While I am in Saint Louis prostituting myself for plants at the Perennial Plant Symposium Horticulturist Geoff VonBurg is filling in for me. One of Geoff’s gardens here is the recently restored Orchard. But I have no idea what he is blogging about. Thanks Geoff.
Irvin Etienne, Aesthetic Czar, whose garden trowel I am not worthy to clean, is away this week. He said something about a professional conference in St Louis, but I hear Dolly Parton is performing in Branson, so I’m not sure…
Anyway, he left me keys to the blog-o-graph and said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
More and more this season, I have been enraptured with wonder at what nature does. For the blog’s title, I turned to Jens Jensen, one of the great evangelists for the church of mother earth. In the first chapter of Siftings (1939) he said that the “[natural world] about us has within it all the joy and happiness that we need.” Amen. As much as my life is enriched by the amazing work I see in our galleries, more nourishing for my soul is the beauty and humility of plants. I want to offer three little samples.
Symbiosis. A pea does not spring full grown, drenched in butter, from the head of the Jolly Green Giant. It is the product of co-operation with a bacteria Rhizobium leguminosarum. Nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient for crop growth, it is not readily available in the soil. Nitrogen is 78% of the air around us, but can you grab some to get your plants to grow lushly? I didn’t think so. A slender vine leaps from the earth, makes beautiful flowers, and delicious sweet peas – because it forms little nodules on its roots to shelter the bacteria. As the bacteria goes happily about the business of life, it pulls this invisible gas nitrogen out of the air and provides it for the pea plant’s nutritional needs. Does the iPhone have an app for that?
Effortlessly graceful patterns. The harmonious flow of line is a goal of design from cups to clothes to cars (well, okay, not for every designer and artist). But how would humans know what beautiful pattern is if not for nature’s originals? I love the swirl and arc of maturing sunflower seeds in arrays that cannot quite be predicted (in the IMA orchard, photo “Sunnyside up” by “whisperingwolf1” on Flickr)
If miraculous productiveness and original design are not enough to draw you into the church of nature surely the silky white color and heady perfume of the lilies that line the aisle between our new apple trees will convert you (thanks again to “whisperingwolf1”).