re old friends, “how are you?” “Okay,” he replies with dry mouth. “Are you a witness,” she asks. He nods no. As they get out, she turns to him and says, “Pruner, I hope you understand, there’s nothing personal here.” He feels he’s flipping backward in a dizzy spin. He nods again and walks into the courtroom behind her. He says nothing throughout the proceeding, but when he is alone with the lawyers and representatives of the Union out in the hall, he argues against pulling in all the employees working in the office. The Union wants to garner more members. “Aside from two or three the majority will not vote with us, so why have their vote count. They’re not interested in us, believe me.” Back up town the President asks Resources for the Pruner of Yew’s file. In her office she laughs to herself when she realizes he doesn’t have a high school diploma. Later, however, she watches him in the courtroom, sitting over at the Union end of the table. She is surprised. The Pruner is animated. The Union reps and lawyer consult with him and it is obvious he can handle questions with an intuited skill as well as advocate forcefully for the gardeners; he also leans across to the lawyer and advises him when he is talking to the sophisticated lawyer from Washington. Who would have thought him capable, she says to herself.
After an extensive negotiations in which it is decided that the secretaries have a right to choose representation as well, both the reps from Local 9 and the President and her people are told by a representative from the Labor Board to step back and allow the eligible employees to decide for themselves. A date is chosen for a closed ballot election. At this point to her dismay, the President is require to enter the Potting Shed and post a sign from “that socialist agency” informing all staff of their rights to a fair election. When she enters the potting shed she realizes she has chosen the lunch break. She marches through the room looking neither right nor left at the gardeners, sitting in their chairs, eating. The Gardener is sitting on a bench opposite the bathroom door. Without acknowledging him either, she pushes the poster against the door, then tapes the corners with shreds of masking tape she tears off a roll with her teeth. Without looking back, she exits through the back door. As she is leaving she hears everyone cheer.
On the second floor of the house of King Total’s Power’s deceased chairman many of the secretaries working for the President and her court openly choose to remain loyal to their immediate heads. For the few secretaries who openly agree with the gardeners, subtle retributions are applied by their bosses. Hours are curtailed. Union lovers are excluded from the office banter. Those who were friends become enemies. In the North House, where Education holds court, the secretaries feud with each other over whose side should be taken. It’s a dark time for everyone, no one knowing whom to trust, but for those on the second floor of the south house, who openly favor the Union, it is the worst, a lonely affair in the heart of the anti-union sentiment. Their co-workers don’t want to be seen with the Union lovers. They are afraid of what management will do to them. The years of Kingly influence have conditioned them to see their place in the workforce as entrepreneurial. “We’re not laborers” they tell each other, “we have it good.” “Yeah, we’re not blue collar,” they affirm, “we’re white collar,” as if the color of your collar determines you’re role in the machine, as if an upper cog is superior to a lower cog. “You’re still cogs in their machine,” says one feisty secretary, unafraid to share her views. It’s evident white collar workers have developed a layer of rationalizations that support their illusion of superiority over blue collar workers. Their parents worked in factories and in the houses of the rich. They wanted their children to better themselves. We’re not wage earners, these children think, we’re capitalists. Oddly enough, they all work with their hands on keyboards and in filing systems and few have the capital to make them capitalists like the Kings’ men and their pawns.
The Gardener finds it difficult, too, though he is surrounded by a like minded workforce. On the one hand he is constantly assailed by an emotional Horticulture or an arrogant Assistant; on the other hand he is treated deferentially by the President and Development who often use him to be their envoy to the workers. “You see our lawyer told us we can’t speak with members of our staff. It’s difficult for us.” When he asks them why they can talk with him, they smile and tell him he is different. “You’re not really the Union type.” Maybe not, he thinks but every institution needs it’s checks and balances. And a union provides one of them. But then, he asks, why didn’t I say that to them!
After a protracted battle lasting through the winter and into spring, the day of voting arrives. All those eligible walk up to the North House and enter the great hall where once the resident of the manor housed his collection of medieval armor. There in a secluded corner near the north end of the hall, the eligible staff vote in privacy while a representative from the Federal Labor Board as well as representatives from the Union and the Institution sit by as monitors. When the votes are counted, it becomes apparent the eligible employees of the Institution on Drake’s Tongue have unanimously voted to be represented by the Public Employee Union of America, DC # 9. It’s obvious more secretaries voted with the gardeners than even the Pruner had foreseen. That such a small Institution needs a union to protect its workers is admission of the Institution’s failings.
They are drinking coffee on the second floor, the President and her department chiefs, in silence. Then Development says bitterly, “ I don’t know who on my staff I can trust.” The President is deep in thought. “No,” she says, “it’s over for now, a few rotten apples have swayed the rest to fall.” Finance tells them they have spent a great deal on this struggle. “We’re in the red,” she says. “And in the red we’re going to stay,” asserts a forceful President, “we’re going to spend more money, only now we’re going public. Our survey will show that most of our visitors want to visit the new Visitor’s Center, not the greenhouses. Our survey will show that most of our visitors don’t care about the gardens but do care about the retail nursery. We’ve just witnessed democracy in action. The employees we hire and pay have rejected our paternal hand. So be it.” “Let’s see how they like their new union insurance plan,” says Development. “Yeah,” mimes Resources, “ and paying Union dues!” “We must let go of all that; now we must spend money healing our family,” says the President to her surprised congregation, “don’t get me wrong; we won’t forget our enemies; but we must reach out to our public and convince them how much we love our employees, in spite of what they’ve done to us; it’s their right to reject us, to choose an outsider to care for them; it’s their right to choose another family; after all they’re not children anymore; they’re old enough to reject our love,” she says dramatically. There is no doubt what she is saying. “We’ll ask our public not only to forgive our failure as parents but to forgive our wayward employees, whose action will certainly be reflected in the entry fees and in the sales shop; yes, we not only failed our own staff but our public as well; we’ll beg their forgiveness as well as their understanding.”
But she doesn’t say this to her Board. She watches the Treasurer review the cost to the Institution, of lawyer fees and the additional cost of contributing to the Union’s medical insurance fund. Looking up he shakes his head and asks her if “your efforts to crush the garden department have failed.” “Failed,” she counters, “on the contrary, we applaud the democratic process; we’ve witnessed democracy at work; who can be against democracy; true, this is an unforeseen change, but change is good and this doesn’t hampered our efforts to reduce the costs to the taxpayer; the nursery will be fully operational next year and we’ve already seen that it is profitable; of course, costs will go up, the public will have to pay for the Union; now I’d like to give you copies of our new Mission Statement; our discussions in the past have shown that there is a great discrepancy in the opinions of this august body and so I have taken the liberty of bringing our Mission Statement up to date, giving it a currency those living today understand.” The chairman, as he takes his copy and passes the rest down the table, adds with confidence, “And as you have all read in the papers recently, the top management of DC # 9 has been indicted on corruption charges; so I believe we can work with these people,” by which he means those in Union management.
The next day gardeners are sitting at lunch eating when the President strides into the potting shed. She nods at them all with a broad smile on her face. She congratulates them on their victory. When she gets to the bathroom door where only months ago she had been forced to post the Labor Board’s Rights Of The Workers poster, she now posts a smaller but no less conspicuous sheet. As she turns to leave by the back door she smiles at the Gardener and tells him, “Gardener, this will certainly interest you.” And leaves.

Thanks to a generous donation by an agent of King Total Power, this 28-acre estate is now a public Institution overlooking the River Slang and The Great Wall. Its mission is to be a self-sustaining public enterprise thus reducing its burden on the tax payer. We encourage our patrons to reflect on the raison d’être that has made this nation great. In our Visitor’s Center you can explore the natural world through our up-to-date, interactive map with its own social media stream projected on our state of the art plasma screen. And here the patron can broaden their Institutional experience by apprehending in our exclusive gallery without walls the world of nature through the interpretive work of well known artists. In our Visitor’s Shop you can engage in one of the natural world’s greatest forces of good, that of natural selection. By comparing our prices with those of other Institutions you demonstrate your consumer freedom. In our world renown Nursery, horticultural experts are on hand to help you select the best plant material for your home. In our Food Service Court you can choose from a large selection of the finest cuisine and enjoy the best wines the industry can produce. It is easy to imagine yourself far removed to another era, sitting above the River Slang in the Gilded Age. Should you need to reserve either the North House or the Lower Lawn Tent or both for your own exclusive use, our staff is ready to assist you. We offer a full service operation to cover all your needs whether personal or business. And for the students of New Draak we offer educational programs that foster pride in the free enterprise system. Students comes away understanding that free enterprise is the most popular, singular path that Humans pursue in the search for happiness and for good reason. We hope that on leaving the Institution, all our patrons feel they never left home while they were away from home.

Disillusioned and disheartened, the gardeners begin leaving the little Garden on the Tongue of Drake. The Old Timer finally retires, the Pruner Of Yews is discharged on disability, the Tropical House gardener goes over to a nearby Botanical Garden and the Long Border gardener, the Gardener trained two years ago, goes off to work on her own. She discovers that the Garden is a valuable reference. In exchange for giving up the pleasures she had, working public land for a public good alongside the Gardener, she is earning more money working on her own. All those that leave look upon that time at the Garden when they all worked together as the garden of Eden, where they grew up in the company of all the growing things before they became aware of greed. Our Gardener works hard training new people but he feels he is no longer alive. All the struggles of the last six years have taken their toll. New faces keep replacing old ones. The President, unsure of why the Gardener remains since all the other old timers have left, instructs Horticulture to have the Gardener train someone new to replace him. “How do I tell him I want to replace him,” he asks her. “By giving him an assistant and keeping the rest of your plan to yourself.” Although lacking in experience his new assistant is ambitious. She is completely dedicated to Horticulture and the Assistant. “Now what,” Horticulture asks the President. “Give him a title and tell him he is too important to be kept in the High Garden, send him out to solve problems elsewhere; send him down to his nursery!” So he is given the title of Gardener At Large. He finds himself trouble shooting in all the areas in decline. With no one working in the Long Border, he begins working on the back road until, as he is told, someone can be found. He tries to convince his High Garden assistant to work with him in other areas. But she refuses to leave the High Garden. It’s her understanding that she work up there. Besides she finds the other areas boring. As time goes on, when she seeks guidance in her garden she goes down to Horticulture and the Assistant. The Assistant tells her that “the High Garden was created by a great gardener, who left years ago, a broken man. Some say a terrible scourge took the Porcelain Man away but we know it was the Wizard’s unrelenting micro-management that destroyed his genius. As for the Wizard, who was ousted finally when our present leader liberated the Institution, no one has heard from him since. No one knows where he is. It’s rumored,” the Assistant whispers, “that the President had him erased in the small garden of Vesonius Primus in Pompeii, where he was admiring a mural of Orpheus, who was known to have lulled the Lord of the Dead in order to bring back his true love.” “But this can’t be verified,” Horticulture adds, “no more than one can bring back the dead.” “Yes,” confirms the Assistant, “and others say he’s locked himself in a small house, shrouded in woods on the outskirts of New Drake, not far from here and refuses to come out. These people claim he spends all his time listening to Italian opera, in particular the works of Puccini and Donizetti.” “Can this be true,” she asks. “Well, no one actually knows,” admits Horticulture, “but it’s stated just the same.”
In the meantime the Gardener finds he is working in the woods more and more. For years he tried unsuccessfully to convince the other gardeners to work down there. As turnover increases he tries to convince the new people. “You can make your mark down in the Woods,” he tells them, “no one has yet created a woodland garden.” “It’s a great opportunity,” he adds, “to build something new, from scratch.” When they see the vines, the dead trees, the stands of Japanese knotweed, they back off. It’s too much work, they complain. They prefer gardening where success has already been achieved, in areas they already understand. “No one,” they confide, “want to work in Siberia.” And neither Horticulture nor the Assistant force anyone to work where they don’t want. “Somebody has to work there,” the Gardener tells Horticulture and the Assistant. “For now,” says the Assistant, “as GAL, the job is yours.” So little by little the Gardener works less and less in the High Garden and further and further out on the margins along the perimeter fences. Most days he works alone.

Notes:

