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.

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