Sunday, February 3, 8pm.
As I write, tens of thousands of people are dreaming of a visit to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Simultaneously, hundreds of people at work on the show are either: wiping off grimy hands and preparing to head home for well-earned rest; or vowing to quit looking at their watch until that planting job is done, dammit.
It's the end of day two for garden setup. Last year and the year before I was one of those muddy people, responsible for a garden that had to look perfect by noontime Tuesday. This year I am a rueful observer. King County, Washington, whose gardens I have coordinated since 1999, has elected not to do a garden this year.
I visited the Convention Center yesterday. There are the usual problems: materials that failed to show up on time, others built to a scale entirely different from what the designer ordered. But it's all normal. Some gardens go together speedily at first and bog down during plant placement. Others get a slow start while stones and structures are laboriously hand-set, then move into overdrive once the framework is in place.
But today I worked in my very own garden. It was all desperately needed work: cropping the brown stems and fuzzy seed pods of my asters, goldenrod, etc. Using the wet weather and soft soil to my advantage in pulling up the grass that persists in growing in the stones of my front wall.
Still, I can't help but feel left out of all the fun at the Convention Center. Gardeners are despairing, laughing and pitching in. And they're hanging out together. They work on their own most of the year. But for these nine days, they work side by side, sharing tools, plants and stories.
Thursday, February 7, 6:40am.
The show opened yesterday, host to its usual huge crowds (although the much wider aisles this year make the crowds seem manageable for a change). Now that the show has nearly twice as much floor space, getting from one place to another can be an undertaking requiring advanced logistics and frequent reference to a map.
I've heard tales of the size of Seybold, Comdex and MacWorld, but I think that the horticultural world has just launched a show every bit as big. In fact, is there a cultural statement here: has the public decided that salvation lays not in technology but in our gardens? Listening to the lunchtime chatter in the cafe, you realize you are not among neophytes: these folks are serious about their gardening.
I'm looking forward to hearing Michael Pollan, the writer of The Botany of Desire, speak tonight. The premise of his current bestselling book is that plants have adapted humans to further their goals with every bit of cunning that humans have used to exploit plants for their own. His stories are fascinating: Johnny Appleseed was not, in fact, the clean-cut do-gooder that myth has made him out to be, but a savvy businessman who brought alcohol (in the form of hard cider) to the developing western regions of the US. Apples don't reproduce true to type by seed, but our ancesters' desire for liquor allowed for an unbridled expansion of apple genetics on our frontier.
So perhaps we are all in the service of our plants instead of the other way around.
Okay by me. I can think of worse folks to work for.