WKBK2004.010

The Gardens Of Pompeii/Wilhelmina F. Jashemski, p72

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten E

Later in the month of September, on the night of the day following the board’s nearly unanimous consent to the President’s wish to convert the garage, where Total Power’s man once kept his cars, into a visitor’s center, where the Institution’s growing sales division could house its shop, the Gardener sees the Porcelain Man for the second time. But before describing his dream ushered in on the first cold front of the season, we need to take a last look at Morning Glory’s jungle garden in the Elevator Shaft. Since the installation back in June countless pages overflowing with words, many of them belonging to Morning Glory, have described it with enthusiasm. Photographs filled local and national newspapers, art journals and garden magazines, not to mention all the cell phone pictures exported from visitors to friends. It caught everyone’s attention. It was the latest thing. The critics said it brought gardens and art at long last into the same arena. I might add that it brought literature into the arena as well. In his book which quickly followed the dissemination of his DVD, Morning Glory laid out the problems he faced and the solutions he utilized. He described his bathroom epiphany before the mirror while shaving which guided him in the creation of his ode to the Great Wall and the River Slang – we heard it all last spring. To apply an ancient metaphor, the book sold like hotcakes. So we know what he thought and all the pundits after him. But what do we think? What did it exactly look like?
Through the summer, hot and dry by all accounts, the jungle grew. By mid July a writer called it a broad leaf version of Monet’s Giverny; by August it was referred to as Rousseau’s Dream. Gradually and imperceptibly the pergola and the palisades disappeared behind it. Morning Glory’s yellow brick road no longer lead to a sunken garden highlighting the palisades but a thicket of overpowering leaves. The kids loved it. The kids literally sank out of sight into another world, where their mothers’ couldn’t find them. It was a pre-historic world of giant ferns and bananas, and what else?
Gardener – Excuse me?
Writer – And what else was growing there?
Gardener – He probably took all the Sansevieria, both the flat leaf and the cylindrical, all the Ficus, especially F. elastica, the Maranta, as well as Calthea, Dracaena, certainly the Alocasia, Calocasia, the list is endless if he actually emptied the Tropical House. I suspect many of the shade lovers got sun burnt during the first few weeks
Writer – By September the gardeners called Morning Glory’s garden, Kong’s Island. No one remembered Morning Glory’s sales pitch, highlighting the Slang River and the Great Wall beyond. Neither Morning Glory nor the Heroes returned again after the Grand Opening. Morning Glory, struck by his discovery of tropicals, took his retinue to the Philippines on a new assignment. There was talk of making a movie, Apocalypso Oley. Meanwhile the garden in the shaft just grew. The gardeners didn’t know what to do with it, they weren’t in charge of Kong’s Island. Horticulture and the Assistant were too busy planning for the upcoming sales event at the annual fund raiser. Besides they didn’t know what to do with it either. As for the President and her managers of the Roundtable, they thought it looked fine. So it grew and grew. From the yellow brick road, the pergola, the river and the palisades disappeared, as if swallowed by an ancient forest. Now the jungle is everything. And the kids love it.
In his treatise Existential Wind: The Story Behind The Shaft: The Contextual Garden: Eden After The Fall: Always Absent Never Present Twice Morning Glory envisioned a return to the Garden of Eden. But as far as the Gardener is concerned the gates to paradise had been irrevocably shut. And it’s not Cherubims with flaming sword that keeps him out. He wants nothing to do with Morning Glory and his shaft. It’s as if the garden had never existed. That is until late Friday afternoon when the Tropical House curator tells him about a fast moving cold front approaching Saturday evening. “I just heard the report on the weather station,” she tells him. “It won’t get down to freezing,” the Gardener replies as he gets ready to leave for home. “But what if it does?” “Then it’s already too late,” he says, resisting her plea. Over the weekend the knowledge he’s duped grows inside of him. He’s taken his anger out on the Tropical House gardener. He’s blaming the plants for Morning Glory’s folly. He remembers the Assistant telling the gardeners that no one should be telling anyone else what to do. Instead of helping a fellow gardener save plants, he’s allowed his selfish anger to get in the way. On Sunday night he goes to bed angry. Even the Gardener’s wife notices. But for some reason he can’t tell her why. Sometime after that, in the quiet of night, with the wind picking up outside, he sees the Porcelain Man coming out of the west, descending on waves of fast moving clouds. His blue grey poncho is wide like the wings of an avenging angel. His voice thunders in the black tumulus of night and his eyes flash, cleaving the sky in two as columns of fire strike the river below. The Gardener is craning his neck unsure of where he is. Then he realizes he is in the empty tropical house looking through the white shading on the west wall of glass where the tillandsia used to hang. They would be here now if it wasn’t for him. The coming of the Porcelain Man is so frightening he doesn’t see the Wizard at first, pacing back and forth on the great lawn south of the Shaft Garden. When he does, he wants to run out and tell the Wizard everything. That would be the natural thing to do, because of the impending chaos, tell him why the tropicals are out there in the first place, but he can’t. He’s lying on one of the gravel benches, unable to move. Strands of porcelain berry and bindweed are looping around his hands and feet, tying him to the bench piping. Even so he feels as if he is in the shaft. He feels the garden above him swaying. He feels the rising wind lacerating his naked body, reeds and broad leaves wiping across his stomach, faster and faster, for now the Porcelain Man is overhead lashing him. In one hand he carries a grub axe, in the other a scythe. A single red leaf banana falls, its roots tearing up the Gardener’s stomach. He writhes in pain. The wizard is pleading with the bird man, “Come down,” he cries, “sit here,” he begs, holding up his arm. But the wild fury is beyond hearing. He’s beside himself. He’s begun his windy assault, descending like a train through a tunnel of darkness. An icy, dry wind presses against the Gardener, pushing him deeper and deeper into the gravel, grinding him with all its might against the sharp edged stones. He shivers. He struggles to cover himself but the creeping vines are binding his arms. When the Porcelain Man swings his scythe in a great arc, folding the jungle in two, sharp pains shoot though the Gardener’s arms and legs. Fragments of color fill the air. When the Porcelain Man strikes the ground with his axe, the earth explodes inside the Gardener’s head, an unbearable pain, leveling his thoughts into a growing sheet of white behind his eyes. He is on the point of screaming when it’s over. The Porcelain Man is moving east with the Wizard running after him. The white bearded man tumbles as he picks up a leaf here, a branch there, disappearing behind a hedge the Gardener has never seen before. The Gardener wakes thirsting for water. His joints are sore, his head aches, his stomach turns. Cold air is blowing through an open window in the bedroom. In the distance thunder rumbles, receding. Not a drop of rain has fallen.
The next day Horticulture and the Assistant and rest of the gardeners survey the damaged Shaft Garden. Most of the Tropical House collection save the lowest growing members, have been mauled and shredded. The red leafed banana. . .
Gardener – Possibly the Abyssinian, Ensete ventricosum Maurellii.
Writer – and one of the tree ferns. . .
Gardener – Probably Dicksonia antarctica, taken from the Palm House.
Writer – have been ripped from the earth as if by a ferocious beast. The cold, dry wind has burned most of the broad leaf plants, the leaves brown and crispy from the edges inward. “The Musas, Canas and Calocasias will come back,” the Gardener consoles the Tropical House gardener, “we might as well dig them out now and store them.” “But the rest is ruined for display,” she answers not wanting consolation. “They’ll start coming back this winter,” he persists. But she walks away unable to look. “How weird,” observes the Assistant, “the plot is what – fifty by fifty feet – yet the Elevator Shaft is the only garden destroyed by the storm.” “Why does this always happen to me,” Horticulture bemoans. “Well, it was a weather event,” explains the Assistant, “maybe a tornado or a freaky downdraft.” One thing’s for sure, thinks the Gardener, you can’t blame the Wizard. When the President drives by on her way to her parking slot in back of the management building, and sees all the gardeners standing around looking into the shaft, she stops her car, rolls down the window with a touch of her index finger and asks Horticulture, “why’s everybody standing around,” He tells her, “the shaft was hit last night.” “By what,” she replies quickly surveying the scene. When he tells her, she says, “No point crying over spilt milk,” and drives on. Later she tells Horticulture, “change is good; Existential Wind will become a collector’s item. It’s important to clean the mess up.” “When the new shop opens,” adds Public Relations, punching her idea into her notebook, “we can loop the soundtrack over the PA, adding to MG’s seminal influence.” “Yeah,” says the President without looking at PA, “and the sooner you fill up that hole, the better.” Only you’ll have to do it with your own budget since there’s no more funding for the Morning Glory show.”
Now the gardeners move heaven and earth. First they move the earth, literally, in fulfilling the President’s command. Heaven will follow. Several days are spent removing the tattered tropicals. Since the steel walls in the Elevator Shaft were welded at the corners, and speed is of the utmost importance, Horticulture and the Assistant decide to leave everything in place, walls, steps, everything and simply fill in the hole. “We’re moving the Captain’s Mountain back where it belongs,” he tells his troops. He dons his baseball cap visor backward, and sallies through the rear door of the Potting Shed, with his gardener knights behind him. He mounts the tractor with its front end loader, instructing his infantry to follow him. “Bring Cushmans,” he cries, “and wheelbarrows, bring shovels and rakes.” Like Durer’s Great Christian Knight or in the least like Thomas Muntzer leading his peasant landsknechts into battle against injustice, he charges out of the garage, nearly taking one of the large double doors off its hinges. The project takes two days but the older gardeners are impressed, “Horticulture must have hated Morning Glory.” On the third day the gardeners roll the bare earth level, scratch rake it, then sow the grass seed by hand. Then they tamp the earth and scatter over the entire plot a shredded paper mulch that comes in plastic bags.
Following this feat of moving earth, they proceed to the next feat, figuratively speaking, of moving heaven. As already planned, a thirty yard dumpster is delivered at the south end of the Long Border, not far from where the Managers of the Roundtable park their cars. The Assistant tells the gardeners it’s permanent. “As soon as it’s filled, we’ll replaced it with another.” He tells the gardeners, “we anticipate future growth in the sales division, so we’re expanding the nursery. This year’s mulch. . .” which is. . . which is!
Gardener – I’m sorry, what do you want to know?
Writer – Define mulch?
Gardener – Come off it.
Writer – Define mulch!
Gardener – You know what mulch is. . , ok, ok, mulch consists of the fallen leaves we collect in large piles at the end of every growing season which, over the coming months, decay renders useful to us gardeners.
Writer – Thanks. This pile of leaves that is rendered useful to you gardeners is how we writers stretch our metaphor of heaven, since leaves fall from trees that stretch high into the sunlit heavens and render the heavenly photon into matter.
Gardener – Who are you kidding?
Writer – So as I was saying, that is, as the Assistant was saying, “this year’s mulch as well as all the other garden matter. . .”
Gardener – Compost!
Writer – will be taken to the dumpster.”
On the morning following the night of the first major frost, with the ground crackling underfoot, the Old Timer with the help of the Tropical House gardener lays sheets of plastic fabric over the lumpy ground once occupied by the compost and mulch piles. They both know that leaf mulch can smother weeds just as effectively and with no extra cost to the Garden. To keep the landscaping fabric in place, they punch plastic stakes through the weave into the crusty soil to hold it. While they’re doing that, The Pruner of Yews splices into a water line feeding a nearby faucet adding a special connection with a shutoff valve. When he finishes, the sun is high enough to melt the ice crystals in the soil. While the Tropical House gardener digs a small hole near the faucet, the Pruner of Yews uncoils one inch black plastic piping, cuts a section off and connects one end of the hose to a new irrigation valve and the other end to the T connector with the shut off valve on main water line to the faucet. In the meantime the Old Timer bolts a solar panel onto a special stand set in the ground nearby. The Tropical House gardener, having quickly dug the hole, stretches a long section of the plastic one inch hose from the hole she’s dug along the entire length of the nursery. The Pruner of Yews attaches the end of the hose near the hole to the irrigation valve which he now places in the hole. Meanwhile the Old Timer, who has mounted the solar panel, hooks two wires to a twelve volt battery set in box at the base of the stand. He then runs another set of wire from the battery to an AC DC converter, then to a timer he straps to the faucet. From the faucet he runs the wire along the one inch plastic piping to the irrigation valve, attaching the wires to the terminals on the electric motor in the new valve. The Tropical House gardener pushes a special plastic box down around the new valve and its connections and covers it with a lid. Off the one inch feeder line which the Tropical House gardener uncoiled the length of the nursery, all three gardeners start connecting a series of half inch hoses, using T connectors spliced into the one inch hose. They run these half inch water lines through the nursery, clamping the last six feet to eight foot 2×4 pressure treated wood which they insert two feet into the ground. On each terminal six feet above the ground they clamp a rotary sprinkler. After testing the system, they unhook the battery, drain the valves and go back to the potting shed. The automated irrigation system is a novelty. To water the display gardens and the grounds which everyone sees, the gardeners still drag hoses with oscillating sprinklers from fixed metal boxes housing water outlets sunk in the ground.
At the next managers meeting, Horticulture describes the reallocation of resources. “From now on,” he says, “garden rubbish will be dumped into the container at the end of the Long Border. This,” he proudly claims, “eliminates our landfill, allowing my department to enlarge the nursery which means increased inventory and sales.” Public Relations, with her sharp ear for nuance, types in her idea book, the word, landfill. In future postings she will refer to the old compost and mulch piles as the landfills of the past. “As for the cost of the dumpster,” continues Horticulture amid the bright countenances of those around him, “roughly five or six hundred dollars, the Institution will be more than compensated by the intake of monies derived from the newly expanded nursery. Not only that,” he boasts, the brimming smiles charging his batteries as he speaks, “cost analysis demonstrates that we will save money by eliminating the time consuming drive the gardeners made down to the landfill because the dumpster will be centrally located.” Finance nods her head in approval. Development claps her hands and emits an uncharacteristic giggle. “This,” he proudly claims, “will not only save time, which we all know is money, but will be nationally beneficial as well since we’ll reduce our dependency on foreign oil. It’s also ecologically prudent since we’ll reduce fuel emissions, and at the same time our carbon footprint.” “I couldn’t care less about the footprint but ecology sounds good and will keep the regulatory extremists off our back,” announces the President dryly. “Not only that,” pipes PR, reading from her digital notebook, “eliminating the long drive down to the landfills of the past provides us with two excellent talking points.”
By the end of December, after months of discussions begun that summer with the famous architectural firm, Wood & Post LLC, noted for making new buildings look like old ones, which Wood, in a sentimental moment, once said reminded him of “the first machine washed jeans I bought in college, same thing,” plans are finalized for converting the garage into a visitors center. An artist’s rendition is posted on a large signage. . .
Gardener – I thought you hated that word.
Writer – It grows on you, don’t you think. Anyway the signage is mounted on wood posts pounded into the ground on the west side of the garage and shows people in late spring wear, a light breeze blowing, walking toward a rustic building somewhat reminiscent of the days when Total Power’s head man kept his cars there. But the colonnade holding up the portico over the double glass doors in front with its attendant shrubberies and flowering pots is vaguely comforting of things contemporary. Everyone feels they’ve seen it before, especially the younger people. The Old Timer says it looks like the front of the Colonial Bank up in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where four hundred years earlier in 1704, the French and their Indian allies attack the white English farmers who had settled in the valley, once the home of the Pocomtuc, who had unwittingly given the land to the English in exchange for other land from the English in a real estate deal favorable to those who could read English. PR likes it because it reminds her of the BuckStopsHere coffee shop, in her childhood home of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was once a drug story, where a half century earlier, local high school students from her grandparents era sat at the counter in defiance of integration laws which stated that only white customers would be consumers. It was at the BuckStop, as the kids now call it, where she first learned to love strong coffee with whipped cream. Education of course sees all these positive antecedents as a sign of progress. She encourages everyone to hold hands and sing songs. Not one of the gardeners recognize the surrounding landscape which is illustrated with a forest of billowy trees embracing the building on three sides.
In January two steel cargo containers, six by forty-eight feet, are dropped off end to end near the compost and leaf container. Two thirds of the south end of the Long Border is blocked from view. Leaves and styrofoam cups and crumpled office papers have already been piling up behind the compost container. With the advent of this temporary storage area more leaves and litter collect in the abandoned garden bed behind the containers. The entire northwest corner of the old manor house of Total Power’s man, where once a lovely porch with awning wrapped the west side of the house, cars and cargo containers have created a no-man’s land to which the public bathroom in the basement of the office building, added during the modernization of public facilities following the donation of the property to the city, consolidates the hard truth faced by countless dreamers, who, without possibly realizing it, are hoping to finding a world without flaw.
During the next two weeks as the gardeners collect their tools and store them in the steel containers, they empty the garage of everything. Horticulture and the Assistant award themselves credit for having the foresight of placing a permanent garbage containment system down the road from the garage and right next to the steel containers. The garage holds stuff dating back to the time of Total Power. The amount of stuff baffles the team as they stand there wondering what to keep and what to throw away. But in this moment of doubt an pentecostal fire descends upon everyone from above and the spirit of George Carlin fills them. The Old Timer is the first to speak in the saint’s tongue arguing in favor of some stuff because he remembered seeing this stuff in the basement, which was then full of stuff, in the house where Total Power’s wife still lived when she was an old lady, before she donated the house and lots of its stuff to the city of New Drake back in ’65. But when he sees other stuff he claims that stuff, looks like the same dusty stuff that was falling to pieces, even back then, in an empty room on the second floor above the kitchen in the other house, the North House, where he lived as a boy in ’59 when his parents were the Estate Managers. His father made him sit in this cold room full of old, dusty stuff, because he had stolen candy and stuff from the Five & Dime down on Broadway and hidden the stuff in the unused room under all this dusty stuff. Soon they are all speaking with Carlin tongues, assaying all the people since the beginning of time, who collected stuff and begat children who collected more stuff, which they handed down from generation to generation, everyone generating more stuff, the old giving the best stuff to their children, the worst stuff to their friends, and the siblings fighting over who gets the best of the best stuff while the cagey prefer money so they can buy the stuff they want, for stuff we art and unto stuff we shalt return. So the inspired gardeners work as one spirit pulling out and assessing stuff, and more stuff asking each other what Saint Carlin would call this or that, followed by a pause before the chorus shouts, stuff! everyone in high spirits now as they renounce stuff by throwing the stuff into the dumpster. The only shortfall is when the hauler returns with an empty container and tells Horticulture and the Assistant that the full dumpster can’t be charged at the cheaper rate of hauling organic material but at the higher rate because of all that non-organic stuff.
Later in the month following the first hard freeze, a fencing company arrives. It’s as if Captain Morning Glory’s Mayans have returned. They stand on a flatbed truck and drive on the yellow brown lawn up the hill behind the garage, pounding steel poles at long intervals into the hard ground. On the service road and the on the walkways they drill holes into the macadam and sink their poles. Midway between the steel poles they build wooden braces out of two by fours. Then they unroll and stretch an orange plastic barrier fence, four feet high around the perimeter of the envisioned Visitor’s Center, tying the fence to the poles with wire and stapling the fence to the upright arms of the wooden braces. The footprint for the new building is huge. The Visitors Center will occupy the front of the new building. The gardeners tool shed and plant storage areas will be in a rear smaller building, separated by a courtyard where the machinery will be stored. A courtyard will separate the main public hall from the working areas in the rear. Adding in the areas occupied by the contractor sheds and storage areas the construction site behind the orange barrier fence is over three acres. The north stairway entrance to the High Garden and the Aquatic Garden is eliminated until further notice. Because of the enormity of the project large sections of lawns and gardens as well as sections of the service road are annexed to the site. Because of the availability of land, other adjacent areas are eventually overrun, adding new and unexpected domains for the contractors wanting their cars and trucks in proximity. From this day forward an independent fiefdom exists inside the Institution having rules of its own.
After the fence is raised a week quietly passes without a single machine interrupting the winter idyll. The ice on the river flows up river and then down river depending on the ocean tides. Visitors can look to the Great Wall and almost image the garden as it was during the Wizard’s time. Then the first truck arrives in February and delivers a forty yard dumpster. To set the container inside the fenced off area in front of the garage the driver has to maneuver in the tight area near the old beech tree. To avoid the tree he has to drive up on the lawn west of the greenhouses. In the following days with the sun rising dramatically, the traffic increases significantly. The viburnums on the west side of the garage, on the opposite side of the service road connecting the two houses, suffer when oversized trucks pull into the beds to avoid hitting the construction fence. In the days ahead other trucks will break more branches. After a cold rain the heavy vehicles grind their wheels deep into the beds, leaving ruts in the earth along the road, which remain there until the job is done.
The days are growing longer. Everyone in management is excited. When they walk past the site on the way to the restaurant for lunch they see progress, they see change. The architect is famous and known for bringing the manor life of an older era to life in the modern world. The south wall or front wall is preserved, since it represents an era long gone and missed. Brick masons begin sand blasting the paint off the old wall. For the rest of the month and into the first of March the rest of the building is demolished. A patina of dust a century old of ancient mortar and pulverized brick coats budding limbs and evergreen leaves. Instead of a dormant world returning again, all bright and fresh, everything near the demolition site is grey. For the gardeners a struggle begins with truck drivers pulling semis onto the lawns and into the shrubberies to let other vehicles by. Often the fork lift operators back into the beds breaking branches or they leave their machines idling, the hot exhaust burning the new foliage.
As spring presses forward through March with snow drops and crocus appearing here and there, the gardeners. . .
Gardener – Don’t forget Chionodoxa sardensis.
Writer – What’s that?
Gardener – Glory of the Snow, you can say blue waves of Glory of the Snow.
Writer – As spring presses forward through March with snow drops and crocus appearing here and there, and blue waves of Glory of the Snow drifting down the hill behind the former home of Total Power’s man and wife, the gardeners are hard pressed. When demolition ends, excavation begins on the lawn on the north side of the now demolished garage. A new layer of dust now, reaching back at least a thousand years if not more, covers the more recent centuries of patina. The gardeners argue with the construction managers. They warn them that the driver of the enormous backhoe, who is shaving earth from the northeast corner of the construction site, is getting too close to the large magnolia, growing at the top of the slope.
Gardener – That must be the Magnolia soulangeana, a hybrid, with multiple silver grey trunks, and large purple blossoms with white interiors.
Writer – Remember, Gardener, our story glides over familiar experiences but is still a story. The project managers promise to do their best and the giant yellow machine, which looks nothing like Buck Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, continues its attack on the hill where the magnolia has stood for as long as the Old Timer can remember, its flower buds now swelling.
Gardener – Must be April.
Writer – Some of the Mayans assure the gardeners it will be fine; others of Irish descent are annoyed by this intervention of tribal gardeners who’ve no business interfering with the internal affairs of the construction site. The next day a new team of Italians and Aztecs tears up the service road connecting the two houses and excavates a deep trench. The channel runs from the construction site to the North House. The Gardener finds the High Garden cut off for a week from the other parts of the property. He can walk anywhere he wants but he can’t bring a Cushman up from the storage container to the Aquatic Garden where he would normally park if he wanted to offload material or pile on brush. The north end of the grounds is cut off from the south end. Once the trench is dug a sewer line is laid out in the trench that will connect the bathrooms and water drains in the Visitor’s Center to the sewer line running under the North House to a major line down by the river. The soil is backfilled and a temporary asphalt patch applied so the road can be used again. Even before this work is completed, this trencher unit suddenly attacks the walkway on the south side of the High Garden cutting off all access to south stairway. The asphalt is carted away in a bobcat with a front end loader and the soil is piled up against the wall burying a lovely ground cover.
Gardener – Vinca minor Miss Jekyll with white flowers instead of the usual blue.
Writer – This new trench is where the power lines will be laid in the weeks ahead from a power source on the main road outside the fence to the potting shed basement and eventually from there to the new Visitors Center.
Then the first truck arrives from the big nurseries. The semi backs down past the turnaround where Morning Glory’s home away from home had parked a year ago like an embassy on wheels from Times Square a year ago. The driver stops at the beginning of the gravel Meadow Road leading down to the nursery and the woods beyond. The Assistant, with camera in hand, calls everyone in to unload the plants. The urgency created by the fate of the magnolia is siphoned off to the nursery. The Assistant takes pictures of everyone unloading the truck, later posting them on his MyFace page under the caption, “my guys at work.” That day and the one following the gardeners haul the plants down to the nursery and line them out. Over the next two weeks several more trucks arrive. This concentration on the retail end of the Institution begins to affect the general appearance of the grounds. Weeds pop up in the shadows of the emerging perennials, hoses are left uncoiled in the greenhouses, broken branches from wind storms litter the main lawns, even the necessary deadheading that begins in earnest once the perennials begin blooming and keeps the garden pictures in focus is left undone.
Then one day the Gardener refuses to unload a truck. He’s angry and feels hard pressed without the compost and mulches he depended on to keep the High Garden weed free and moist. The Assistant demands an explanation. He tell the Assistant, “I’ve taken a page from your book, I do what I can do.” He arrives at 8:00, leaves at 4:30. Horticulture frets that other gardeners might follow suit and use Gardener’s excuse. He pleads with the President and she acquiesces. After hours of inquiry he and the Assistant order three 1800 pound bags of recycled shredded brown rubber mulch. The super-sized bags arrive on a flatbed truck shipped out from the national distributor. The three bags are set down south of the containers in the cul-de-sac behind the management office. The bales are never opened. The Gardener refuses to use it and the others follow suit.
The excavation at the northeast corner of the construction site stops short of the Magnolia. A Mayan tells the Gardener that earth will be shoveled back into the area once the foundation is poured. A new team arrives. These surveyors are Eurasian and they shoot their laser beams across the wide open spaces that were once a hill and pound stakes in the ground where the corners of the buildings will be. After them another team of Mayans arrive and among them are Italians who often look Aztec, only they are older. They wire steel re-enforcement rods together and build forms for the foundation walls out of ¾ inch sheet plywood and two by fours of knotty pine, and sometimes any scrap of lumber that fits the need. The first of the big cement trucks arrive, its tumbler rotating. To get the discharge chutes close to the northeast corner of the excavated pit, near the Magnolia soulungiana, the operator in the first cement truck drives up on the lawn under an old elm, swings around and backs up toward the magnolia. The weight of the loaded truck compresses the soil under six massive wheels, leaving a deep calligraphy across the lawn outside the fence, north of the construction site, not unlike a Celtic rune. The Gardener, hearing the diesel rumbling and the gears grinding close to the High Garden, runs down the northwest path between the High Garden and the Water Garden and sees the truck parked not twenty feet from the Magnolia. The driver steps down from the cab and swings the chute toward the tree. The Italian workmen cut the orange plastic fencing and attach the chute to sixty feet of aluminum chutes which the Mayans have extended through the branches into the pit. The Gardener shakes his head. The Mayans smile at him. One of them points to the open Magnolia flowers, purple and white and shouts “Que linda!”
With May a week away the first of dry heat wave settles in. The Mayans and the Italians wire in more steel reinforcement rods across the ground on top of which they lay in panels of metal re-enforcement mesh. The cement trucks return. Each batch is checked by an city inspector with a kit and then the grey slurry is pumped in through a long hose, truck after truck, the tumblers turning, diesels grumbling the entire day. With the concrete slab poured, steel I-beams are delivered on a flatbed truck. A crane much larger than the one hired by Captain Morning Glory for his Elevator Shaft installation arrives on another flatbed truck. Because of its size the flatbed truck must turn around on the public road outside the Institution’s north gate. It backs down through the gate and around the front of the North house, stopping near the turn around where Morning Glory established his home away from home a year ago. For the rest of the day the operator unloads the giant machine. It has massive caterpillar treads like those used in armored tanks. Slowly the monster machine grinds its way up the hill, scaring the macadam on either side of the temporary asphalt patch covering the filled in trench where the sewer line was laid. Once anchored in place near the flatbed truck carrying the steel I-beams, the operator swings the telescoping boom over the truck where the driver of the truck ties in the boom’s cables to a beam. Then the operator of the long boom lifts the beam off the flatbed truck and swings the beam out over the site and sets it upright in an interval in a slot in the foundation wall, where the welders secure it. Once the beams are in place the masons begin raising the cinder block wall in the rear building where the gardeners will keep their tools and store their plants, and the brick layers lay up reinforced brick walls where the Visitor’s Center is imagined. Once the cinder block walls in the back of the building are high enough, they are waterproofed with tar. Then a West African cuts all the orange fencing down, so he can drive a bobcat with a front end push blade attached up the hill and push the soil in behind the wall. Meanwhile the Mayans shovel in the soil near the Magnolia which finished blooming a month ago. When everyone is done someone ties the tattered orange fencing to the Magnolia.
The entire month of June, like the year before, is stellar for vacationers. Yet the weatherfolk on TV and on radio, when they see a cloud on the horizon talk about a threat of rain as if that cloud was a national disaster. For the gardeners pulling hoses out to needy shrubs and trees thirsting for water, the sun looms up every morning like the Egyptian boat of the dead. Instead of bringing the promise of renewal, the sun looms higher and higher, over reaching the entire world with its oppressive rays. Leaves wilt, then prematurely drop. The grass turns yellow. The trees weaken and the youngest shrubs die. And whatever beauty the gardeners have planted out in their beds requires constant attention and not a moment’s distraction.
By the end of June the outer lower shell of the Visitor’s Center in finished. More steel beams arrive. They are laid across the spans and welded to the verticals to support the peaked roof over the Visitors Center. Then the monster crane returns to the flatbed and is taken away. The ground around the new complex is backfilled and leveled. Once the roof is in place most of the work goes inside. The President and her roundtable managers, who work far way in air conditioned rooms up on the second floor of the house where Total Power’s man and his wife lived, see the changes and they are happy. They don’t see the masons at the end of the day washing out the steel mortar boxes with garden hoses, and dumping the grey sandy water into the shrub beds. They don’t register the increased ph. And they don’t see across the grounds, far and wide, the paper bags, coffee containers, plastic bottles and styrofoam packaging from workers’ lunches caught in thickets of holly, yew and viburnum, because they are looking in an entirely different direction with a completely different frame of reference. But the gardeners do. They pick up the garbage, they prune back the dead and broken branches, they yell at the masons, they fight with the truck drivers, the foremen, and the construction managers. When the President learns of these arguments she commands Horticulture to tell them they must use the chain of command. “What chain of command,” the Old Timer asks. The Assistant is indignant. “First you come to me. Then I take it to Horticulture, and he takes it to the President. She takes it to Finance and she takes it to the right construction manager. He will take it to the foreman who will take it to the responsible subcontractor who will then take it up with the employees. Chain of command, it’s that simple.” But the only chain of command the gardeners see is the one that keeps the one in power in place. Meanwhile it’s their fingers that plug every hole in the ragged walls of stability. They are the protectors of the garden. They are doing all they can to prevent widespread botanical death. And they are growing weary. And they know that in the world as it is, the real buck stops with them.
Every afternoon when the gardeners return the hundreds of feet of green garden hoses to the storage containers where they keep their tools, the insides have become as hot as ovens. In the beginning of June the Gardener notices yellow jackets building a hive in one of the hinges on which the big metal end doors swing. The smooth backed creatures, dressed like harlequins in yellow and black, fly in and out ignoring the gardeners. But the Gardener realizes that by the end of August going in and out of the container will be harrowing. Sooner or later someone will be standing in the wrong place blocking the entrance to the nest. He warns the gardeners to be aware. He means to deal with the problem but other problems keep cropping up. One day the Assistant is taking inventory in one of the containers, when he leaps back on seeing “the bees.” He runs back to the potting shed, grabs one of the cans of hornet killer and sprays the nest liberally, leaping back from time to time as he wields his aerosol stream as a knight would a sword or, more appropriately, the valiant tailor in the Grimm’s tale. The yellow jackets caught in the nest fall from the hive and curl hideously, writhing. The Assistant nods his head to an intern standing by, “just saved your ass from those mother fuckers.” The returning yellow jackets, not caught in the attack, fly about in bewilderment. They remain in limbo for days. Then they begin building a new hive in another hinge in the other container. The Gardener must act before the Assistant discovers the new hive and panics again. He’d been stung more times than he can remember, felt that hot prick that sent him running ludicrously flailing the air with his arms. He too has pressed the button on the insecticide canister. But he learned to wait until nightfall or early morning when all the hive residents were inside before spraying. But he hated the process. The cowardly attack of a giant. And if it was no good for the yellow jackets how could it be any good for him? True he possessed more mass than a yellow jacket. What was effective on them would have no observable effect on him. But what if he used it everyday, every other day, once a week or even once in a while for decades? What if ten thousand people in different places used the spray? The Kings’ men in government who were supposed to regulate this material set up charts with allowable amounts. How did one determine the amounts of ten thousand applications in a given area on a given day? This didn’t even account for susceptibility of applicators with less durable defense systems in their bodies. One day many years ago he was watering a newly planted Japanese holly. . .
Gardener – Ilex crenata.
Writer – when he felt that hot bite on his arm, then on his leg. His senses refused to draw on past experience so he went on watering for a few seconds until something struck his neck. He instinctively slapped his neck and saw the tiny yellow bodies whizzing around him. He felt one crawling under his T-shirt. He ran backward waving his free arm like a mad man, brushing the other clinging creatures off his pants and shirt. But they followed him. Without thinking he sprayed them with the hose. They landed bewildered, dazed. They walked around on the ground, confused. Then they rose again so he shot them again with the water with the same results. He walked back and saw the hive hole in the ground, which he must have stepped on, causing them to panic! He aimed the hose at the opening and watched the water soak the ground, fill the hole. They came out of the hive walking, the same confused way as the others. It was obvious they were stunned. The water had the same effect on them as the smoke used by beekeepers to control bees. He marked the hole with a stake and that was that. Days later he returned and the nest was back in operation. He found no fault with them. He had protected himself and that was that. The nest could stay. This time the nest must go. But he’s still not interested in terminating the residents of new hive. He shoots a jet stream of water into the hinge mid morning before the sun gets to hot. The returning yellow jackets circle around, studying the jet stream. But they never follow the stream to its source. He hoses them down, confusing them. It gives him time. He eventually forces the nest out of the hinge with a bamboo stick. Carefully he shovels up the hive with yellow jackets crawling on it and moves it into the woods nearby. Meanwhile the rest of the group begins returning to the hinge where he hoses them down each day to inhibit their ability to regroup. He stands in awe of their persistence, returning to their lost home like survivors on the slopes of Pompeii and wishes they had the good sense to go out and find the nearby hive where their brothers and sisters are prospering. But he knows they won’t, they’re doomed. He is awed by their Sisyphean strength, or is it an incomprehensible stupidity. He wonders where on this graph of these possibilities he stands. Is he strong or is he just stupid? Eventually they disappear. Is that his destiny as well? Are he and the other gardeners doomed to disappear, coming in day after day to a garden no longer here?
Three days before Labor Day, on the morning of the grand opening of the new center, the young partners in the architectural firm of Wood & Post request the use of Horticulture’s potted plants. “We want to enhance the colonnaded portico for our photo shoot this morning and for this afternoon’s event with the Mayor,” one of the young architects assigned to the project explains; “we need something green, flowers would be better. The photographs will go into our yearly catalogue,” he says as if that will be a good thing for the Institution. Horticulture agrees and sends the team over to the Assistant. He too agrees and sends them to the Gardener. The Gardener refuses and sends them back to the Assistant. Instead of going back to the Assistant they go into the Tropical House looking for anything that will enhance the appearance of their building. Unfortunately the Tropical House is still recovering from last fall’s disastrous storm. The Tropical House curator sends them down to the nursery “where there’s plenty of material.” When they get down there, they discover plenty of stuff but nothing in flower. “This will have to do,” says one of the young partners. Now they need a vehicle to bring the shrubs up to the Center. They call the Assistant on his cell phone. The Assistant calls the gardeners on his walkie talkie. The gardeners, busy preparing for the Mayor’s arrival, stop what they’re doing and drive down to the Nursery without the Gardener, who continues doing what he’s doing. In the Nursery they find the partners and their photographers selecting shrubs and small trees that are growing conveniently in black buckets and are ready to go. All this takes a few hours, the partners and their photographers choosing something then putting it back. Up at the new Center, they have the gardeners push plants this way and that way until at last they are satisfied. Now all the entrances to the new building are “dressed” as one of the young partners says, to which the Old Timer adds “like the grand opening of a local supermarket.”
That afternoon, all the Kings men along with their mayor, their state senators and their local representatives gather in front of the new Center. The mayor is standing beside the President who is standing at a microphone congratulating everyone for their valiant work. She turns to the Kings’ men and thanks them for their support. Grants from their various charities have helped carry the Institution toward its goals of self-sufficiency. Before introducing the mayor she thanks each member of her staff for putting this celebration together, forgetting to mention Horticulture in her list of credits. He doesn’t seem to notice. The mayor congratulates the President. He apologizes that city, state and federal funding is at an all time low but feels this loss is more than offset by the generous contributions of the Kings. The mayor then takes a pair of scissors from the President and cuts the ribbon stretched across the entrance between the columns holding up the portico. He christens the new Visitors Center, the Kings’ Interactive Media Center. The Kings’ men standing in the audience clap, then run off to board room meetings down in New Drake where they will more than offset what they have just given away. The mayor and the other government officials, are given a tour of the new Center. They chant, in competing a capella, “Ahh,” when they feast their eyes on the virtual map. “The kids will love it,” the mayor promises.
With the dust from construction barely settled the giant reception tent for the Fall Party is raised on the lower lawn near the balustrade. It’s decided by the majority of the Board at the suggestion of the President that the giant white multi peaked tent will remain permanently in place until further notice. The President thanks the Board, “Our rental concession is bearing fruit,” she says; “the wedding and the corporate parties are a success. By eliminating the periodic installation and removal of the tent we preserve our earnings and increase our profit margin and,” she adds, “minimize damage to our precious plants.” This report doesn’t assuage the one dissenting vote. She has to listen to the Treasurer, who feels the high peaks of the huge tent will permanently obscure the view of the Palisades from the Pergola. “Wasn’t that the original if unsuccessful premise of that TV artist whose net wealth we helped expand,” he asks. She is about to respond but he cuts her off. “I’m a fiscal conservative when it comes to unwise spending, but we represent the public domain. As representatives we should never cut costs nor turn profits at the expense of the Garden’s mission, which I helped craft years before you arrived.” After the meeting, she complains to the Chairman. He shrugs his shoulders. “There’s not much we can do,” he says, “he’s made us all rich.” Later the President confesses to Development through clenched teeth, that “the one cost effective slash I’d like to make would be across the Treasurer’s throat.” Development laughs but sees the President is far from joking. “And he keeps calling the Institution, a Garden!” Later that day she listens to that non-entity Horticulture warn her that the lawn will die under a permanent tent. Luckily that quick study, the Assistant reassures the President that synthetic grass will be easier to maintain. Horticulture bends his head and accepts again the unlucky star under which he was born.
With the giant permanent tent in place, the lower lawn is effectively cut off from public use. Nonetheless PR always seeing the world through rose tinted glasses, unlike this Writer, whose eyes have grown jaundiced with time, types in her idea book that “because of the multi-peaked tent now in place, the Institution has taken on the festive look of a medieval fair. Must tell the Prez about adding pennants to the white peaks!” Far from PR’s decisive meditations regarding the tent, the gardeners, without the Gardener’s help, bring the products up from the nursery to a staging area in front of the Kings’ Media Center, while carpenters continue working inside on a comprehensive punch list of things still needing to be done. Hours later the caterers, who also operate the restaurant in the North House, arrive in their trucks. All access to the Long Border is cut off and once again the statuesque Korean dogwood
Gardener – Cornus kousa, wonderful bark, handsome look.
Writer – is damaged as the fully extended lift gate of a box truck driven by someone new backs into the dogwood’s sweeping lower branches and snaps the largest one in half. After the trucks are unloaded, they are driven down the road and parked near the dumpster, where the portable storage sheds stood recently, before the gardeners moved their tools to their assigned space in the rear of the new complex. As the sun in the western sky above the Palisades sets a trail of fiery globes across the River Slang, the guests arrive. They gather around the bar tables, shaking hands and nodding heads, the ladies with a slight tilt that moves the hair over the shoulder. Everyone then finds their way to the plant sale in front of the Kings’ Interactive Media Center. There the gardeners run around helping the customers choose plants. The guests pay for their purchases inside the gift shop, which is open, having a few items of its own for sale. After that the gardeners take the plants out to cars or store them for later delivery in the courtyard behind the Kings’ Interactive Media Center. With the dinner in full session, waiters running about, the President waxes enthusiastic in her speech about the beauties for sale in front of the Media Center and “don’t forget to look inside our new sales shop. You’ll discover many more wonderful things for sale. In fact I’m wearing a beautiful silk scarf hand crafted by Vietnamese artisans.” She pulls the bright blue scarf gently out in front of her so she can admire the hem. Then absently she lets it flutter down across her breast. She is wondering how she can change the Mission Statement once and for all.

Notes:

The Raid On Deerfield
Raid on Deerfield – 1704

The February 28, 1960 Integration sit-in at Colonial Drug, a West Franklin Street drugstore in Chapel Hill North Carolina.
http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/exhibits/protests/sitins.html

Shredded Rubber
http://www.nofault.com/images/db_products/19/other1.pdf

Photons and Photosynthesis
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/biology/antpho.html

Cargo Containers
http://www.cargocontainers.net/containers.htm

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten D

Writer – The first time the Gardener saw a mobile device in someone’s hand was sometime early in the last decade of the last century of the last millennium. In the moments preceding this vision he heard a loud voice filling the heavens. Later he realized the owner of the device must have been standing on the steps at the south end of the High Garden. He had entered the High Garden voice first. The instant he heard the voice, the Gardener mistook the owner for a small group of visitors dominated by a tour guide leading his group up the stairs. But when the group was passing under the Pearl Bush, is that right?
Gardener – Exochorda racemosa, yes, the Pearl Bush, because it’s racemes of flower buds look like pearls.
Writer – the Gardener realized this was no ordinary garden group; the guide was oddly severed from the reality around him. Somewhere between that tall Egyptian grass. . .
Gardener – Arundo donax.
Writer – And the narrow English oak. . .
Gardener – Quercus robur fastigiata.
Writer – the Gardener concluded the impossibility of an approaching group since the inevitable shuffling of many feet on the gravel pathway was missing. He prepared himself for the worst, perhaps an actor preparing his lines or a man recently released from a nearby hospital. Then the embodiment of the voice stood beneath him – the Gardener was on the roof of the gazebo cutting back a vine growing on a yew.
Gardener – Clematis Montana rubra, he was probably thinning it out sometime midsummer.
Writer – The owner of the strange device walked around the side of the gazebo and stood in front of the entrance in the gravel clearing. He didn’t seem to notice where he was. He was listening to a voice or voices the Gardener couldn’t hear. Then he nodded and began walking in a circle as if orbiting around someone unseen at the other end of the conversation. The man gesticulated with his free arm while the other arm, cocked at the elbow, was bent to his ear where he held in his hand something black the size of an eggplant. He wore a grey suit. Occasionally he stopped, shoved his free hand into the his pants pocket and stood on the heels of his black shoes, tassels showing. He brought with him the vertical structures of New Drake, the rising buildings, the congested streets. He was wheeling and dealing in a world of his own, numb to the organisms growing around him. The Gardener imagined the person at the other end of the imaginary radius walking in similar circles through a different world, perhaps the floor of the stock exchange or inside an air conditioned office on the seventieth floor of a palatial skyscraper over looking a public square. Though the day was calm he felt the force of an unseen wind roaring through the garden diminishing the garden’s significance. With his hand still stuffed deeply in his pant’s pocket the man puffed up his chest then compressed his circular peregrination to a straight line which he now walked with the agility of a tightrope walker from the holly at one end of the clearing,
Gardener – Ilex aquifolium.
Writer – to the edge of the crabapple bed on the other side. . . well?
Gardener – Malus, maybe floribunda.
Writer – and back again. Importance permeated the area like the smoke from a burning cigarette. The sweet scent of something nearby
Writer – a clump of a white Phlox paniculata. . .
Writer – was decimated by the smell of a man on a mission. And then the man vanished in the direction of the Aquatic Garden, his voice remaining for a while like a distillation of burning tobacco lingering in the air, an aural fossil around the Gardener’s ear, an otic footprint left on the edge of his consciousness.
Since that first event in the High Garden the cellular infection had gone viral. So it comes as no surprise to him when the Garden Star and his assistants are preceded by a chorus of detached voices heard in the parking lot. Unlike that first visitation which arrived in high summer this occurrence descends on the Garden with all the sunlit expectations of the vernal equinox. The Gardener, who has never seen Whose Garden? doesn’t know what to expect. He knew the TV star had been expected a month ago but had overstayed the winter traveling somewhere between the Chateau de la Garoupe on the Mediterranean and the Villa Noailles in the foothills behind Cannes. When he finally appears between the shrub borders at the pedestrian entrance he is followed by his retinue of camera people who fan out onto the lawn south of the Greenhouses. The President, accompanied by her entourage, is there to greet him enthusiastically. But they must wait until the Captain retires from his cell conversation. Meanwhile some of his retainers continue chattering independently on conversations of their own, while the rest apply their digits on tiny keyboards like bees stuffing nectar into sacks. But at long last congruity is achieved and Morning Glory smiles at the President and her officers. She tells him “our entire Institution is placed at your disposal.” He thanks her “eversomuch” his smiles galvanizing the young Public Relations, who finds her breath vanishing with excitement, her emotions choking with enthusiasm until Development saves her with a sharp elbow to her ribs. The President is about to introduce Horticulture and the Assistant when the Captain’s phone rings with the opening bars of Fleur-de-lis. He excuses himself from the formalities and once more enters the aural world. The President and her court look at each other, trying expressions of importance or at least meaningful, envying the facility of Morning Glory’s following who have continued their private conversations both audible and tactile throughout these proceedings. “Ah,” he exclaims, pausing on the line, “one of my Assistants tells me there is room for us down in that direction where there is some sort of turn around.” The President looks to Horticulture, who looks to the Assistant, who nods his head avidly and tell them, “there’s plenty of room.” The Captain returns to his cell conversation and moments later, a huge “accommodation” trailer pulls around on the south road under the huge European Copper Beech,
Gardener – Fagus sylvatica Atropunicea. One of five and all a hundred years old.
Writer – brushing past the drooping lower limbs, passes the former home of Total Power’s man now the permanent day residence of the Institution’s Managers, sweeps past the Institution’s leaders, mouths agape, rounds the garage and disappears down the hill. “I will spend a day or two deliberating,” he tells the President, “I want to spend time, looking and thinking.” Public Relations, having returned to her senses, is of the opinion that Morning Glory’s home away from home will interest visitors on their way to and from the restaurant in the North House.
For the remainder of the week Morning Glory’s accommodations-on-wheels is a permanent fixture parked in the turn around south of North House. To keep the Captain’s home away from home comfortable the eight cylinder diesel engine rumbles most of the day. The Gardener can hear it up in the High Garden, where even the noisy mockingbird is distracted. To accommodate the Captain’s installation and camera crews, the Assistant suggests to Horticulture who tells the President that the crew should consider the potting shed theirs. “Maybe some of their glamour will rub off on your gardeners,” the President tells Horticulture, while she and her officers wait for the coffee to brew. Public Relations christens the Captain’s crew, Morning Glory’s Angels and Heroes. This becomes the standard tag used by management in discussions and eventually makes it’s way into the publicity releases. The following morning the Heroes arrive at the potting shed around 10:00. Since the regulars are already out working, the Heroes make a pot of coffee for themselves in the potting shed kitchen down in the basement and wait for their Captain, who makes his appearance between 11:00 and 11:30 with his Angels in tow, who put down their ever running video equipment and make another pot for themselves. Morning Glory, who only drinks Thai Tea sweet with milk over ice, doesn’t wait but immediately begins looking and thinking, while his angels scramble after him, sipping coffee from coffee mugs, their cameras running. The footage becomes standard fare on Morning Glory’s show. Public Relations, never seen before on the grounds unless attending meetings in the North House, now flits about the Greenhouse Beds like a wren searching for a nest. She boasts to the President that having the Institution hosting the Garden Show is marvelous advertizing. “Well, my dear,” says the President cuttingly, “I’m glad you thought of it.”
At lunch break the gardeners return with only thirty minutes to eat lunch and discover the five Heroes sitting in all the available chairs, texting on handhelds. Down below in the kitchen the gardeners find the five Angels queuing up at the microwave, chatting on their cells. “What about your star’s mobile,” asks the Gardener. “Oh, that’s the Captain’s makeup and dressing room,” one of the Angels replies. “And that’s where he privately watches tapes of his show in between takes,” says another. When the gardeners come in for the afternoon break they discover their now empty coffee can open on the counter, the coffee pot drained and stained, the coffee filter full of grounds and their cups missing. The Old Timer checks the communal coffee cash jar and says, “At least they didn’t take the money, too.” The Gardener, who drinks green tea, shakes his head. The next day he confronts the Angels and Heroes with the open coffee can and tells them to chip in like “the rest of us and bring your own fucking cups.” After that they drink the North House restaurant coffee in paper cups which begin to appear under shrubs.
The following Monday Morning Glory, or rather Bindweed as the gardeners are now calling him, Bindweed and his Japanese Knotweed and Mugworts, walks with great ceremony from one end of the Greenhouse beds to the other before announcing to an imaginary crowd, made up of nodding hellebores and fresh crocus, with his Japanese Knotweed filming the newscast as it comes to be known, Publicity looking on in admiration, “these beds,” he says, “will simply not accommodate my proposal. And what is my proposal,” he asks himself, looking from side to side, with hellebores and crocus, dipped in an agreeable afternoon light; “I propose to engage the elements of earth, air and water in a dialogue. I want to bring the visitor into a dialog with the ever changing always the same River Slang and its cohort the apparently same but ever eroding Palisades beyond. I want the visitor to see these magnificent creations of nature as they have never seen them before. Can that be done all the way over here? Think of Brunelleschi, una bella perspectiva! So with that in mind I will create a new garden on that lawn over there!” He points in the direction of the lawn in front of the Pergola, which has yet to achieve the high order of brilliance it will possess in the months to come, the colorful hanging planters, both in flower and leaf and the other assorted semi-temperate and tropical plants that will crowd around the base of the columns. “But the questions is this, what becomes of Dorothy when she comes skipping down the yellow brick road over there? Does it take her to Oz? Absolutely not! It ends at the macadam. She is left in the middle of nowhere. Instead of going straight toward paradise there beyond the pergola, she becomes confused. Does she dare carry on or must she turn left or right? The yellow brick road leads from the parking lot to a black road and dull green lawn. Esthetically it goes nowhere.” The President whispers to Development, “that’s exactly what I told the Board!” “Does the river merge with the Ocean and fulfill its destiny or does it disappear in a desert of sand? Something is missing. And that something is what I will call The Elevator Shaft. Yes, I can see it now, a garden dropped into the lawn, literally, as if levers have been pulled and the entire garden drops into the earth, the mother of all creation. The retaining walls will be made of thin corten steel plates The excavated soil will be moved in front of this place where we are standing,” and here he casually throws his hand behind him to indicate the place where he is standing, “a great cone of earth, a counterpoint in height to the sinking notes of the shaft, if you will. Stone steps will beckon the visitor coming to the end of the yellow brick road down into the new garden space and out the opposite stairway near the pergola. Now to best understand the condition of the soil where our lush garden will be installed, we made tests and our recent tests demonstrate the complete inadequacy of the existing soil. To prepare the display beds in the shaft I will add an enriched garden soil, specially blended by experts for me.”
Horticulture, who is standing to the left of the President two steps behind Publicity, is shocked by the scope of the work but afraid to say anything. Both Publicity and Development applaud and the President laughs. “He’s putting all the crap over here.” “I’m anxious to see his plant list,” mentions an excited Assistant; “then we can begin ordering for this year’s plant sale.” Then with his Angels and Heroes following, Morning Glory enters the greenhouse. There in the Palm House, where the Gardener once imagined a temple to Flora, the Captain turns and tells everyone that yesterday morning he had an epiphany while shaving. I saw myself in a tropical forest, bowers of sweet scented liana clamored into the bright sunshine through a canopy as bright as a mother’s day bouquet. I thought, that is what the Institution needs!” “What, what,” Horticulture whispers to the Assistant, “what do we need?” The Assistant is not sure, “possibly liana?” “Liana, what, where, out there on the lawn?” The President seeing the bewilderment on Horticulture’s face asks him, “Liana, what is that, sounds beautiful and photogenic?” Horticulture is speechless and can only point to the Bougainvillea still blooming on the wire rack against the back wall of the temperate house.
As this moment the Gardener enters the potting shed and sees everyone in the palm house. He asks the Pruner, who is washing pots, “what’s going on?” The Pruner tells him, “no one knows.” They watch the long cortege disappear into the tropical house with Morning Glory, leading. “Of course,” the Captain explains, “we can’t simply erase reality? But we can alter it by changing the way we see it. Our new garden will have an east-west axis like a house of worship. But our temple will no longer be here, invisible under walls of white smeared glass. We will take this tabernacle,” he exclaims, casting his open hand and outstretched arm around the tropical house like a magician introducing the beautiful woman about to be cut in two, “to where it belongs, to the shaft!” This is met with instant applause by Hero and Angels, with management joining in. “We’ll offer reality as we know it, that wall of stone, that magnificent river, our offering of a new idea. Since our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, we’ve been searching for the lush jungles of our imagination, seeking a return to our prehistoric Eden. Why else garden? Of course our tropical forest will be diminutive,” he says with great emphasis on the minu. “Da Vinci’s human scale cannot be forgotten!” “But,” he reassures everyone, “ we’ll supplement our offering of hope with large bananas and Canas. They’re lush! And perhaps if the President assents we can use the large tree ferns growing the other house.”
And with this the TV star of Whose Garden? takes over the greenhouses. The curator of the Tropical House is told she can continue the watering and the upkeep of all plants until the artistic evacuation is completed. But the curator of the Tropical House is upset. She comes to the Gardener. She’s afraid she’ll be demoted in pay, since her responsibilities are being reduced or even fired with the arrival of summer. “Remember the new guy!” she complains; “remember the old guys in maintenance,” the other gardeners remind her. When the Gardener complains about the removal of greenhouse tropicals, Horticulture tell him “they’ll all be returned.” “Yes? When?” “In the fall I assume.” “Assume? And who’ll return them?” “Well, I’m sure they will.” “You’re sure? I don’t think so! And why are we recommending tropicals as a viable solution for the average homeowner?” “We’re not,” injects the Assistant. “No,” he responds, looking at the Assistant in disbelief, “What about Bindweed’s plant list, which you’ve been waiting so anxiously for? Well, it’s here, in our greenhouses, all of it! According to your plan, we’re going to sell tropicals to the public in September just before the first frost!”
A week later Horticulture and the Assistant book a flight to Oregon, home of giant wholesale nurseries. Before leaving Horticulture and the Assistant call the gardeners together. The Assistant says, “I think you will appreciate what we are about to tell you; from this day forward, we want you to plan your own day, take responsibility for your own work. This year we want you to design and implement your own gardens.” “We already do that,” says the Gardener. “For one,” the Assistant continues unfazed, “you’re adults; you don’t need to be monitored like children. Neither the Director nor I are running a nursery school. The Wizard may have thought so, but we don’t. We’ll be gone for a few weeks.” “Why Oregon,” asks the Old Timer, “why not south Jersey, or Allendale for lord’s sake.” “Think of yourselves,” the Assistant continues without listening, “as free men and women implementing your own vision. Are there any questions?” A long pause follows. Then the Gardener asks if the sanctions on buying plants and materials has been lifted. Horticulture looks at the Assistant with some embarrassment. The Assistant says, “No. So if there are no other questions then we have a plane to catch.” Then the Old Timer asks, “why do we need managers if we’re now managing ourselves?” The Assistant reels on the old man and tells him, “there will always be managers as long as there are people like you.” Horticulture, putting his hand on the red faced Assistant answers the Old Timer, “Please consider management an invisible hand. You won’t see us looking over your shoulders any more, inspecting your work. Your work will speak for itself” “Damn right,” mumbles the Pruner of Yews. The Assistant looks harshly at the Pruner, then looks to the rest, “Remember, no one, I repeat, no one other than Horticulture or I should ever tell you what to do.” “Ah, but the invisible hand knows,” someone adds, alluding to the secret cameras the gardeners have been finding on the grounds. Everyone laughs. “Why can’t the invisible hand weed the Greenhouse beds!” says the Tropical House curator. She is now weeding the Greenhouse beds for the Assistant, who tells her he’s too busy. The gardeners explode with laughter. At that moment Development is passing by the potting shed with Public Relations. They have just been admiring Morning Glory’s live streaming for Whose Garden? “That’s a sound you never heard during the Wizard’s reign,” she exclaims. But inside, unaware of the favorable opinion those on the outside have of this merriment, the Assistant slams the trowel on the table and says, “the invisible hand is a metaphor for your desire to do your best. It’s a moral imperative in a free society.”
With Horticulture and the Assistant off in search of the golden apples in the west, the excavation of the shaft begins. The Heroes finally show their mettle, two of them pounding stakes into the lawn at the four corners of the square, two of them tying line to the four stakes, and the last, carrying a bag of lime which he spills beneath the line to form a white perimeter on the ground. The next day a dump truck pulls up in front of the garage, pulling a flat bed trailer on which a yellow front end loader with backhoe is strapped. “I’m surprised Horticulture didn’t volunteer to drive our tractor,” the Pruner of Yews tells the Gardener. The backhoe carves out the large square “shaft” in front of the pergola, dumping the earth into the dump truck. When the box bed is full, the truck backs across the lawn in front of the greenhouse garden, past the giant elm and releases it’s load on the far side of the walkway leading toward the greenhouse. Once the excavation is complete, Mayan laborers spade the sides straight with admirable precision and shovel the excess soil into the front end bucket of the loader which then runs the soil over to the pile and finishes off the cone by smoothing the sides with the smooth underbelly of the bucket. The following day an extremely long flatbed truck carrying the steel panels arrives at the front gate. After a few hours of negotiating the gate with the only accident being the removal of inner corner of the south most stone post, it slowly makes its way around the gatehouse. Before arriving at the beech the driver realizes he can’t make the tight turn in front of the former home of King Total Power’s man(and wife – remember she donated the property to New Drake in 1968). The new residents watching from the windows on the second story, their excitement palpable, are disappointed when the driver gets out of the cab and begins a long discussion on his cell, while standing at the curve in the road near the house. When he finally returns to the cab, he leaves the private roadway entirely and cuts across the lawn close to the Dawn Redwood. Behind him another flatbed hauls a crane across the same lawn. The crane’s gantry, though down, snaps the lower branches of the redwood in half as if they were twigs. Four enormous trenches follow this last vehicle to its rendezvous with the macadam. Once on site the gantry is raised and the crane lifts the plates from the flatbed and swings them over into the shaft where the Mayans guide them into place, along the earth walls of the shaft. A newspaper reporter with a camera woman appears and Morning Glory dutifully picks up a shovel and jumps into the shaft where he starts digging a hole. After the picture is taken he goes back to the Beech Tree growing at the north end of the lawn where he has set up court and receives the reporter for an interview. A Mayan then jumps into the shaft with a rake and rakes the soil back into the hole and levels it. Two Mayan remove a welder and the acetylene tank from the flatbed, then weld the seams at the corners where the steel walls meet. The following day a flatbed truck returns and delivers eight grey granite blocks six feet long. Again the crane which has remained on site hoists the stone blocks and swings them into place with the help of the Mayans. A stairway now descends into the shaft near the macadam road and ascends on the opposite side to the pergola. That afternoon the dump truck returns bringing soil which it releases on the roadway. Again the Mayans are there to distribute the pile. After the floor of the shaft is raked smooth, the Heroes appear again with stakes and line to mark out the path and beds. On the fourth day the other flatbed truck returns, carrying wooden pallets loaded with rolls of grass sod and pulling a large cylindrical tank with sprayer. Management flocks onto the lawn in awe. “Now this is gardening,” boasts the President. The crane sets the pallets of sod on the ground. Then the Mayans carry the green rolls down into the shaft. They roll them out like red carpets at a ball along all four sides of the shaft and up the middle from east to west, from stairway to stairway, and from north to south, from wall to wall. While the crane is dismantled, the Mayans unravel a long thick hose from the cylindrical sprayer and pull the nozzle over to the cone beyond the Elm tree and the yellow brick walkway. The pump is started and a green grass-seed gel is sprayed on the entire surface of the cone.
Throughout the week’s proceedings, with Horticulture and the Assistant away, and with the President and her officers watching in awe from the windows of the former home of King Total Power’s man, coming down only once to watch the rolling out of the green grass carpets, Morning Glory, sitting beneath the large copper beech already mentioned, commentates “on the process” to his crew of five, who are at his side. His Angels flock about him, cameras capturing the historic stream. From time to time his Fleur-de-lis disrupts his commentary after which he sends one of his Heroes out with an order to the Mayans. When the roadway is clear, mothers pushing children in stroller stop to watch the TV show, some brave enough to get his signature when they learn he’s a TV star. The retirees pass by on their way to the restaurant either offering their advice or complaining of the inconvenience. The only Institutional presence on the grounds other than the gardeners, who stop by regularly to evaluate the damage, is Public Relations who blends in perfectly in her black leather jacket and tight jeans with those sitting under the Beech. It is she who tells the Gardener, the Old Timer and the Pruner of Yews that the Captain’s commentary will one day become a valuable document and “we’ll be selling it in the shop one day.” The Pruner asks her when “the Mayans will be planting out the tropicals?” To which she replies, “Are they here too?” As they leave, he warns her “to watch out lest the Invisible Hand reach out and pluck her bower!”
When Horticulture and the Assistant return The Great Week, as it is now called on the second floor of the former home of Total Power’s man, is over and life at the Institution goes on as usual; well, not exactly, a great deal of curiosity is shown toward the strange new courtyard stretched several feet below grade in front of the pergola. But on the summer equinox at exactly 12:00, Morning Glory’s vehicle reappears and resumes its position south of the North House. Morning Glory and his entire retinue step out onto the ground like the ambassadors from a strange planet. With pomp and circumstance they take up where they left off beneath the Beech which now is in purple leaf. Horticulture resumes his place in his office on the second floor of the home of Total Power’s man and the Assistant calls in sick. The curator of the Tropical House frets about like a robin distracting a cat from her nest. As to the question the Pruner of Yews asked earlier, the answer apparently is “now!” As Morning Glory pulls the inventory from the tropical house, the Mayans carry the plants over to the shaft. There the Mugworts position them in the new garden beds. Then, as in now, the Mayans plant them.
The grand opening of “The Elevator Shaft” is on the first day of July, hot and steamy, a tropical delight. The Angels supplemented by a full squadron from the studio set up their equipment at strategic points between the entrance from the Parking lot to the shaft garden. The liquor flows like the waters of the River Slang, keeping everyone talking about this marvel that was once just a lawn. Great lights illuminate the crucial scene, that is, Morning Glory’s table where he sits signing the DVDs entitled. His valiant Heroes bring him gin rickeys, while they drink one of the Kings’ beers which they consume from the bottle. It is already obvious that more than a few of them have taken a shine to PR. They can be seen her nibbling Gruyère together and later disappearing into Morning Glories’ home away from home. Many downtowners, here for the first time, walk down the yellow brick road just as Morning Glory had prophesied. They look neither left nor right, nor out toward the palisades but at the magnificent tropical paradise rising up from the ground like an orchestra in the pit, or more precisely, like an oasis in a desert, for as the Captain is fond of saying, “a river must flow into the waters of the ocean and not into a desert of sand.” The visitors cry “marvelous” to those beside them as dozens of servers in black skirts and pants and white blouses and shirts appear before them with drinks and hors’dourves. “Awesome” is conveyed through the Ethernet to those waiting anxiously back at New Drake or points beyond for a tweet from Morning Glory’s court. Everyone is anxious to soak up the Captain’s sunshine, the arc lamps radiating over his presence like the spirit of the universe. Other celebrities hoping to appear on Whose Garden? make an appearance. Everyone is talking about the shaft. And to the President’s delight, representatives of the major newspapers and TV stations are photographing it all.
A month later a huge trailer truck from Oregon arrives loaded with woody and herbaceous plants. Forty of this variety and forty of that variety, all in black 1 to 13 gallon plastic pots. “Should we plant them in the nursery,” the Old Timer asks hopefully. “No, just line them out on the ground down there and keep them watered,” the Assistant instructs.
Gardener – In the trade they’re called liners.
Writer – What are called liners?
Gardener – Nursery pots, as in plants in pots that are lined up for sale.
Writer – That September, the plants are brought up from the nursery for the annual garden party and lined out near the auction tents. The sale is a success in spite of that fact that nothing used by Captain Morning Glory is for sale. When the gardeners inform the guests, who want to buy schefflera for the front of their house, that Shefleras are house plants, the guests go off in a huff looking for someone in charge. “After all,” they complain, “the Shaft is the hit of the party. Do you think Morning Glory,” they ask the President when they think they are alone, “could install one for me?” Nonetheless all the late summer-early autumn flowering perennials and a third of the shrubs sell out before diner is served. Because of their size, only a quarter of the trees move. Even so by the end of the evening, a profit is turned. During the following weeks, the prices of the inventory are dropped until everything is selling at cost. These are scooped up by homeowners who know value. Once the President discovers that big money can be made selling plants, she mandates, in an impressive paper, the creation of a permanent sales division that will run the envisioned Sales Shop. The Assistant pleads to be included in the Sales Division. The President doesn’t see why not since he was part of the original shopping spree in Oregon. When Horticulture hears of this he too requests a place. This too is granted and managers are knighted at the next meeting.
The Board is thrilled about the Institution’s new venture, but once again the Treasurer, while agreeing that supplementing public funding is essential, has difficulties accepting the idea of a pubic garden running a full scale business, let alone balancing income against the huge expenditures of the so called shaft project. The Secretary, who is a lawyer and is taking the minutes, duly acknowledges the reservations of the Treasurer.

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten C

To everyone’s surprise the curator of the Greenhouse Garden is appointed the Assistant Director of Horticulture. As it turns out he’s a perfect fit. Years ago, long before his move to New Drake, he managed a shoe store in a mall outside Akron for the footwear chain, The Inner Soul. Later he managed a garden center near Columbus for the giant retail chain, The InsideOut Living Corporation. When asked by the Resource Officer if he gardened in his spare time, he told the interviewer he preferred sailing. “Where on earth did you sail in Ohio,” was the startled response of Resource. “On Hoover reservoir outside Columbus,” he answered; “sailing on Long Island Sound was one of the reasons I applied here, that and the benefits.”
In the potting shed the morning after his elevation is announced, the new Assistant can see the gardeners eyeing him skeptically. He tells those who didn’t know the Wizard, “in spite of what you’ve heard about the Wizard’s protégé, the Wizard had no favorites; he treated us all the same. Just because the Wizard liked what I did, doesn’t mean I used his friendship to gain advantages for myself. I stand on my own merits.” The Assistant, feeling an oratory power fill his lungs, winds up and throws another pitch. “The Wizard,” he continues, “told us what to do; what tree to move; what screw to use; don’t believe what someone else might tell you. As your new Assistant, I intend to guide you just the way the Wizard guided me.”
When the President returns from her AAPI retreat at the Spiny Cactus Resort and Spa in Southern California, she can barely contain herself. “It was marvelous,” she exclaims at her managers meeting, walking around the table where her team is seated, handing out souvenir ceramic Joshua Trees with the monogram SCR&S inscribed in gold letters on the base. “Do you know the biblical story of Joshua,” she asks, taking the last Joshua Tree for herself and fondly gazing at it. “I met a priest there and he told me the story of Joshua. Yes, it was a good time. When you wanted something, you went and got it. Apparently Joshua was having some trouble defeating the socialists in Gideon so he raised his hands to heaven – and by the way this is what the Mormons saw when they looked on the Joshua Trees growing near the spa. Joshua implored the almighty god in the bible, this is all in the bible, to grip that sun that was crossing the sky and hold it in place so he could get the job done, finish off the terrorist city-state of Gideon before sundown. I was reminded of an ad I used to see in the National Geographic magazine when I was girl – you’re all too young to remember this. A giant hand is gripping the atom as if it’s a hornets’ nest, taming its fury for our commercial use. Yes, it was a good time. There’s nothing we can’t do if we let the right people do it! Yes, you should have been there,” she says, placing the object on a massive Swedish reproduction of a 19th century commode where she displays mementos from other important meetings. In the mirror above the commode she inspects her tan. “The Kings’ people – and these are people who can control the atom! – sent their legal advisors. They helped us understand who we’re up against. Of course, here, we don’t need help, do we? We know exactly who we’re up against.” Everyone at the table looks around, as if the implied “who” is there with them. “They offered us,” she explains, lifting a parcel of papers in binders, “free enterprise strategies, call them practical formulas if you will, to help our Institution pay for itself. Of course, we’re on target, aren’t we – transforming our Public Institution into a Profitable Non Profit – the very words used by the closing speaker. . . And did I mention that Joshua was also a spy. Apparently Moses sent him into enemy territory to gather intelligence. On the open market, anything goes!”
Gardener – I thought she went to AABGA to attend a seminar for The Elimination of Pests and Weeds.
Writer – I told you already not the Association of Arboretum and Botanical Gardens of America, but the Association of American Public Institutions, AAPI
Gardener – What about The Society For The Elimination of Pests and Weeds?
Writer – Didn’t you tell me once that a weed is anything found in the wrong location.
Gardener – Any plant found in the wrong place.
Writer – As you can see the Kings’ people know how to stretch the metaphor. They pay people a lot of money to do it. But you wouldn’t know that, would you, you don’t watch TV.
Gardener – But what’s her spy story have to do with weeds?
Writer – Let’s go on. Following her preamble she describes the keynote speaker. “You all know who he is,” she claims, taking her seat, “the host of the national TV garden show, Whose Garden?” She waits for recognition to brighten their faces. Seeing none, she goes on. “InsideOut carries his brand name clothes and garden accessories. That’s right, Captain Morning Glory. You’ve seen his signature stitched across the breast pockets of shirts and jerseys and diagonally across the back pockets of pants and shorts. If you haven’t, you will soon. When our shop finally opens, we’ll carry his full line from rakes to socks. And Horticulture, I want his outdoor work apparel to be the standard uniform worn by the gardeners. And to get the ball rolling, Horticulture, I want Morning Glory to design a theme garden for us. Call his agent immediately – my secretary will give you his contact information – make the arrangements before anyone else gets hold of him; I’m sure our brother and sister institutions at the seminar are thinking the same thing. Yes, the world is moving quickly,” she affirms, tapping her fingers on the Kings’ stack of legal advice; “we don’t want to be at the bottom of the heap implementing innovation, do we? And donors give money to projects like this, isn’t that right, Development?” “As long as their names are in lights,” agrees Development.
Later, with the new Assistant present, the President reviews her strategy with Horticulture. The Assistant quickly applauds the idea. “I worked for InsideOut. The Captain’s merchandise sold like hotcakes. Don’t you think we should give Morning Glory the greenhouse garden beds?” “My sentiments, exactly,” the President agrees, “I want his installation to be prominent. And it would add some oomph to that area,” she adds, not wanting the Assistant to get too carried away with himself. But he bounces back and cheerfully replies, “and we can sell the plants varieties he uses in his installation.” “Horticulture,” cries the President gleefully, “I told you the Assistant was our man.” Horticulture nods instantly, reminding them that “tweeting will serve us well among the social network.” “I’ll have PR look into it,” she promises. “Now is the time,” she adds, walking them to the door; “The Institution encourages this kind of strategic dynamism.” Horticulture, still wanting to recapture his glow, quickly adds, “and if our garden hero actually used his own personnel to install the garden, we could reduce our staff.”
Energized by her stay at the Spiny Cactus, the President forges ahead on her plans for economic independence. “We don’t want future generations to suffer the decisions we must make now,” she exhorts her managers; “living in the red has no place in the public domain.” The first two positions eliminated by the Institution belong to the two janitors, both employed there since the early days. Among their many responsibilities was cleaning the bathrooms. The new provider is a large maintenance company who takes full responsibility for the health care benefits of its own employees. When this change goes down without comment, the Institution moves quickly. Lawn maintenance is eliminated from the payroll. Bids are accepted from local landscaping companies. The largest company, coming in with the lowest bid, gets the contract. To financially accommodate the cost of hiring the new company, the President tells Horticulture it’s time reduce staff size; he must “release” the last hired gardener. Having not understood at the time the repercussions of his off-the-cuff idea to the President, he puts up a last minute defense. “But we just hired him,” pleads Horticulture; “he’s still on his twelve month probation.” This makes him feel better. “Precisely,” she replies; “I don’t want you to tell him or anyone until two weeks before his probation is up. We save the Institution a whopping 12,000 dollars since the man’s not yet vested nor entitled to any benefits.” “It’s a shame,” bemoans Horticulture, “he’s so pliable.” “It will do the young man good,” she counters, “we don’t want to see him corrupted by entitlements.” And finally he adds, “I overhead he’s newly married.” “Horticulture,” she says acerbically, “we, the managers of the public sector, must always struggle against the inefficiency of the public sector. It’s endemic in our line of work. Whatever good, whether salary or security this gardener may derive from the Institution is beside the point. We’re not here to help him. We’re here to help the Institution. We’ve been chosen to walk through this alien environment, each his or her own Joshua, in search of government inefficiency. Remember, without this Institution the children will lose their jobs.”
“You mean he’s fired,” says the Gardener, when the decision is finally announced. “No, released,” replies Horticulture; “in other words he’s free to find other work.” This comment is followed by astonished silence. “Wow,” exclaims the Old Timer with a sigh, “just married and a mortgage.” “Just married and a mortgage,” mimics the Assistant with a shrug of his shoulders. “Just married and a mortgage,” is parroted throughout the Institution; “just married and a mortgage,” resonates like the notes of an organ, through the rooms on the second floor of the former home of Total Power’s man. “Why do you look so upset, Horticulture,” the President queries; “we made him no promises. Change is good, Horticulture, both for us and for him. I don’t see your Assistant mourning, do you? Besides, you’re still here.”
At her next meeting with the Board of Directors, the President flashes a “V” sign, which reminds her fondly of her college days at UCLA when she and the other students sat outside the Administration building, demanding an end to the war, hands raised, flashing the “V” symbolizing Peace. But here, she muses, it means Victory. It reminds her of the historical connectivity in a world of change. It gives her a cozy, warm feeling. She tells the Kings’ men, a gardener’s position, for the first time, has finally been eliminated. “That leaves a total of three unfilled slots, saving the Institution three salaries plus the entitlements. In short, a potential threat with all its attending ulcers like pension and health benefits has been avoided, a financial wound staunched.” The only member of the Board who does not applaud is the Treasurer, who asks if the hiring of new management positions hasn’t offset the gain made in reducing Horticulture. “I promised efficiency and innovation and that can only be achieved,” she says archly, “by insuring we can hire the best personnel in the field to help streamline the Institution.” “Let’s hope so,” the Treasurer remarks, observing the others, who see no difficulty in the evolution of management.
She fumes into the office of Development, bypassing the secretary. Development hears her, then assuages her fury by reminding her that terminating the position of the new gardener, not only saved the Institution from needless bleeding but rerouted these resources to better serve it, by implementing improvements in communication here in the upper hierarchy. But more importantly we’ve increased the resentment among the younger gardeners toward the older gardeners, since the last to be hired not only receive less to start with, but also have no job security. “You’re right, of course” says the President; “only that lousy Treasurer was waving his red cape at me.” Development goes on to advise, “we quietly spread the word that the older gardeners hired by the Wizard have been granted immunity.” The Board, with only one vote to the contrary, acknowledges the President’s accomplishments by giving her a bonus. She, in turn approves a merit raise for Development as reward for her insightful comments.
With the walls of Horticulture breached for the first time since the Garden’s inception, members of staff begin to whisper among themselves that if they can layoff one of the gardeners, then none of us are safe. Feeling no future here, Security and Maintenance are the first to jump ship. In a formal report to the Board, the President states that “with employee turnover increasing after two years, at last reasonable salaries can be maintained.” She writes, “during the Wizard’s time low turnover was considered a sign of contentment, contentment a sign of prosperity. The Wizard,” she emphasizes, pounding the keys emphatically, “considered himself. . .” and here she uses the now extirpated word “. . . the Garden. As a result his power over the Institution was immense. It was detrimental to the progress of the Institution.” “There were other Presidents,” the Chairman gently reminds her at the next meeting. “But as you will obviously concede,” she responds, “they were powerless against the immense strength of his supporters.” “His supporters,” the Treasurer emphasizes, “helped fund the Garden. Since his banishment. . .” “He wasn’t banished,” says the President, “he vanished of his own accord.” “And with him,” the Treasurer continues, “the financial support that he garnered.” “But,” she adds, reclaiming the discussion, “he favored entitlements. Entitlements feed worker dependency and foster systems of inert staticity and,” she says with arched brows, remembering what one lawyer emphasized at the Spiny Cactus, “without anchoring worker loyalty. This is counter to the strategic dynamism we now seek. I’m proposing that by eliminating these costly policies our savings match our losses, without our having to tax the public any further with gate increases. At long last,” she concludes, “our public institution can compete in the market reality of today.” The treasurer, who made his fortune in his own private investment company in the old days before bankers became investors with public money, is about to ask her why, instead of a garden, she isn’t running a business, when the Chairman, who is a banker after all and no longer intimidated by the Treasurer’s former successes, raises his hand to remind those sitting there of their role, “let’s allow our dear Institution to pursue the policies she has already initiated with success so far.” Excepting the Treasurer whose reservations limit his gaiety, the other members of the Board nod their heads cheerfully.
But Horticulture is worried. He’s come to realize the gardeners who worked under the Wizard are not only more experienced, but masters when it comes to composing color and texture with living material. Nonetheless, a new order is evolving and he must step aboard or be run down. As per signed agreement, once a week, five or six men disembark from a large green flatbed truck, the name of the vendor printed across the doors. They unload in front of the garage a fleet of mowers, large and small, and with an explosion of sound begin mowing the lawns. After their first visit it’s obvious to management that the need for the Institution’s huge sit-down mower, as well as the push mowers and edge trimmers is at an end. The President asks Horticulture to dispose of them. He hesitates. He wonders “if we shouldn’t keep them until absolutely sure.” “I am absolutely sure,” replies the President; “and if you’re so fond of them, take the fucking things home with you.” Shocked by her tone he apologizes. But taking no prisoners she says, “I’m sure the Assistant wouldn’t have any problems getting rid of them!” After the mowers are discarded, the President wants to know what’s left. Horticulture reports that three Cushmans, one so old it’s a miracle it still runs and the tractor with its front end-loader and the backhoe remain in the large room of the garage. In former days Total Power’s executive housed several cars and a mechanic who kept the cars running. In those days the garage had its own gas pump and air compressor and a pit in the small room between the parking area and the storage room in back for changing oil and washing cars. “Do we need a tractor,” asks the President incredulously. “We do,” replies Horticulture firmly. He doesn’t admit that he enjoys driving the tractor, now and then, his baseball cap pulled around visor backward. “How much do they cost to maintain,” she asks. “The greatest expense was maintaining the mowers, especially the rider. But now that those have been eliminated, the only cost, aside from parts, mainly for the Cushmans, comes to nothing. The Pruner of Yews keeps them all running.” In his next pay envelope, the Pruner of Yews receives a memo notifying him that because the elimination of the mowing machines have reduced his responsibilities, his salary has been adjusted.
The next area of improvement has to do with the Nursery where the Wizard and his gardeners had grown-on hard-to-find plants. Many of these plants had been germinated from seed or propagated from cuttings or bought as potted specimens from small mail order specialty houses. This area had been the primary source of the Garden’s diversity. Back in the day, now being referred to by management as “another time” or “medieval,” the Wizard, at the suggestion of the Porcelain Man, had placed the Old Timer in charge of this area. With the help of seasonal workers, generally high school students working summers, the Old Timer kept it weed free by first spreading the leaf mulch, stored nearby, between the rows, then weeding around the bases of the plantings. The mulch also helped reduce the watering and preserved the soil from compaction. One day the Assistant tells Horticulture in hearing of the President, “the public wants to buy what’s popular. They like flowers, big bright flowers! They like the flowers they see in someone else’s garden. When they see them in a nursery, that’s what they remember and buy. So why wait until Morning Glory arrives next year? Let’s expand the sales area for the next fund raiser.” Horticulture is annoyed with the Assistant’s loud, insistent voice. Ever since he became Assistant, Horticulture has noticed that instead of working in the Greenhouse beds, the Assistant spends his day taking pictures with his mobile and posting them on his MyFace page entitled “From The Ground Up.” Nonetheless “you’re right,” he says. The two men understand how important it is to agree on everything. “But our first order of business,” continues Horticulture, “is finding a wholesale nursery who’ll grow our material and deliver it in time.”
Gardener – Wait a minute. What’s the improvement for the nursery?
Writer – This all happened long ago after the Wizard vanished.
Gardener – But what about the nursery?
Writer – At the end of the next pay period the Old Timer discovers a personal memo in his pay envelope pointing out that since he will no longer be riding the mover his salary has been adjusted. He asks the Assistant if this is a prelude to being fired. The Assistant assures him he knows nothing about it, that he should speak with Horticulture. Now it’s Horticulture’s turn to look surprised. He advises the Old Timer speak with Human Resource. With a look of surprise Resource tells him absolutely not. As far as she knows, his services are still needed. “Don’t you work in the nursery,” she asks. “Yes,” he replies, “But we haven’t introduced new plants to the nursery since the austerity program began.” “Well,” she admits, “because of funding cuts at the Federal level the Institution has been reorganizing.” He’s noticed that. “Then you should remember that next time you vote, you do vote don’t you?” He nods sheepishly yes. “So you understand,” she affirms, “that as soon as the reorganization is completed we’ll begin loosening the purse strings again.” “Will that be soon,” he asks anxiously. “I’m not sure,” she answers, “but aren’t you going to retire soon?” “I hadn’t thought about it,” he says. “Well, you should,” she suggests; “either that or consider what the next election might mean if you vote for the wrong man.” “Wrong man?” “Think about it.” When relating this discussion to the President, the President exclaims, “fire him, why give him a chance to vote!” But Resource explains that firing him would be seen like an open attack on senior members of the staff, which as Development then points out “would hurt us rather than help us.” Public Relations agrees. “There’s a lot of old people around,” she says.
In mid-August in preparation for the upcoming Fall Fund Raiser the last small tree is dug and burlapped.
Gardener – The last tree?
Writer – A crabapple.
Gardener – Probably Malus sargentia Tina.
Writer – Perhaps.
Gardener – But how can they do that, a public garden? It’s unheard of! We’re supposed to be leaders in innovation, not followers of the garden mall mentality.
Writer – We? This isn’t about you? This is so much bigger than you! “What am I to do down here,” asks the Old Timer. “For now, nothing,” replies the Assistant. “What am I to do in the nursery,” he asks Horticulture. “An excellent question,” is Horticulture’s answer. The Old Timer waits for another memo from the office; but it doesn’t arrive. Instead Horticulture sends his own memo suggesting the gardeners, for the time being, grow their own vegetables in the old nursery. “Vegetables, ” asks the Old Timer in dismay. “Vegetables,” laughs the Pruner of Yews. “Yes, vegetables,” the Assistant affirms. “The season’s nearly over,” the Gardener says. “You’re always negative,” the Assistant replies, “have you forgotten Kale?” “Kale? Cabbage? Beets, maybe? Be my guest,” the Gardener says, looking at him, “you obviously have the time,” and walks out the potting shed door. “Don’t rule out next year,” the Assistant shouts, following him to the door. To the others he says, “Why are you standing around?”
Everyone was aware that the Old Timer mulched the Nursery from the nearby leaf piles. Everyone was also aware that the Gardener used compost and mulch in the High Garden. And if we recall, aside from the Old Timer and the Gardener, no one else used Compost and Mulch. But Horticulture and the Assistant are aware of the Gardener’s seditious movement of mulch and compost to the woodlands. They have it on tape. Therefore Horticulture and the Assistant deem the Compost and Mulch piles superfluous. It is rumored that mulch kills trees and that compost spreads a horrid fungus. The Gardener is shocked when he hears the newer gardeners discussing this. He acknowledges that mulch can prevent water from reaching the deep roots of trees and shrubs during droughts if areas are not thoroughly soaked and that the high alkaline content of mulch in late decomposition can damage certain acidic loving plants. And that the addition of too much compost can help porous soils dry out even faster. But he claims the benefits outweigh the exceptions. To this protest, the Assistant nods his head sadly. “I know,” he says, “the Wizard, against his better judgment, let you mulch the grounds. He let you dig in compost with all its weed seeds.” “That’s the reason you mulch composted areas,” argues the Gardener. “Those were different times,” continues the Assistant with unctuous relish, “a bygone era. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t use mother’s little helpers, the tech tools Industry is now offering the world. Besides, Gardener, we’re too big to waste the taxpayer’s funding on your antiquated methods. We don’t have the time, nor the funds to run a feudal system. Your old fashioned methods are too labor intensive. Do any of you,” he pronounces, turning to the rest, “really like spending days on end digging out the foul smelling mulch when you could be working up here doing. . . doing real gardening?” “Gardening is labor intensive,” the Gardener states; “there’s nothing wrong with garden work. Besides it’s good when everyone works together now and then moving mulch.” “Oh, I see, kill independent initiative by implementing big brother projects like the your WPA inspired move-the- mulch days. I think everyone here believes the Institution is here to foster the individual’s right to pursue his dream. Am I right?” He looks around for approval. He used to mulch. He knows that no one likes mulching. There’s a shuffling of feet as discomfort fills the air. Woefully the Old Timer announces, “I’ll never mulch the nursery again.” “What nursery,” replies the Assistant surprised. “I thought maybe one day.” “As I just said, we don’t live in bygone days.” After that wood chips provided by the garden maintenance company replaces the leaf mould which is let to rot down slowly under a host of burdock and sticky willy. Since Horticulture foresees the department turning a profit in the future for the Institution he convinces the President to allocate funds for the fertilizer that will supersede compost. “They want to get rid of me,” the Old Timer confides to the Gardener and the Pruner of Yews. “Woodchips! Imagine that?”
For the first time in all his years at the Garden– he refuses to say the word, Institution – the Gardener is unable to do his job. He feels he is being herded into a smaller and smaller place, held hostage by a set of alien rules applied to fit all circumstances, even a small garden. He once heard one of the Kings’ men complain that China was fixing its currency to favor its Industry on the world market. “China,” said the Kings’ man, “doesn’t play by the rules.” This man went on to say, “if I were President of the Country I would make China play by the rules.” What rules, the Gardener asks himself, and when did they go into affect? It seems to the Gardener that those who want us to play by the rules want us to play by their rules. After all the established rules of any group are created to favor that group. When he discovered the world of plants in the Old Woman’s garden – it saved him from the chaos of youth. For the first time since his father disappeared, he was rooted to something bigger than himself, which he perceived, with the Old Woman’s help, to be beautiful. He thought, if I bring this earthly beauty to others they will feel as I do. It took him sometime to realize that his Eden was not applicable to all, that everyone’s idea of paradise is different. The clients who sought him out generally liked what he did. He took on each project knowing he worked as if the ground belonged to someone he loved. Bits of his memory were lodged in his work like splashes of color against a unifying green, here a hint of his first days before his father disappeared, and there the strong influences of the Old Woman’s garden, and finally an architectural presence gleaned from the Wizard’s Garden on the Tongue of Slang. He also had clients who thought they liked what he did because he worked in the famous Garden. They thought, I want that garden here in my back yard. When they actually saw what he did for them, they realized, too late, they hated it. Sometimes they refused to pay him as if he had not lived up to the bargain they had imagined. It’s true his work sometimes reflected something he tried to avoid, an unwanted tension from the days his mother and his siblings wandered through this same suburbia evading the bill collectors. Some clients, not knowing the cause – it’s doubtful he fully understood himself – thought these manipulations of nature were strokes of genius, a spiny object amid an enveloping soft blue or an outrageous broadleaf tropical where one expected something neat and trim. No matter what shrub or tree he dug and moved again and again he couldn’t soften the composition, a glint of fury always remained.
When he began working in the High Garden at The Garden On Drake’s Tongue, he realized the Wizard had offered him a gift. In the High Garden he could encourage visitors to take home with them images of beauty that could help them design their own worlds of peace and comfort. But come now, Gardener, there’s little peace in creation, more like agitation, the act driven by a need to heal the psyche. Perfection is unachievable. But he counter argues, the attempt to achieve goes on forever. And therein was salvation. The potential for success, if only momentary, offers hope for eternity. If it can happen at all, it can happen forever. In the afterhours, if the creator reflected, he could pause and see his work of beauty. In that moment the creator is healed, for a moment, that fraction of time it takes the liver of Prometheus to heal before the bird of doubt returns to inflict its pain. He liked when visitors asked him about plants they’d never seen before and wondered if they could grow them in their gardens. He always recommended they try. Sometimes he gave them seeds, sometimes cuttings – provided they had a plastic sandwich bag – most often he told them where to buy the plant. He enjoyed hearing their stories and encouraged them to invest in the diversity of all these botanical beings.
Now, with his plant kingdom in the hands of someone who couldn’t care less about plants, the Garden is threatened. If the rules established by the Garden’s President are better suited to a mall, what chance did the Garden have? But not only his Garden, he realizes, but gardens everywhere. The Kings have narrowed the meaning of the word, industry to mean something profitable. Thus the Kings’ word, Industry, looms up beside the President’s Institution. More specifically the Kings of the plant Industry have established a business model that favors giants over all the Jacks and their handfuls of beans. How could the small growers compete against the Kings’ rules which have bypassed millenniums of practice? As the Gardener looks out over the Garden, he wonders what choice he has when the Kings have already chosen his seed for him. What becomes of the Garden’s diversity when the corporate model for the mall and the factory is applied to all? The natural world can’t be relegated to the demands of the market without the loss of this precious diversity, which for the Gardener is the cornerstone of his liberty, his liberty to chose for himself from a vast plant kingdom what the gardener will propagate. It’s no different than choosing beer or bread on a supermarket shelf. If it all comes from one company, that’s not diversity, that’s not the evolutionary plan. There should be no masters of the market or the garden. Who is the first to complain when our so called elected officials try to protect the realm from the loss of diversity? The Kings who cry against regulations! Diversity demands that all living things have an equal place on the plane of existence, no one thing receiving more than its share. He weeds the garden to ensure that one species doesn’t dominate over another. On the other hand, though he tries to ensure something rare its place in his garden, he can’t waste all his resources should this plant be ill-suited for that environment, like a barrel cactus in a pond or a lawn in a desert.
That same Kings’ man who complains about China, claims to know how to put people back to work? Yet this same man, to maintain his investments, has put people out of work. Were those who lost their jobs to help maintain his investments ill-suited for the work like the tropical orchid growing on a mountaintop? Perhaps a few. But more likely, the rules of the market dictated a high return on the capital invested by the principal shareholders, before they could consider the well-being of those employed. No, the rules don’t favor workers any more than they favor polar bears. Who would the Kings’ man help, the gardener who had collected his own seed or his neighbor, who had bought genetically modified seed from the King’s store? The independent or the company’s client? When the wind blows across his neighbor’s large fields towards the gardener’s small patch, it brings with it the neighbor’s pollen. Does the gardener have any chose which way the wind blows? Can he expect a big city judge to understand the mechanism for plant propagation when the judge has never worked in a garden? Can a judge who has only read the legal decisions from other trials or the well crafted words of the Kings’ agents understand the illiterate forces and unwritten laws of nature? We are not talking about the gardener who collects the seed knowing it’s now transgenic. We’re talking about the gardener who doesn’t want the Kings’ seed period. The Gardener doesn’t care if transgenic seeds is good or bad for people. He cares about his freedom to chose what he sows in his garden. At the end of the season, the gardener does what he has always done: he collects enough seed to sow next year. But the following year, he observes that his neighbors herbicide has drifted over into his garden on the same westerly breeze traveled by last year’s pollen. How does he know? Here and there on the margins of his plot, he can see tell tale signs of herbicide poisoning, the corn leaves yellowing and wilting for no reason at all. But he can also see that some of corn stalks among the dying are still vibrant and green. A week later an agent from the Kings’ men drives up in a dark car with tinted windows, gets out and serves him a summons. “What did I do,” the gardener asks. “A sample of your material. . .” “What material,” asks the gardener bewildered. “Plant material. You’re growing our product!” “What product,” the gardener asks befuddled. “Plant product. That’s our corn,” the man says pointing to the green stalks growing over by the ditch. “Our records show that you never bought the rights. . .” “What rights,” he asks truly alarmed. “Proprietary rights, allowing you to grow our patented products. Here, sign on the dotted line and write out a check in the King’s name and all will be well. Otherwise one of the Kings’ elected officials will arrive and take you to prison.”
The gardener refuses to sign for something he didn’t buy. He didn’t want that corn. “Yes, you did,” says the court judge, who lives off the taxes paid by both the gardener and King, though the King’s share is supposed to be larger because it makes more, “otherwise you wouldn’t be growing it.” “I collected the seed off my own land last year,” he tells the judge. “Can you prove that,” asks the judge, telling him “an invoice is as good as an alibi.” “How can I prove I collected my own kernels with my own hands,” protests the gardener. The judge looks at him with a stern eye, “That simply proves my point. You didn’t buy the product in question, you stole it.” “Why would I steal something I don’t want. It doesn’t make any sense,” pleads the gardener. The lawyer for the prosecution knows the law. He knows the Kings people and the Kings elected officials. He stands up, sharply dressed in a blue grey suit, and with the judge’s permission explains to the farmer who is, after all, just a hick, why he stole the factory-made corn seed from his neighbor. “Gene modification is saving the world from famine. There’s money to be made. By inserting the gene code for synthesizing the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin into corn’s genetic package my client, the King, prevents the European corn borer from destroying his clients’ corn. Do you know what Bt is,” the man in the blue grey suit asks him. The gardener can’t believe the tone of voice. He remembers using a Bacillus species for years trying to kill the grubs in the lawn in his back yard where his kids played kick ball. But the project had failed because he didn’t have enough lawn or larva to allow the B. popilliae to take up permanent residency. And he had never been sure that his targets, the Japanese Beetle and possibly the European Chafer, and other species of June Bug, which he always found piled against the screen mid summer or later as larva buried in his wife’s potted plants, had been the only targets. Later he tried nematodes but the results were the same. Not that he would try chemicals, preferring to live with his problems than shotgun the invisible targets out of existence. “Yeah, I know what BT is and I don’t want it in my corn. So what’s this got to do with me?” The lawyer in the blue grey suit sighs patiently. “I’m trying to explain to you the science behind this innovation.” “You’re explaining nothing I don’t know already,” the gardener objects; “gardeners like me have been culling seed since the Neolithic when the wise women selected the plants that favored larger fruits and resisted disease.” “Objection overruled,” injects the judge from his high seat above the courtroom. The lawyer for the prosecution thanks the judge before continuing, “but you, sir, wanted to take a short cut, didn’t you, you decided you didn’t want to wait a thousand years for a similar product to appear naturally; you took advantage of my poor client, the King, and that’s why you’re accused of patent infringements.” “Is this what my ancestors in Concord and Lexington fought the British King for,” he asks the judge, “that I can be prosecuted for collecting seed from the plants I’ve sown and grown on my property since I was a teenager working with my daddy?” “Didn’t you notice that some of what you call your corn didn’t die while other corn plants did? Didn’t you see that?” “Yeah, I saw that my neighbor’s herbicides hit my plants. I should be suing you!” he rebuts, “why would I want corn like that, that can be sprayed with plant killers and survive?” “Because then you could add more rows, plant more corn, which would increase you profit and feed the world.” “I prefer feeding the world the old fashion way, by weeding.” “That’s right,” the lawyer exclaims, as if he has struck his mark, “And you know how hard the old fashioned way is, don’t you; and when you found a short cut you took it.” “No,” the gardener shouts, “I didn’t take it. The wind brought it. That’s how plants do it, in case you didn’t know, in the wind. I don’t owe your King anything, but the King owes me. The King’s so called product invaded my property and then the King’s weed killer killed my plants.” The King’s lawyer objects, the objection is sustained, and judge pronounces the defendant’s comments inadmissible being based on hearsay. “Your Honor,” the lawyer concludes, “we see this defiance all the time from criminals like the defendant. If these people persist they are going to force my generous, understanding client, the King, to bring in the terminator against the all the Kings’ wishes. But my client must protect his assets for humanitarian purposes for only the Kings have the power to save the world from starvation and privation.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the startled gardener acknowledges. “Unless you obey the patent laws of this country and the world and buy the Kings’ corn, the Kings will be forced to use a technology they have sworn not to use. In other words the day is coming when you won’t profit when you pirate my clients seeds without paying for it, because it won’t germinate! Either you buy the Kings’ corn freely or one day you’ll have no other choice at all. You, my friend, must follow the rules.” The gardener is shocked. Now he can only stammer. “The creation of sterile seed is against the law!” The gravel comes down. “Silence,” shouts the judge, “the only laws are the Kings’ laws!” “There’s a higher law,” the gardener cries, against the din of the courtroom, “and that’s Nature’s law!” “The Kings laws are nature’s laws,” proclaims the judge. “I’ll write my congressman,” he shouts defiantly as the guards take him by the arms, “I’ll go to Washington!” “You won’t be going to Washington,” laughs the judge. “And it wouldn’t matter even if you could,” explains the victorious lawyer, “I know you’re congressman and your congresswoman. I know them all. Besides the Kings didn’t invent the terminator seed; your so called government did!” he proclaims, everyone laughing out loud.
The Gardener is on his knees pounding the ground, beating the very object he worships, the earth beneath him, the ever sustaining Earth. And there before him staring right at him are the minute flowers of Galinsoga. . .
Gardener – How did you know the name of that?
Writer – I’ve heard your amused comments. Galinsoga is staring at him in amusement.
Gardener – Amusement? Hardly.
Writer – So he yanks the weed from its place in the sustaining earth and is holding it in his hands, roots dangling, like that famous painting of Goya, Cronos Devouring His Children.
When the President changed the rules the Gardener was still willing to propagate his favorite varieties. At first it was challenging to see what interesting combinations he could come up with yearly, using only what was growing in the High Garden. “Smoke and mirrors,” the Wizard once told him, referring to preparations for a fund raiser. “If we lack time, edge and rake the paths and the rest falls into place.” Fine for a limited purpose. So with lifting bulbs, making divisions, taking cuttings, collecting seed, the Old Woman had taught him all this; but now the struggle to survive with all the extra hours before and after work and the physical work itself has exhausted him. Plant diversity had been the kindling for his works of structure and color, needing only a spark of enthusiasm to ignite innovation and discovery. Without access to the great gene pool of the plant world he’s come to parody himself, like an old actor playing the same role over and over again, reciting the worn lines without emotion. Without plant diversity to sustain his interest he has nowhere to go but in circles. It’s simple, diversity is the bedrock of a healthy garden. A broad gene pool safeguards failure. If a species needing more light is failing under a tree, then another specie, provided there are others to chose from, replaces it. In the quest for success the composition must remain fluid. This is based on experience. Every great garden seeks the right balance. It’s trial and error and the process is supported by a rich diversity of plants from which to chose. Society was the same. Millenniums of experience had taught us the pitfalls of a constricting gene pool. Brothers were not encouraged to marry sisters. Defective chromosomes collected inside a single progeny was like a stagnant pool of water breeding illness. By regulating the gene pool with traditional taboos, society encourages diversity.
Then why is he devouring Galinsoga? A weed? Or is it a member of his so-called vast garden gene pool? He stares at the place where he just pulled up Galinsoga and finds it still growing there. He pulls it again but it reappears in the ground. He keeps pulling it but it keeps reappearing in the same place. He is now holding a handful of limp bodies in his hand, yet the species remains in the ground in front of him. Not only that thousands of Galinsoga are popping up all around him, leaves stretching toward the light, flowers dotting the crown, maturing, drying, seed spilling in a terrifying moment of mass reproduction. As far as he can see where the bare earth separates his perennials the seedlings of Galinsoga are unfolding cotyledons quickly bearing leaves. Is this diversity, he cries, hearing himself and suddenly afraid someone might have heard him. He turns away and there on the border near the street, where once he defeated Mugwort, the pungent silvery perennial is stretching toward the border’s edge, roots running though the ground in thick mats from which the aromatic leaves appear. He can’t believe it. But there isn’t time to counter this assault. The Bindweed which he had once eliminated around the narrow English oak,
Gardener – Quercus robur fastigiata.
Writer – is creeping around thin trunks of the evergreen inkberry. . .
Gardener – Ilex glabra.
Writer – and before he can intervene, is pushing both upward, twining thickly through the branches of these shrubs, flowering profusely white cups, quite lovely really, and dropping seed, and outward through the earth the white hairless roots, brittle to touch, piercing the ground beneath him. He is overwhelmed, drops his dying bundle to the ground and stares forward like a blind man while panic grass, dandelions, and chickweed, all once successfully managed, rise up in open rebellion against his orderly world in the alpine beds. This carpet of confusion is sweeping over everything like the grey water of the ocean rushing across the lowlands. The once soothing greenery sways before him rough edged like waves on a shoreline, cresting in white clouds of seeds drifting over everything like sea spray. The garden is collapsing as a bold few battle each other for total control, like Titians at the beginning of time. A cold sweat, an upset stomach and aching joints convince him he’s coming down with something. His white blood cells and his antibodies must be surging through his body now seeking the cause of infection. Yes, they are working inside of him now, regulating the microbes and viruses seeking to overthrow his health, the health of his body, the health of the organism. He laughs. It’s no different anywhere! Whether it’s his body, the garden or the nation. He eats well to help his body regulate his health. He weeds the garden to maintain balance. And we supposedly elect government officials to regulate the Kings and their people, whose narrow sighted goals for complete market dominance, make them detrimental to society. Rules and regulations are essential to the health of the country to prevent the Kings’ all consuming growth from destroying the country as it was now destroying the Garden. He leaves work with the others, is home before sundown, his wife and children shocked to see him so early.
The next day in the frame yard adjacent to the potting shed, he is staring into a bucket of water, when the face of the Old Woman floats to the surface of the water, smiling. He smiles in return. She asks him why he’s forgotten how wide the world is. Don’t let the darkness swallow you. Everything you need can be found in someone else’s garden. Just then the Assistant comes into the frame yard. “Who are you talking to,” he asks, a smirk on his face, “I heard voices.” “That’s odd,” the Gardener replies, lifting the bucket and leaving, “everyone here was quiet.” At diner he tells his wife and kids, “this afternoon I saw the Old Woman’s face in a bucket of water.” “A bucket of water,” asks his older daughter. “I was filling it so I could water some divisions of Iris pallida in the Herb Garden for one of the interns.” Who is the Old Woman, daddy?” “She taught me everything I know,” he tells them. “Did the Old Woman say anything, daddy?” “She told me to visit other gardens.” The kids laugh, thinking he is joking; but his wife says, “She’s right, you must get away when you can and visit other gardens.”
That night he dreams he is walking through an intricate garden of winding paths. Sunlight fills the garden; yet he can’t see the sun. The sky is blue and perfect with perfect clouds but the sun is nowhere to be seen. The trees throw shadows that seem alive, breathing. They sway as if in a breeze, although he can’t feel anything. He comes out onto a glade where it is suddenly dark and the rain begins to fall. That’s when he sees them wandering through the garden, one a tall pale figure in a thin blue grey poncho sweeping through the glade, a man like Mockingbird whistling. The other, the birdman’s companion, he recognizes. He’s the Wizard. He runs over to him, covering the great distance instanter and greets him enthusiastically. The Wizard reprimands him, one hand slicing the air. “You must be quiet! We’re working by stealth.” “Have you been here long,” asks the Gardener, his voice shaking the leaves all around him. “A very long time, but you must be quiet!” the Wizard emphasizes, his finger to his lips. He is holding a wad of plastic A&P bags. Just then the birdman swoops down upon a clump of iris to admire it, the outer edges of the poncho enveloping the clump, his head tilted to the side to study it. Then with a wind beneath him he rises up on his feet again, drifting ahead, his head looking side to side. The Wizard nervously apologizes and races forward toward the winged stranger. The Gardener, too, is following right behind. He sees the two confer. The unknown man hands the Wizard a small bundle and then moves off again, sometimes laterally, sometimes forward, his head constantly moving side to side in search of something. The Gardener looks down on the clump of iris. Weeds are growing through the rhizomes which clamor over one another in tight congestion. He can see that no one has been tending this place. It reminds him of the High Garden but then it could be anywhere, a garden beside an ancient temple or church. “Stop daydreaming and help me,” the Wizard scolds in hushed voice. “What do you want me to do,” the Gardener replies enthusiastically like a child. His voice fills the canopy of a nearby tree, leaves flutter silver and green as a flock of sparrows fly off, shrieking to the birdman. “Shhhh! Or you can go home,” exclaims the Wizard with a worried look. “Here take this.” He hands the Gardener a plastic bag, holding the rhizomes of the iris, and a plastic label. “What do you want me to do?” “Do I have to spell it out! Get the name and any other information. It’s important! And do be quiet!” “What do I write with?” “Don’t you carry a pencil and pad of paper with you anymore,” exclaims the exasperated Wizard. He digs through all his pockets. He appears to be wearing layers of casual jackets. “Why are you wearing all those jackets,” asks the Gardener in wonder. “They belong to him, can’t you see, they’re too big.” Finally inside the wallet pocket of the inner most jacket of brown suede, he finds a pencil and hands it to him. Printed across the length of pencil are the words in old English lettering, The Antique Pottery Mart. “Don’t just stand there, write something!” “What do you want me to write?” “The plant’s name for god’s sake. I can’t believe what’s become of you!” He point to the congested rhizomes in the garden bed. “Oh my, the Porcelain Man is getting away from me. I don’t want to lose him!” And he runs off. The Porcelain Man, whispers the Gardener, staring after them. He forgets everything and runs after them. Then he remembers the label, yes, the label. He turns back to look for the clump and there, instead of nubs of leaves growing out of the roots, spires of tall, bearded iris have grown with standards in burnt umber and falls of purple. He forgets the Wizard and the Porcelain Man and bends down to see the name of this marvelous iris for himself. The old copper label is blank. Then in midair above the label a stylus appears and scrawls an elegant calligraphy, that reminds him of something. As if such things happen all the time, he worries instead where he has seen this handwriting before, when he feels he’s waking. No, he cries to himself plunging back again toward the magnificent iris, reading on the label, I. g. Dante’s Inferno. In the distance the earth and the sky merge in a blue grey mist where he thinks he sees the Porcelain Man sweeping down from the sky, feathers of misty grey, the Wizard, below, arms akimbo, nervously urging him on. His descent is so rapid he knows it cannot be true, and yet this bird has dropped to earth, again sweeping close to the heartbeat of what he wants before returning to the distant Wizard, his hand now in the air like a perch, which makes the Gardener laugh, as he wakes to the sound of someone flushing the toilet somewhere in the building where he lives. In a panic he searches for the name. Then quietly, not wanting to wake his wife, he rises out of bed, goes quickly into the kitchen where he turns on the light. On a scrap of paper he writes, Iris germanica Dante’s Inferno.
Sometime during the following week it comes to him, a bolt of lightening that makes him laugh like he did in the dream. The handwriting on the label belonged to the Old Woman. How could he have forgotten that? When he began working at the Garden, he saw her less and less. Then the years passed without him seeing her at all. Then one day two years ago the Old Woman’s daughter, whose inclinations were not bent in the same way as her mother, called him. She wasn’t a gardener but she knew how much the garden meant to her mother. She told him her mother was sick and had been for some time. The next day he went to see her. The Old Woman smiled at him the way she did the first time she saw him from the corner of her house, a boy staring up her walkway. He told her he’d come to weed and deadhead the beds. “Oh, you have more important things to do now,” she told him, without a hint of reproach, “a garden of your own and a family to love. The girls must be getting big now.” He and the daughter moved the Old Woman to the window where so she could sit and watch him work. “If I do something wrong you can tap on the window.” He once remembered her garden full of surprises, nooks and crannies appearing beneath bowers, where something grew he’d never seen before. Now as he surveyed the work ahead of him, he realized how small it was, how quaint. It took him just a few hours to clean up the overgrown weedy beds and set the debris on the compost pile, now crumbling in decay. When they said goodbye, he kissed her on the cheek, as she patted his hand. A week later she was dead.
Now with the late afternoon sun in front of him, he drives across the River Slang, passing the Great Wall and the Gate Keepers’ colonnade. As he drives through the neighborhoods where he once lived like a gypsy, unwanted memories seep through the quiet, tree-lined streets like palimpsest standing in stark contrast. Why in his quest to create beauty had he forgotten the one person who had set him on that journey? He drives up the street where she lived. In just a few years the neighborhood had changed. Small houses had evolved with new additions into castle-like playhouses set back on manicured yards proclaiming wealth. He stops at the house. FOR SALE is posted at the entrance with the name and telephone number of the realtor. A sticker pasted diagonally across the front of the sign, leaving the realtor’s name and number in view, adds in bright letters, JUST SOLD! It’s obvious someone was called in to “clean the place up” before the sale. The garden appears sanitized, everything neat and tidy, the narrow paths defined, not a leaf or stem falling out of the tiny beds. There is none of the congestion, the overgrown aspects he had cherished as a boy and which he knew to be anything but congested. With his world at the Garden collapsing, he hopes he’s not too late.
It’s odd he thinks, how spells are broken, the magic drained right out of a place and time. A cold reality has replaced the enchantment that once resided here. Yet he’s wandering through a distant time even though nothing around him reflects the life of that time and place. Death is like that, he thinks, leaving behind this ultimate reality that no longer recognizes you. In one moment someone precious is alive, their body filled with awareness; then within a fraction of a second, the body still warm, nothing animate remains in the shell. Some would say the animate has left only dead wood behind. But left where? He has seen many times, the animate dwindling, dying out like a fire. If it goes anywhere it goes to those who remember, who remember the empty husk when it was lit from within. So with this garden, he says, reclaiming a cold ember and squeezing it with the heat of his memory. Even that day two years ago when he, the selfish man, came back after years of being away and found the Old Woman too sick to maintain the place, the garden breathed her presence. Weedy and overgrown, yes, but still alive, still animate. Her place, even by the window, animated the garden. He is sure that even after she died, the garden lived, as if her special essence, fleeing the decrepitude of her body, had taken refuge in the garden. But her daughter not understanding her mother’s vision, brought in landscapers to make “the mess” presentable. Unwittingly they scattered the coals of her imagination. The garden grew cold the way her body had. He accepts that in time we all become inanimate again. It’s a wonderful thing to know that no matter what becomes of an organism, whatever the Kingdom, nay whatever the Domain, from the sapient down to the smallest iota of self organization, the Earth reclaims it. Even if the body is forgotten, or shrouded in plastic or smothered by empty oil cans, or dissolved in toxins, the Earth reclaims it, without reservation, without approbation. In the end our Earth takes us back to the beginning. Even the Kings’ men, blind as they are return to the universality of the elements; even the conscious manipulators of others for personal gain, even these most evil of people, return to that elemental reduction that makes all things equal once more.
But somewhere, in spite of the landscapers, embers glow. Those who came to see the place and bought it must have sensed them. Perhaps they will not search for it vain. They will restore the light adding their own sympathetic fire. He can’t believe that two years ago while weeding and deadheading he hadn’t noticed the little details he was seeing now, like a child. Being on top of the world, in need of no one, his memory had withered purblind. He couldn’t imagine the Old Woman teaching him anything new. For a gardener this is a disastrous decline in sensibilities. It closes the door to everything else, because there is always something else, some new plant, some new means of showing the old ones off. It’s why we garden. But here and there tucked under branches a simple pruning would reveal, her little treasures are lying in waiting. How could he have not seen them? No one saw them, not even the gardeners who preceded him recently with their rakes, weeders and clippers. He’s conscious now that it’s getting dark. He’s been wandering through the garden for a long time, entranced by all the details he missed two years ago, that everyone missed, all but the Old Woman who always knew, knew past and future and the world under her feet. And suddenly he sees it in one of the borders in back of the house, lost in clumps of wild oats gone mad. . .
Gardener – Chasmanthium latifolium. . .
Writer – hidden, the old leaves folded and yellow, but new leaves breaking forth from thick rhizomes, like the corners of playing cards that the Old Woman is holding tightly in her fingers, waiting for this moment to declare her hand. It’s Iris germanica Dante’s Inferno. And there behind the clump is the label in his dream the night he saw the Porcelain Man.

Footnotes;

Strategic dynamism:
( re FROM NYT The Education Issue Anatomy of a Campus Coup By ANDREW RICE Published: September 11, 2012)

Taking farmers to jail:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto

The Insect Pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis, A Bt Primer:
http://filebox.vt.edu/cals/cses/chagedor/btprimer.html

Masked Chafer
http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/bimg140.html

And Masked Chafer control:
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r785301311.html

June Bug
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_bug

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten B

The new President watches TV. She understands what the Kings’ people want. With her powerful connections she forges ahead. One day while watching the 6:00 news she has an epiphany. She’s a child sitting in her parents’ house during the latter half of the last century, watching TV while her parents fight over her father’s drinking. Her father always drinks and her parents always fight and the only way to cancel out the constancy of this struggle is to either blink her eyes rapidly and make the lights dance or follow intently the intervals between the changing images on the TV screen which always lead her away, as if they are flagstones down a path to other worlds. At that time the intervals came infrequently; but over time, and into this new century, the frequency has increased dramatically and like those on her computer, has become her metronomic standard for all Change. She herself thinks this way, jumping from thought to thought as if escaping the damaging onslaught of controversy. But does she ever lose track of any particular theme on her mind. Absolutely not. Details don’t matter. Nothing, she knows, stands still – that’s showbiz, except, perhaps, the realization that Change is a constant.
To her the expansion of her Public Relations Department makes sense. The cart must precede the horse; otherwise two plus two would be five. Writers for the local papers are invited. Unfortunately, knowing nothing of the President’s epiphany, they want to see the gardens and meet the Wizard. After all, by creating “this gem on the tongue of the Dragon” the Wizard put the Garden on the map. So Volunteers hand out surveys with multiple choice questions, such as: Would you like to see dance and art programs implemented at the Garden; followed by these possibilities: very much; probably; I don’t know; no. Then, by popular demand, a Dance and Art Department is added “to enhance visitor experience.” Young, enthusiastic dancers leap across the lawns and sing into the evening air. Art installations, some modest, others vying with the River Slang and the Palisades beyond, dot the grounds. On opening nights to scheduled events, the artists introduce their work. Free food and drink is offered. And now the critics come.
On the third floor of the second house, where the new café is envisioned on the ground floor, the Education Department expands its operations to include events for a new “Arts For All Ages” program. In “the old days” the school kids came to the Garden and accompanied by a strange old woman with a crooked back and a thick tongue, who reminded the Gardener of his old mentor and friend, they foraged for eatables in the woods, which they prepared and ate in the Learning Center beneath the large hall. Now instead of greens the local kids and their parents come on weekends and follow an artist into the woods where they collect rocks and twigs and later build habitats on cardboard panels in the Learning Center. During the week the educators ride out through the Garden gates and visit an inner city school. With their power point kits they render nature’s marvels upon a movie screen pulled tightly down over the blackboard in front of the classroom. The teachers, meanwhile, drive to the Garden where they attend a day-long seminar in the large hall where in the days of the early Kings, an unabashed collector of medieval armor imagined himself one of the knights of chivalry fighting the windmills of oblivion.
Over time mention of the Wizard is eliminated from all outgoing press releases. If by chance he’s mentioned, it’s as if he has outgrown his time. To those that never knew him or ever heard of him, he’s a crank, a misanthrope, a spoil sport, wanting to reserve the public trust for a minority of “plant lovers.” Some compare him to that other crank, now in disfavor, who forced the car industry to reconsider what was in the best interests of the consumer. That crank had the gumption to run for the most powerful office in the land, second only to the power of the Kings. Thankfully he was eliminated from the Presidential stage for limiting the voters’ choice. It was said, by the Kings themselves through their magnificent voices, that he had offered too much choice, which in politics is a no-no. Even our youngest, surfing the internet after school, know that choice has no place in a democracy and should be limited to the shelf space in a retail market.
And not only that, it is said the Wizard micromanages. It is said he makes all the decisions, that is, tells all the gardeners what to plant and where. When the gardeners hear this, they’re indignant. The Pruner of Yews remembers the Porcelain Man arguing with the Wizard over the placement of trees, or over the acquisition of a new hybrid dahlia which the Porcelain Man had to have even though the Wizard questioned color or shape. The Gardener agrees. He and the Wizard have walked the grounds many times, bamboo stakes in hand, negotiating the locations for Styrax and Stewartia and every variety of Cornus. And in the High Garden, the Wizard always leaves the Gardener free, although he sometimes gives him perennials he thinks might work well there. So the Gardener wonders if someone grumbling in the potting shed has scattered the seed of this rumor. Whoever did must have known it would fall on fertile ears inside the old houses, where the Kings’ people once slept. There, the directors of other departments are nodding their heads sadly. They can see it for themselves, the effects of an iron hand on the imaginations of those poor gardeners. “They live behind a green curtain,” says the President’s secretary with a titter; “who’ll bring democracy to them?”
For forty years, since the Garden’s inception, the Wizard has been its only Director of Horticulture and the Garden’s second oldest employee. The first is the Old Timer who has worked on the grounds since he was a boy, during the reign of Total Power’s officer. “Forty years,” exclaims the new Director of Development to the President when she hears that; “it does have a biblical ring, doesn’t it, like Methuselah.” “You’d think he’d have the sense to retire at the height of his career,” says the new Director of Public Relations. “I wasn’t even born when he came here,” she adds, smiling. All three are standing around a coffee maker, waiting for their brew to finish. The little machine coughs and sputters. Puffs of steam rise into the air. “We won’t get into that,” snaps the President, taking her cup and filling it before the last of the steaming water flows through the grounds. “We’ll help him.”
Eventually the Wizard is ignored by everyone, except the gardeners and those who’ve known him for years. At the managers’ meetings his suggestions are passed over without comment. It’s as if he isn’t there. Even worse he is subject to a growing disrespect from employees too recently culled from the business culture of higher education to understand its limitations. Shaking his head sadly, he tells his gardeners, “the time has come when the only things people value are the things they can buy. For 500 years the argument for choice has been refined by the market. It’s not enough to enjoy the transient beauty of a rose. Unless one can buy and preserve it as an investment, the rose is worthless. Today’s consumer would rather stand in line to buy a TV on sale than watch a beautiful sunset for free. My moment, too, has come. But to mangle the Poet, I ask. . , of you, beauteous and lovely garden, when you shall fade, who will distill your truth? Yes, you all must become the Garden’s collective memory,” he says, looking at all of them for the last time. “You must keep the word, Garden, alive for otherwise the word will be forgotten, and if not forgotten, remembered only as some distant place in a remote time beyond reach. Remember our Garden as it was, a place where we could do our work without the impatience of the Marketers. One day those who have harbored the pleasures we helped provide through beauty, who didn’t succumb to the visual noise of the promoters, will find their way back here.” The day after he says this, he vanishes into retirement. And for the first time in its forty years, the non-profit Garden On The Tongue Of The Dragon charges admissions. A notice tells visitors that salaries, health care costs and the cumbersome weight of pensions plans, however worthy, are unsustainable. This has forced management to charge the public admissions.
A new director is hired to replace the old Wizard. Instead of working in the potting shed, at the ramshackle table where the Gardener was interviewed years ago, his office is moved to a small room on the second floor of the management building, at the opposite end of the hallway leading to the President’s suite. When he’s introduced to his staff, the Garden’s President tells them their new Director of Horticulture helped another famous botanical garden enter the entrepreneurial age successfully by converting the garden shop into a money making venture. He reminds her that he was also in charge of the Herb Garden. With the President standing at his side, the new Director tells his staff that “from this day forward the Horticulture Department must pay for itself. The taxpayers,” he tells them, “are demanding more for their hard earned money.” The gardeners look at one another. They wonder what they’ve done wrong. After all, they helped create and maintain the famous Garden on Drake’s Tongue. Wasn’t that what they were supposed to do? Wasn’t that why the taxpayers were paying them?
One day, from her bathroom window, the President notices a gardener standing idly by the Long Border. She calls in the Director who’s down the hall and asks him what this gardener is doing. He doesn’t know and runs off to find out. On the two way radio, he calls the Gardener, who tells him he’s on his way down to the Long Border from the High Garden. When they meet on the Great Lawn above the Long Border, the Gardener tells the Director he must have seen the new intern who was waiting for him. “She can’t stand there doing nothing below the President’s bathroom window,” replies the Director. “You’re right,” says the Gardener, “but she hasn’t learned to “look” busy; she’s new.” “Well, you should’ve told her,” accuses the Director. There is a long pause before the Gardener responds. “As soon as I show her what to weed she’ll be able to look busy and accomplish something too.” The Director then returns to the President and tells her the intern was waiting for the Gardener. She asks how many interns work on the grounds. He tells her two. And how much do they cost. About ten dollars an hour. “Ten dollars,” she cries; “downtown the Kings don’t pay their interns anything; it’s an honor to work for them; ten dollars to stand around!” “It won’t happen again,” he promises. “You’re right,” answers the President.
The President confides with her new Financial Officer. “Horticulture,” she says, “believes he’s entitled to most of our limited resources.” “Wasn’t that the intention of the owners’ bequest to the city,” asked the Financial Officer. “It was,” she answers, “but that’s all changing. Any pact co-signed by the relevant parties in 1968, a year of infamy, height of the flower power movement, must either be amended for the health of the organization or be considered superseded to be in accord with the more relevant times ushered in by the Kings’ model.” The President lays siege to the potting shed. An austerity program is implemented. The buying of plants or any other materials is prohibited unless the President approves. To her Financial Officer she states her Law of Reduced Spending: the less people making decisions, the more money for us! By midsummer, Horticulture has already reduced spending by a hundred percent. “Look,” exclaims the President, studying the expenditure sheets prepared by her Financial Officer, “the gardens don’t look any different than last year.” “Yes,” replies Horticulture,
“but. . .” “But nothing,” she says; “it never hurts to tighten one’s belt; now at least we will have enough funds to send management to important AAPI conferences; next year’s event is sponsored by Society For The Elimination of Pests and Weeds and will be held in Southern California. Don’t you want to go to California?”
Gardener – Don’t you mean AABGA, the Association of Arboretum and Botanical Gardens of America
Writer – No, I’m describing the Association of American Public Institutions, now, if I may go on. During his tenure, a much simpler time, indeed, the Wizard hired gardeners based on the intensity of their interest in plants, not necessarily their knowledge of them, which he knew would be cumulative, providing they had a deep interest. An application was rarely used. The primary avenue for hiring a gardener was the interview, which always began in the dusty, clutter filled potting shed and ended somewhere on the grounds, rain or shine, rain preferred. Outside the Wizard would guide the applicant to a bench and finish the interview. He noted the speed with which the applicant walked as they traversed the grounds. If they ambled, their chances were diminished. Other idiosyncrasies uncovered during this face to face interview, but hard to judge using the hiring formulas of our new personnel manual, were also applied. In short the Wizard sought a person of good intent and they generally walked in off the street, lured by the Garden itself or by his reputation as head gardener. Of course, it wasn’t foolproof.
Today the Resource Officer screens the attached applications the candidates send her by e-mail. She selects those she deems worthy of meeting the new Director. Because of the economic downturn there have been more applications. But the personnel manual emphatically states that only those who have college degrees – the more degrees the better – and show at least four years internship in the field of work for which they are applying, will be considered. This goes for all positions, the only exclusion being positions for Maintenance and Security. These anyway will be soon outsourced to the private sector. Thanks to these tough economic times college graduates glut the jobs’ market and they’re willing to work for the lowest pay in years. And like Moses drawing water from rock, the President insists all new employees, after their six month probation period, accept only two weeks vacation and truncated medical benefits. In the private sector this is standard procedure, she explains unnecessarily to the Board. To maintain a record of worker accountability, a new position in Resources is created, occupying a small room behind the broom closet with its own dedicated computer.
The President, on looking around her, is satisfied. To mark her first year, she takes the Ben Franklin’s aphorism, “Waste Not, Want Not” and envisions an embroidery made with these words forming a half circle above an illustration of a dust pan crossed by a whisk broom, which she herself designs as her set of arms on a cocktail napkin in a moment of merriment while drinking a whiskey neat in a bar near her home on the upper west side of New Drake. Later that night she reserves her seat by the window on a flight to Los Angelus.
Out of nine gardeners, not including the Director, four remain from the days of the Wizard. Three new gardeners replace the five employees who left shortly after the Wizard. They are the first gardeners to go through the official probation period. It’s not long before they lose the ebullience of working at a top public garden. “You have every right to belly ache,” the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds tells them. He admits he was lucky enough to be hired during the Wizard’s last year. “But it’s always been first come first serve,” he tells them; “I don’t have their benefits either,” referring to the original gardeners, who retain full benefits. He in fact does retain full benefits but he has converted his resentment of the Gardener into the difference between what he makes as a relatively new employee and what the Gardener makes after many years of work. “Why should we help the old timers,” the new gardeners murmur whenever they meet, while coiling hoses or putting their tools away; “let them pick up their own piles of leaves and weed their own beds.” “Yeah, we’ll never see the day when we can pay off our college loans.” “Shit, we’ll never see the day we can live on our own, in our own places, without roommates.”
Early in the new year an ice storm with 40 mile an hours winds takes down seven prominent old trees, leaving tangles of fallen limbs and exposed root balls the width of Volkswagens. The Gardener encourages the gardeners. With work ahead of them, everyone pitches in. The physical effort draws everyone together. Their tired arms and stiff legs and aching backs wipe out the resentment they were feeling. But in the house of the former energy baron, all the President’s officers tell their staff, it’s all the Wizard’s fault, he’s up to his tricks again. But the President has a trick or two up her sleeve too. The salaries of the oldest employees are capped. At a managers meeting, Horticulture feels this will bode ill. But Development, who sits at the right hand of the President, second only in matters of influence to the Financial Officer whispers in her ear. “Ok,” agrees the President, “our new policy will be mitigated. For now, at least, the oldest employees can keep their four weeks paid vacation.” The new policy and this veiled threat casts a pall over the grounds. The President explains to the Board, the plan’s brilliance, because the preservation of their benefits will drive the wedge deeper between those who have four weeks and those who have only two.
The ice storm is followed by mild weather. Everyone in management is flashing victory signs. Then in February it begins raining and continues to rain, on and off for weeks. In the Potting Shed everyone huddles around the potting bench, potting up the cuttings and pricking out the early seedlings from the flats the Gardener has pulled from the growing house. No one speaks. Because of all the cloudy weather, plants, that were potted up several steps in anticipation of new growth, start to show signs of root rot. Finally the rains stops. After that it doesn’t rain at all until the middle of March and then only for a few hours. April is cold again but dry and then May is hot and sunny.
In June, an intern weeding the bed near the street in the High Garden, asks the Gardener what these strange plants are whose leaves are narrow and twisted and bear such lovely iridescent orange-yellow flowers. He tells him those are the Peruvian lilies.
Gardener – Alstroemeria aurantiaca. From Chile and Argentina.
Writer – He tells the intern they were introduced by the Porcelain Man years ago. “At that time no one thought they were hardy, north of New Drake because the winters were hard. So they dug them up every fall. But one year the tubers that were inadvertently left in the ground and usually died over the winter, came back. They’ve survived our winters ever since.”
June repeats May, and the hottest and driest Spring goes on record. What record, asks the President, repeating what she has often heard among the Kings’ people down in New Draak. We’ve seen droughts before, she says, lowering the thermostat for central air to 75 degrees, a good twenty degrees cooler than outside, where the interns working around the giant compressors, suddenly feel the excess heat blowing across them. They are there watering the struggling Yews that screen the huge air conditioning units that feed the building. Elsewhere as directed by the Gardener, the gardeners, on top of their other duties, are pulling three and four hundred feet of hoses to distant beds and setting up sprinklers. At the north end of the property the wood of seven giant trees have been removed but the root balls remain upended, covered in weeds, six months after the trees fell.
On a typical day, when the potting shed crew arrives, the Director is nowhere to be found. If he is present at the beginning of the day he quickly leaves without assigning jobs. With no one to guide them, the two interns look to the Gardener for guidance. After he told them to set up sprinklers under the big trees the other day, the three new gardeners now seek his advice. He arrives early before anyone else and wanders the grounds looking for problems so he can tell the acolytes and young gardeners. In the middle of May with the weeds growing in every corner he used to tell the interns that they would catch up, more or less, by the beginning of July. “By that time,” he told them, “the germination slows and we turn our attentions to watering and dead heading. But until then,” he joked, “it’s bedlam.” By mid July the weeds continue sprouting, bolting and flowering, casting seed everywhere. The Gardener can see the defeat in the eyes of the interns. He asks the gardeners for help on the grounds. The older gardeners listen out of respect but they’re less inclined to help. “We’re still two gardeners short,” they tell him. “I know,” he says, “I know.” “So when are they going to hire them,” they ask. The gardener of the Greenhouse Beds tells them to quit crying, but he’s the only gardener who never leaves his small beds around the Greenhouses to help others.
Beginning near the end of July, the drought of early summer is followed by torrential rains. In the Potting Shed the older gardeners talk about the old days, when we could count on April showers bringing May flowers and when August was dry and the lawns went brown and no one had to cut them anymore. That was normal. But looking out from the Palm House Portico, the lawns are bright green now. But for some of the older trees stressed by months of little or no rain, the rains have come too late. With weakened capillary systems, several giants topple over onto the water soaked grounds. Near the bottom of the hill, behind the north house where the new restaurant is being built on the ground floor, the hard rains wash out sections of the meadow. Gullies form and the hard dirt road that runs along it is rutted. The founding Dutch merchants of New Drake used to say the little creatures bowling in the highlands caused the thunder and lightening rumbling over the River Slang. But these days the gardeners feel the weather is driven by the drilling and hammering resonating from the house as the new restaurant takes shape. In the management office up on the second floor of the old home of Total Power’s officer, a similar mystical appeal leads everyone in the opposite direction. They blame the Wizard.
The only garden that continues shining during these dark days is the High Garden, where the Gardener works long after the others have gone home. Because all his plant requests are denied, he is unable to replace plants that have died during these last few years. To keep up appearances he must use many of the tricks he learned from the Old Woman to fill in the gapes, but this means the same species eventually predominate over greater and greater stretches of the garden. Because he does it artfully he knows he can get away with it for another year, possibly. To the untutored eye, flowers are blooming and all is green. But to those who know, the intricacies of variety are slowly disappearing. With the Pruner of the Yews he whacks the Junipers back from the pathways. Together they finally sheer the Yews around the Pergola. The Gardener asks one of the new gardeners who has shown promise to work alongside the Pruner. They set up the movable pipe bridges around the two giant conifers at the north end of the High Garden.
Gardener – You must be talking about Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Lawson’s cypress.
Writer – Perhaps, but keep in mind this is all from long ago in the land of make-believe. The two gardeners begin pruning the conifers. Every now and then one of them climbs down and stands off to see what particular branches still need to be removed. And this is how it was always done. But the Gardener admits to the Pruner of Yews, he’s simply in defense mode, protecting the Porcelain Man’s vision without advancing any changes of his own.
When the Gardener admits this to the other gardeners, they open up and complain. They, too, are unable to keep their standards high. The gardener of the Greenhouse Beds shrugs his shoulders. His beds are weeded and watered. “What more can I do,” he asks; “I can only do what I can do.” But unlike the others he never works anywhere else on the grounds. He comes in at 8:00 and leaves at 4:30. He’s never hurried, never worried. Horticulture, who has just walked in on this conversation, nods his head sadly. He feels the weight of responsibility. He blames the Wizard. He’s cursed us. “What curse,” asks the Gardener; “he loved this place.” Horticulture walks out. He feels personally attacked, like Job upon his manure pile. “Don’t listen to him,” the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds tells him later. But Horticulture admits he’s made a bad career choice coming here.
In spite of the Gardener’s efforts, the old resentments resurface. The two groups reform, the youngest and the oldest, and while everyone but the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds follow the Gardener’s direction, they now work in isolated pockets, without enthusiasm, clearing and repairing the damage the weather has caused. Even though they known better, the older gardeners joke about the Wizard’s curse. They remember the old days, as if it had been a sorcerer’s ball. They climb onto spades and shovels and pretend to fly around. But the younger gardeners, who never worked under the Wizard, feel their lives have come to nothing. “We were born too late,” they commiserate. “The old guys can joke because they were there, but we missed it, we’ve always missed it, the glory days of old.” Meanwhile the crabgrass inches out onto the paths, throwing its seed between the pathway bricks. No one has time to edge it. No one has time to seed the bare patches where the June bug larva killed off the lawns during the winter. After every rain the rocks and pebbles beneath the soil appear.
One day the Old Timer tells the Gardener “we’re losing the woods. They’ve been on their own too long.” So the Gardener goes down to see for himself and when he returns he whispers to the Pruner of Yews that the vines have finally taken over.
Gardener – Ampelopsis brevipetala, the infamous porcelain berry.
Writer – For two years the vines had clamored up the Red oaks and sugar maples, branch by branch, fruited and sown their progeny.
Gardener – A horrendous weed killing off thirty to fifty foot trees.
Writer – Well, in our strictly homespun fairy tale, no one notices, certainly not the President, not even Horticulture.
Gardener – I can believe that. Porcelain berry has been sweeping over the trees along the throughways leading out of the city for decades.
Writer – When the Wizard first arrived at the Garden, he was at a loss of where to place the Old Timer, so he put him in charge of riding the big mower. But that not being enough, the Porcelain Man suggested he put him in charge of the new nursery and later in charge of the compost and mulch piles. The regulars watched over him because it was known that he drank brandy from small bottles on cold days. He swore the brandy kept him alive during a blizzard when he fell into a snow bank and was unable to move for an hour. To this day his bottles are still found on the grounds. Now he confides to the Gardener that Horticulture has shown no interest in his mowing, his nursery or his compost. And that he has been tempted by the spirits again. But the Gardener tells him how much he’s needed. “How can we have a great garden without concise pools of neatly cut green grass, or great garden beds without a rich mix of compost and mulch.” “But no one uses it,” the Old Timer complains; “you’re the only one who drives down here and shovels it into the back of the Cushman. You see the piles; they’re too big; there’s no room for this year’s compost and the leaf drop.”
The Gardener tries to encourage the others to use the compost and mulch. The gardener of Greenhouse Beds says, “you’re not my boss.” Finally the Pruner of Yews pulls him aside. “Can’t you see, they don’t care.” “Who is they,” asks the Gardener. “Management, they don’t want us to succeed; they want us to fail.” “Why would Horticulture sabotage his own operation,” asks the Gardener. “You heard him that first day: we don’t make money for the Garden; we only take money, that’s how they see it.” “That’s ridiculous,” the Gardener replies. “Can’t you see,” the Pruner adds, “the President is behind all this evil.” Furious, the Gardener storms out of the potting shed and decides he will try to control the woodlands by himself, using the excess mulch to stifle Ampelopsis seedlings. This year he will cut the vines and next year dig them out. The Pruner follows him. The Old Timer sees them and follows them. He agrees with the Pruner. Management wants us to fail. The Gardener ignores them. He loads two wheel barrows and a pitch fork onto the front end loader of the tractor and drives out of the garage. The other two get into a Cushman and follow him. “He thinks he can do it himself,” the Pruner says angrily. “No, he doesn’t know what to do,” says the Old Timer sadly. They follow him down to the mulch piles. They drive up alongside of the tractor. “Can’t you see,” they shout. He ignores them. He dumps the wheel barrows gently on the side. He jumps off the tractor and stands the barrows up. Then he jumps back onto the seat and scoops up the soggy leaves and fills one barrow at a time. The second barrow tips over. He leaps out enraged but the other two men arrive first and push the toppled barrow up. The Gardener drops his arms in despair. “Who cares about them,” he shouts; “they don’t know this land; we do!; because we bend down over it and we watch it like a mother watching her baby. We do,” he emphasizes, tapping his chest hard. “And why do we,” he asks himself. “We do it for the old man over there sitting on the chair,” he answers himself; “and for that woman there walking her four year old. We work for them, not for management; oh Earth, how I wish I had known the Porcelain man; I know he’d see it my way. Together they spend the rest of the day moving a quarter of a pile.
One day a journalist is walking the grounds with the President accompanied by Horticulture. She stops in front of a newly planted Myrtle and exclaims how beautiful. What a perfect place. The President repeats the praise, congratulating Horticulture on his idea. He thanks them. But later he asks the Gardener when the myrtle had been planted and from where it had come. The Gardener tells him “the tree comes from the nursery and had been growing there since the Wizard ordered the sapling years ago.” He took it upon himself to place it before it got too big and hoped Horticulture liked it. Horticulture doesn’t pass on the praise he received but tells him it will do for now. When the article appears, aside from that single new feature, the author is disappointed in the Garden’s appearance. She used to come to the Garden to get ideas. She always came down from the High Garden with something new to remember, and while the High Garden remained meticulous, the same marvelous contrasts of highs and lows, the tight, low plantings of the central alpine meadow, the topical extravagance at the garden entrance by the south stairs, it seemed frozen in time. As for the other gardens, they appear neat and tidy but they seem to have lost their focus. Are they in decline, she asks. She assumes the Garden is having financial problems since so little is being done in what was once universally considered a vanguard of innovation.
“That bitch,” growls the president to the other two as they wait for the coffee to brew; “just what does that old hag know!” “I thought you’d be happy,” says her Financial Officer; “isn’t that what you wanted.” “Well, I may want it, but I didn’t want to hear it and besides, she never once mentioned any of the art installations.” “It’s only fuel to feed the fires,” smiles Development; “after all isn’t the Wizard to blame?” And so it echoes through hallway on the second floor of management, filling every office, “the Wizard’s to blame, to blame.” But in the Potting Shed when the gardeners repeat the phrase now “the Wizard’s to blame,” they smile.
One day in the computer room behind the broom closet, a “volunteer” sees something on the video he is scanning. Thanks to a security grant provided by a national anti-terrorist agency down on the Potomac, surveillance cameras were installed one night throughout the grounds to protect the taxpayer from those willfully seeking to disrupt the public peace. The volunteer notifies Resources, Resources contacts Public Relations, Public Relations reaches out to Development and Development tells Finance and all together they approach the President. Overjoyed by what she sees, she calls in Horticulture. On video clips he sees the Gardener, in broad daylight to throw off suspicion, leading the other gardeners down to the mulch and compost piles. He watches them scatter the resources across the grounds beneath the trees. He sees the Gardener leading the Old Timer and another intern down to the nursery where they proceed to dig up the splendid carmine red Myrtle the journalist enjoyed and plant it in front of the blue concolor fir.
Gardener – Abies concolor.
Writer – He sees the Gardener directing the flow of annuals and perennials out of the growing house at the greenhouse to a public area in front of the pergola. He sees. . . “Never mind the rest,” interrupts the President. “Well,” she asks with a smile on her face, “are you in charge or is he?” He wonders if they should make him the assistant director. But seeing the look on her face he feels this might not be the answer to her rhetorical question. “Looks like he’s working behind my back.” “Damn right,” she replies; “we’ve known for a long time that before leaving, the Wizard gave the Gardener his blessing. In fact,” she emphasizes, “none of those who worked under the man can be trusted. Especially, as we just saw, the Old Timer and the Pruner of Yews.” “It looks to me, says Development, “the Gardener has created a rapprochement between the old gardeners and the new. But,” she add, “one gardener right here in these frames remains aloof throughout all this; who is he?” “That’s the gardener of the Greenhouse beds,” answers Horticulture, “but he never. . .” “Brilliant,” exclaims the President; “approach this gardener and ask him to be your right hand. I think it’s time you had a proper assistant.”
After some resistance, the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds admits the Gardener has been working behind the Director’s back. “He approached me, too, wanted me to work with the others down in the woods; I never understood why the Wizard dotted over him; the guy worked behind his back too. . . always butting in and telling us what to do; thinks he knows everything; I think he wanted your job; lacked the qualification; in spite of his big Ego!” When the Director reports back to the President, she tells him that’s our man.
At the next all staff meeting, the President introduces the word, institution. She says with great emphasis that the Institution has become too big to brook divisions between departments. The President says the Institution has become too important to support the quaint ways of people who can’t change. To emphasize her point she walks over to the table where the Gardener has been working on a plan for the Long Border to help the new gardener there with ideas. He’s drawn circles and added names of perennials then scratched them out and begun again. He doesn’t even notice the approaching President. She takes the scrap of paper from him and holds it up in the air for all to see.
Gardener – This is too much!
Writer – Remember, Gardener, this is just a fairy tale. Nothing like this ever happens. She holds the scrap like one would hold a tissue one has picked up off the bathroom floor, between her index finger and her thumb. This will no longer be acceptable when presented to me, she says. The office personnel laugh. Letting it drop back on the table, she returns to her table where Development hands her a looseleaf binder. She holds it up in one hand like Moses holding the Ten Commandments. It’s a neatly typed and illustrated account of her 5 year plan as composed by Development. Graphs in blue and red picture a rosy future. She leafs through it as she slowly turns a full circle looking directly at every face. The future, she says, begins now.
After the meeting on the second floor of the management building, people whisper in the hallway that the gardeners are holding back the Institution. From this day forward this word, Institution, replaces the word, Garden. Instead of working in a garden, everyone is working in an institution.

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten A

Writer – Then there’s the Tale of the Gardener.
Gardener – Very funny.
Writer – Not you! This gardener is helpless until he puts on his boots. Then he’s inspired and can cover seven leagues, doing the work of twelve people.
Gardener – Sounds like another fairy tale
Writer – This is once upon a time, but still true to life, when there was a boy who imagined he was rich because he lived in a large house in the suburbs with a wide lawn in front and a forest in the back where he played. Every day his father drove home in a brand new car. The youngster could see himself stretched in all directions in the polished chrome hubcaps. The fenders were brighter and shinier than the silverware at the diner table. On Sundays, if the sun was out and the day warm, the family went driving happily in one of his father’s huge convertibles. With the top down they drove along wooded lanes. The shadows danced before his eyes. One day his father took him to a place where a hundred cars as bright and shiny as the ones he drove home were parked. Inside a large room with walls of glass on three sides, brightly colored parked cars looked like giant toys in a department store window. “I built this,” he told his son. Each car faced outward poised for a race. In the center of the room a small two seater sports car rotated on a revolving carousal in the floor. A woman in a bathing suit with long golden hair waved her hand at the boy. When she tilted her head and smiled at the boy, it reminded him of a crescent moon on a summer night. She looked like a princess. “She isn’t real,” his father told him; “otherwise she’d drive off!” But she seemed real to him.
But one day his father didn’t come home. That night he heard his mother crying in her room. All week, his mother set the table as she had for as long as he could remember. But his father never returned and took his seat at the head of the table. His mother cooked for them as she had in the past. But she kept crying, her tears falling into the soup. His older brother and sister complained. After that they all stopped eating at the diner table. They ate standing up in the kitchen or sitting in front of the TV or wherever they happened to be. Then his mother stopped taking care of the house, and after than, herself. Then one day his mother put on her makeup and pulled herself together with a blouse and a skirt, heels and stockings. She told his older brother and sister to keep an eye on him and his younger sister and left for the day. After that she left every day. His older brother and sister paid no attention to him or his sister. Everyone fended for themselves. One day weeks later his mother returned home wearing a stiff white dress with her name stitched above her breast pocket. She seemed happier. Every morning she left the house without feeding anyone and returned home late at night, too tired to think of food. By now he had learned to be quick. In the beginning his older brother and sister were always the first to raid the cupboards and the refrigerator for food. Although his older siblings fought among themselves, they agreed their younger siblings were a burden. When they were angry they shouted at them, and sometimes hit them. When they weren’t angry they referred to them as fools. At night when the older kids filled the house with loud music and acted crazy, the boy took his little sister’s hand and hid, but it was difficult sleeping.
One day the young boy discovered the toaster. He saw his older sister use it. When she left the kitchen, he toasted slices of bread for himself and his little sister. He found jam in the refrigerator and with a spoon spread it over all the slices. Not long after he watched his older sister boil eggs on the electric range. After she left he tried it himself. The egg was too hot to touch but he carefully drained the pot. Following his sister’s example he ran cold water over it. When it was cool enough to touch, he cracked it. He found the egg fully cooked. He showed his younger sister. After carefully removing the shell fragments, they divided it in half with a knife and ate it. He learned to mix it with mayonnaise. From then on he made them egg salad sandwiches on toast. As he got older he learned to cook simple meals for himself and his little sister. He watched a strange old woman on TV who cooked food and seemed to talk directly to him. He even mimicked her accent which made his little sister laugh. When he was old enough to ride his bicycle down to the super market, he bought his own pasta using whatever change he could find in the house. He knew how to cook it and mix it with canned tomato sauce. When his older brother and sister discovered this they demanded he cook for them. They gave him money to buy food. He like experimenting with flavors. Soon everyone but his mother was eating at the table again. As the undisputed master of the kitchen he reserved part of every meal for his mother, even though his older siblings thought she didn’t deserve it. At first surprised she accepted his offering. After that, when she came home late at night, she looked forward to it. She began giving him a family allowance to buy what they needed.
Then one night his mother woke them all and they left the house in the station wagon packed with only their most precious belongings. Next morning after driving around most of the night they came to another house where the houses were closer together with small square lawns in front and Norway maples in back crowding against a boundary fence. There they lived for a year. On her way to work she drove them all to their schools which was now far away. At the end of that time his mother woke them again. They drove through the night and the next morning came to another house, this one even smaller than the last and without a lawn in front or trees in the back. This leaving at night and arriving in the morning happened three or four more times. One day the boy asked his mother why they never left during the day. She drove him to a suburb like the one where they once lived. They turned down a street and past a house with tall trees and a manicured lawn. A brand new car was parked in the driveway. He saw his father on a ladder fixing the gutter above the front door. The young woman with long blond hair stood by the door, talking to him. He saw a very small girl sitting on the grass. A boy a few years younger than him was climbing a tree just the way he had when he lived in a house like this. As they drove by the boy turned his head so he could hold on to this happy picture that once belonged to him.
After that he never asked his mother about his father; nor did he ask her for his allowance. By the time he was in 8th grade he was cutting lawns and raking leaves for people who lived in communities like the one he once lived in. On Saturdays his mother dropped him off on her way to work and his older sister picked him up. Then she complained because he didn’t pay her for her trouble. So he decided from then on to walk home. The people for whom he worked noticed and began to drive him home. Because he worked hard they offered to pick him up.
One day during his first year in high school as he was walking home he passed an unusual house with high roofs and low eves around which a small intricate garden grew. There was a path leading through the garden and he was down it. Even though the garden appeared small, the path seemed endless. He was standing in front of the door to the cottage, when an old woman appeared at the corner of the house carrying a basket full of flowers. He was surprised and couldn’t keep his eyes off the lovely flowers. She saw his interest and showed him the contents of her basket. She gave strange names to each variety of flowers. Although he needed the money he offered to work for her free of charge. “What a kind boy,” she said.
Every Sunday he worked there and just before noon while he weeded, she collected greens leaves and colorful fruits growing among her flowers and shrubs. On a small slate patio in back of the house there was a glass table with white, wrought iron legs. White iron chairs were set around it. There on her old china plates with floral patterns the old woman placed a loaf of her own baked bread and large wedges of cheese. In a large bowl with painted birds and flowering bowers she tossed together the things he had seen her collect, adding a special dressing she made herself. One day she asked him what he’d like to do when he grew us and he told her he wanted to be President, so his poor mother would be proud. She told him anything and everything is possible. Then one day while eating thick slices of bread, he told her he wanted to be a baker. She told that anything and everything is possible, adding that the yeast she used to make her bread was a living thing, like her garden. Then one day while eating chunks of cheese which had a strong flavor and was mottled with green and gray colors, he told her he wanted to be a cheese maker. She told him anything and everything is possible adding that cheese was always made with bacteria, which was found everywhere on Earth, even in hot springs. But some cheeses like this one, she told him, were stored in caves where fungi grew over them and flavored them. Bacteria, she said, belongs to its own Domain and helped control the destiny of all life. She said the fungi, however, belong to their own Kingdom in the Domain, Eukarya. Because they’re neither plant nor animal, they are on equal footing with both. She told him people are afraid of mushrooms, yet the fungi link all the Kingdoms of Eukarya. She said they even helped plants thrive off the inanimate by breaking down stone and turning dead wood into humus. But equal to Bacteria and the to all the inhabitants of Eukarya is the powerful Domain, Archaea, one of the most abundant life forms on Earth. They control the air we breath and just about every facet of life. But no one has ever heard of them. Whenever they were together she encouraged his creative side. She knew more about his world than his mother.
The following spring, after he finished mowing the lawn and had put away her mower, she came out of the house and showed him how she divided the Iris which had finished blooming. She cut back the tall leaves and then gently forked the thick, exposed tubers up. She called them rhizomes. After they were all lifted they studied them for weakness or rot. She told him that the fibrous roots under the rhizome would wither away but she liked replanting the iris with all its dying roots deeply buried to anchor the heavy, top blades in the soil until the new roots seized the earth. They need the entire growing season to send out new roots before the ground freezes, otherwise they fall over when the earth heaves between freezing and thawing. She gave him three rhizomes each with a pair of growing leaves and told him to plant them for his mother with the top of the rhizome exposed.
The next year his iris bloomed by the back door of his mother’s house. The color of the flowers reminded him of the purple silk slip he saw his mother wear when his father lived at home. She was pleased. It made her smile. That season he and the Old Woman cut back other perennials when they finished blooming; then dug and divided the clumps. Out of one large aster, she called oblongifolius, the last to be dug, the Old Woman produced four smaller ones. That summer between his junior and senior year all the clumps he and the Old Woman had divided the year before had grown by the end of the season to the size of the original plant. He thought to himself this is like the goose that laid the golden egg. The Old Woman showed him how to collect seed from the dried flowers; how to store them in paper bags carefully marked with the name, color and date collected; she show him how to prepare some seed, freezing them to break their out coating. The following year they sowed them in place, each species together to better watch them and watched the bent stems and cotyledons straighten. Later they moved them around. She showed him how to take cuttings of certain perennials and annuals so he could multiply his possessions like the loaves of bread and fish in the bible. But even more powerful than this magic of multiplication was her formulas for arranging plants so that they benefited from each other’s beauty. This shape with that shape, this color with that color, this texture with that texture. These combinations were pleasing to see and made him happy. She said beautiful gardens can heal wounded spirits. He remembered the day he was drawn into her garden and how it changed his life. But she warned him, often if the gardener is unaware of what he has done and unable to see his work then he or she is cursed with unhappiness.
By his senior year his small business prospered. He owned a trailer with two mowers and had another young man working for him. He no longer depended on his mother for his clothing and gave her money every week during the growing season so she could buy groceries. This way the family fortunes brightened.
Gardener – Don’t make this another John D. Rockefeller story.
Writer – This is not that kind of story. After all, it’s about a gardener, not an oil man! Before he left for college, the Old Woman tells him about a public garden “on the serpent’s tongue.”
Gardener – On the tongue of what serpent?
Writer – Slang means snake in Dutch.
Gardener – So what?
Writer – That was her metaphor for New Draak City, the island metropolis at the mouth of The Slang River.
Gardener – I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Writer – As we all know Captain North, sailing for Dutch East India Company, discovered the river in his search for a passageway to the East. The first settlers on the island “in the river’s mouth” were traders who bought the island from the Lenape Indians in exchange of goods worth approximately 60 guilders. This transaction by the agents of the Dutch East India Company became the legal basis by which our latter day Kings established their right, as individuals, like you and me, over the entire island and later the 3000 miles to the west. In the 1600s it was believed that anyone following The River Slang’s serpentine course, hence the river’s name, would eventually find at its end, the golden Orient.
Gardener – Sounds like a Chinese restaurant.
Writer – Some said the cities in the East were made of silver and gold. Many believed the jewels brought by the Magi came from these cities.
Gardener – Some people will believe anything.
Writer – The simple truth is, the Dutch were businesspeople. They weren’t interested in following the River Slang to the east, but were content to welcome those going up the Slang in search of the fabled cities and providing them, at a nominal cost, all the supplies they needed; and later, when they returned downriver, relieving them of their burdens, more valuable than gold and silver in the current market, the bundles of beaver pelts in high demand by all the best dressers in Europe.
Gardener – All I wanted to know was why the woman said the garden was on “the tongue of the serpent!”
Writer – The Dutch liked to say their village of New Slang was “in the river’s mouth.”
Gardener – She said “tongue!”
Writer – Later, when the English replaced the Dutch, a clerk, writing up the bill of exchange, confused the word snake with dragon, so the settlement became the English metropolis of New Draak. This seemed fitting because of the common species of snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentine, found living in middle of the island whose fierce features and aggressive behavior when found on land, reminded everyone of the dragons they’d seen when they were children. The vigorous defense these turtles make when on dry land, literally snapping at anyone who approaches, led to a misconception of their powers. It was even believed a snapping turtle could pull a small child into the water and devour them.
Gardener – What about “the tongue!”
Writer – Eventually Chelydra serpentine was confused with a related species, Macrochelys temminckii, living in the Mississippi delta which was much larger and had on its tongue a mark that resembled a worm. When the turtle moved its tongue, unsuspecting fish were lured into its mouth.
Gardener – That? That’s the tongue?
Writer – The Old Woman was aware that in those days of yore, when travelers went up the Slang in search of treasure, New Draak was often called The Gateway To Happiness. Even in the time of the Gardener, New Draak City was known to lure into its jaws those seeking fortune, a reputation NDC continues to have.
Gardener – I’m sorry I asked.
Writer – The Old Woman tells the young man that the head man of this garden is a wizard. His enemies say he likes plants more than people. This is true, she confirms. He finds that most people are either hard working and gullible or too lazy to care about anything. In his estimate, she adds, both will follow a minority of unscrupulous and self-centered people, one believing all they are told, the other lacking the energy to think otherwise. But all this changed when he met the Porcelain Man, the greatest gardener of his age. It was the Porcelain Man who bent the Wizard’s cynicism with humor. With his energy and enthusiasm he helped the Wizard create the paradise we all love “on the serpent’s tongue.” One day, she said, the Wizard will need you.
The young gardener attends a local community college for two years, specializing in horticulture. On graduation he’s ready to seek his fortune. He returns to the Old Woman, who has treated him like a son and thanks her. She tells him it’s time to go into the mouth of Draak. “The Wizard needs you.” “How can I help the Wizard,” he asks nervously. “A terrible Scourge has taken the Porcelain Man away,” she tells him. “You mean replace the Porcelain Man? Me? I can’t.” The Old Woman tells him not to be afraid, each of us, she says, is meant to do something, and what that is won’t be clear until the day it’s revealed to you. You can only work to the best of your abilities. Even if the Wizard gives you the work of the Porcelain Man, that might not be your final destination.
Gardener – So he drives toward the city. . .
Writer – And he comes to a magnificent river flowing to the sea, which separates him from the city beyond. In the distance he sees the spires and towers. He pays a toll man and crosses the river on a great bridge, that’s hangs in the air. The garden is perched on a hill north of the bridge, like a tiny battlement against the grandeur of glass buildings to the south. He parks his truck in a lot filled with cars. The lot is hemmed in by a wall of tall shrubs, many of which are new to him. He follows a pathway leading through the dense shrubbery and suddenly he is standing on an open lawn looking at a great natural stone battlement rising up on the other side of the river he’s just crossed. In front of this palisades, on the far edge of the lawn is a wooden pergola set on cement pillars. Flowers overflow baskets hanging in the shade of the wooden frame which is covered with woody climber. On his right a tall glass house rises beyond a flower garden, like the central hall of a temple to Flora. Glass transepts span east and west along the entire length of the garden. He walks through the garden and enters a wooden porch painted blue, then through the double doors beyond. Aside from an Acacia tree bearing grey green leaves growing to the peaked roof in the corner and a sparse Bougainvillea with oval leaves growing up the north glass wall, the temple is empty. Next to the vine concrete stairs lead through the glass wall into a room beyond. It is inside this room, in what is called the Potting Shed, the gardener meets the white haired Wizard. As the old woman had foreseen, he is hired.
For a year the young gardener works alongside other gardeners doing every conceivable job, excelling in those he was already familiar, learning about those unfamiliar. But it is a year of mourning. The Porcelain Man is gone. He learns from those who knew him that he had been an eccentric but energetic man who fostered energy and excitement among his co-workers. He had taken his work personally, had suffered every disaster to befall the garden as if the blows had been inflicted on him. He had demonstrated to everyone that this Garden was theirs by right of their work and this work, this profession, an avocation, a privilege. Salary meant nothing to him but the smile on the face of a visitor everything. Like the Wizard he was intolerant of the lazy, but unlike the Wizard he suffered because of them. He couldn’t understand that for some a job is just a job. Now everyone wanders around at a loss, everyone including the Wizard.
One day the Wizard assigns the young gardener to the Pruner of The Yews.
Gardener – The Pruner of the Yews?
Writer – Naturally, this is once upon a time. So together with their sheers and a pruning ladder they climb the stairway to the High Garden which rises up behind the potting shed and greenhouse. The garden has fallen on bad times since the Scourge took the Porcelain Man away. At the top of the hill the giant yews enclosing the gazebo have darkened as the new growth ages.
Gardener – I suppose it wouldn’t sound as good if his title was Pruner of the Taxus.
Writer – The words clash. The Pruner tells him that they must never sheer the yews while the woad is flowering, unless that is, they’re rejuvenating the Taxus – right? – and want new growth to break on the dark wood further in.
Gardener – Isatis tintoria has a good ring.
Writer – “Why is that,” asks the newcomer. “Because the Porcelain Man once noticed how the yellow green flowers of Isatis – ok? – merged visually with the late spring growth of Taxus.” The Pruner goes on to tell him that when the Wizard first arrived here, the yews had been an unruly group around the gazebo, closing the entire structure in. The Wizard hacked the yews back, then molded them around the roof of the gazebo forming a tight enclosure that forced those sitting inside to look out over the High Garden to the river far below. The Wizard then taught the Pruner of Yews the art of green sculpture. The men begin at the foot of the evergreens sheering the branches back from the gravel paths. Why has no one taken over this garden, the newcomer asks. He has noticed that while the other gardens have their curators, this one is managed by everyone under instruction of the Wizard. The Pruner doesn’t know. Perhaps the Wizard is waiting for a sign. The Pruner has worked here for ten years. He barely graduated from high school, worked in a local bodega, then drove a cab at night. One day he read about a federal program which helped place young people in meaningful jobs and paid their employers the salary of the worker. The idea was to help train new people for particular work. But the Pruner discovered that many employers simply used him as cheap labor or used him to replace skilled labor. But luckily his last placement was here under the Wizard, who did train him. “Most of us,” he said, “are refugees from the economic meat grinder downtown. We’ve come here with no home of our own. Even the Porcelain Man, though trained as an artist, was lost in the mouth of Draak until he met the Wizard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the American wing, where he was coping the illustrations off 19th century ceramics. When the Garden went public, the Porcelain Man sat at the front gate collecting tickets. But it wasn’t long before he was working on the grounds. You too, Gardener, are like us. You’re here because those in the world out can’t afford to love you.” Until then the young Gardener hadn’t realized he was like them, seeking sanctuary in a small world surrounded by giant enterprises.
At the end of his first year the Wizard takes him up to the High Garden. He tells him the High Garden will now be under his care. The view from the gazebo is spectacular. Gravel pathways lead in every direction and wherever he looks he sees something new, something the Old Woman would have called marvelous. He can see the entire Public Garden beneath him, the tall golden grasses in the Monocot Garden, the Dahlias and Salvias in the Flower Garden, the flowering white tree in the Lilac Border. . .
Gardener – Heptacodium miconioides, the seven son tree from China.
Writer – Beyond them the Slang sun lit below, and the Palisade beyond, where trees clinging to the edge show a hint of Autumn. In the distance the great Bridge spans the diaphanous span he first crossed when he came here. And to the south, New Draak as radiant as the fable cities the explorers had hoped to find. A wave of fear overcomes him. How can all this be mine, he thinks. I can see the entire world. How can I live up to the greatness of my predecessor? He runs down the path, down the stairs and returns to the potting shed. But then he remembers what the Old Woman had said the last time he saw her. He returns to the Wizard, who is waiting, and accepts.
Here in the shadow of the Porcelain Man, whose presence he can feel, especially in the bed of the cutleaf sumac. . .
Gardener – Rhus typhina Laciniata
Writer – bordered by three paths, where a mocking bird sits on a branch surveying his work everyday. While weeding he stumbles upon plants he’s never seen before. But in time he learns their names and comes to know them. He sees himself as no more than an ark in the stream of life that must insure the survival of all those the Porcelain Man introduced. He is there, he tells himself, to preserve the man’s vision. The following year when the Isatis is blooming he sees the wisdom of the Porcelain Man. The Yews and the Woad sing. But as the seasons progress he realizes that the inhabitants move on their own accord; they live and die in their own time and not according to his plans. He is forced to work with them and realizes that the garden is changing. When something dies he must replace it. But at this time, at the beginning of the Gardener’s career, many of the species and cultivars the Porcelain Man had mysteriously procured, are still unavailable. So the Gardener is forced to improvise. He studies the area to see if he can understand what his predecessor wanted. Then new ideas appear that have promise. When they fail, the Mocking Bird laughs at him. So he digs up the bed and starts again. As he becomes the garden’s master, he becomes the master of his gardening, just as the Old Woman had promised.
When the Porcelain Man was alive, he moved the Wizard with his energy and the Wizard guided him with his restraint. Together they introduced many new plants to the Garden, the Wizard wanting something that was perfect, the other, like one of the early explorers, searching for new plants to expand his horizons. Together they found ways to combine members of the plant kingdom to create borders of beauty, which, as the Old Woman had first shown the Gardener, could ease people’s suffering.
One day the chairwoman of a garden club across the River, approaches him up in the High Garden and tells him her mother is now confined to a wheelchair which prevents her from walking in her garden. She wants him to design and plant a garden her mother can easily visit. He agrees. Although he has retained some of his earliest clients out of loyalty she becomes his first new client since becoming a public gardener for the Wizard. He likes the incapacitated woman who reminds him of the Old Woman. He installs a walkway that is easily traversed by a wheelchair. The walkway is level while the garden around it is built into the hill in back of the house, providing a comforting enclosure. The end of the walkway circles around a small pool with a fountain in the center. Here the old woman sits and listens to the birds in the dogwoods overhead. A neighbor takes notice. Soon his services are sought by everyone. When asked for credentials he gives the name of the Public Garden on the tongue of Draak and everyone is impressed. The Wizard’s reputation is renown. The Gardener enjoys working with people who like working with him. He finds the creative dialogue stimulating. But times are changing. Many clients want him to install gardens the way designers install living rooms. They don’t know what they want, they don’t care as long as it looks like a picture out of a garden magazine. He tells them he is too busy.
At this time the Board of Directors of the Public Garden choose a new President for the Garden. She is very close to many of the Kings’ vassals working in City Hall and arrives highly recommended both in the private and public sector. She visits the Garden for the first time on the day of her first interview with the Board. When ask by the chairman of the board of her first impression, she says “I was wondering where I could buy a cup of coffee.” If her intention is to startle with incongruity, she succeeds. The bankers laugh, while the lawyers look at one another with raised eyebrows. They tell her the usual answer is always about the magnificent view of the palisades on entering the main lawn. She shrugs her shoulders and replies, “I missed that.” The chairman, a banker who has benefited from the recent deregulation of banking rules, smiles. He asks her if she got her cup of coffee. “Eventually,” she admits; adding “In that first moment I was lost, bewildered. Where do I go from here, I asked myself. Not into the greenhouse, for god’s sake.” The directors nod to one another. She is talks like them. “As a first time visitor I assume I felt as other visitors did, in need of guidance. Where,” she asks, “was the signage. . ?”
Gardener – Was Moses looking for a signage from god?
Writer – It’s just another fairy tale. Like all the rest we’ve discussed. Anyway the Kings’ vassals shrug their collective shoulders. They aren’t involved in the day to day management of the Garden. That would be her job. She confides with them. “It’s the duty of every public steward to get the most value out of public property. I see this public garden the way a landlord sees his property. It is there to be utilized for the going market price. That is how I see my public stewardship.”
She tells them confidently that as president she will introduce a new era of business friendly partnerships. Forging contracts favorable to the Garden, these will include a food concession, run by a reputable and familiar chain – visitors will be encouraged to eat and drink. Going on, she describes a visitors’ center where ticket holders can tour the grounds virtually, with finger tip ease. If it’s too hot or too cold, rainy or snowy, everyone inside the center can tour the gardens without ever having to leave the comforts of the center. Plush couches will be provided. Ongoing visual commentaries will keep everyone entertained. This process will dovetail with another commercial venture: a retail marketing company with knowledge in public programming will provide a seamless environment where visitors taking the virtual tour will be within hands reach of all the necessary tools they will be encouraged to need in order to enrich their “visitor experience.” The digital tour will be laced with cues whetting their appetites and stirring their neurotransmitters; in other words, those sitting on the couches, will find the necessary shopping incentives for our single most important revenue engine, the garden shop. Guide books for all ages, books on gardening by famous TV and movie stars, books on cooking by the leading competition chefs, and for those who can’t read or are adept at multitasking, headsets will be sold, carrying our exclusive audio downloads by well known news personalities. For the children our handheld magnifying glasses illuminated with LEDs, illustrated with well know cartoon characters will be irresistible. Other nifty devices one must have when touring the garden, not to mention a special GPS units with our new logo will be available! “You have a logo in mind,” asked one of the lawyers. “Something Asian,” she says without pause, “perhaps a Chinese symbol looking like a pergola or a clump of grass, resembling green knife-like-blades of grass.” In this way she promises to bring a backward public garden into the global economy. There is silence after she finishes. Then a roar of applause like nothing anyone has seen before during any interview at the little Garden on the tongue of the Dragon. “Let’s do it,” exclaims the Chairman.
Her first realization on becoming President of the Garden is the popularity of the Wizard among gardeners across the nation, many of whom are major financial contributors to the Garden. She sees him as a reactionary preventing the garden from keeping up with the times. He runs his department like a feudal lord and yet it’s always one for all and all for one, or something like that! She takes his popularity personally.
At her first full staff performance she promises everyone present a time of prosperity. There are those among us who will not like me from this day forward. But we must face the hard truth, she says. The free ride is over. I am not like those who came before me. I don’t want to be popular, I will not give everyone what they want. There will be no entitlements. The privileges of a select few will no longer be tolerated and here she looks directly at the Wizard and his gardeners, who always sit together and are said to rarely fraternize with other employees. We don’t work in a feudal manor but in a democratically run, economic public venture. “We are here,” she reiterates, “for the public, and not for a select few who do what pleases them at the public’s expense. Having said this, I assure you this will be a time of peace.” Someone coughs, someone rustles papers but no one says a word. That is until the Wizards stands and leaves the room, the gardeners following. Then the room explodes with the voices of excited people.
Her first official act is to move the office of the President from a modest room on the second floor of the manor house where the business offices are located, to the wood paneled conference room at the end of the hall. This room was once the master bedroom where King Total Power’s man bedded with his wife in former times. The views of the river and the bridge are spectacular. This house, as well as the other manor house on the former estate, which is about to become a restaurant, had belonged to the son of a poor man, a self made officer of an Oil King later called Total Power. The wife of the officer, on his death, donated the houses and gardens to the city of New Draak. The President feels at home in the former office of one of Total Power’s men. On the wall behind her huge mahogany desk, she hangs a framed poster with these words: Change Is Good. In the days to come she will have T-shirts bearing these same words above the Garden’s new logo, created by a well known marketing firm, a silver dollar on which the green razor sharp blades of grass are embossed. On the day she introduces the T-Shirt to the staff, she manifests her sense of humor by telling them, “What could be more horticultural! What could be more cutting edge! Of course you all recognize my mantra.” The gardeners nod their heads knowingly. They see change in the world they work in. But it’s obvious the new President doesn’t have nature’s changes in mind. Among themselves they say, “Change is Inevitable, but it’s not always good.”