How they do go on, the guides, the advisers, the gurus, those beguiling blossoms on TV screens, those eruptions in print in newspapers, shining from the pages of glossies, becoming distinguished, often quoted, held in highest reverence, reputed to have the power to turn whole lives around, stamp out ignorance, ministerially lead the uninformed into the New Zion of knowledge, turn amateurs into professionals the way water was once turned into gold. We live in an era of foolproof gardening and, if your plot looks shabby or undernourished, you simply have not followed sweet reason or listened to the advice that swirls around you like a warm and aromatic embrace.
There are Emily Posts at the garden gate counseling green deportment like huggable old grandmothers exuding cordials and jams and storied gardens of immense, unstoppable bloom and charm. Through our lecture halls they go, endlessly pouring out wisdom whether it be the most auspicious moment of the tides or phases of the moon to plant seeds, or the easiest, fastest way to make the most nutritious compost soft as down and as colorful as cocoa, or find the best plant for the worst location (You Too Can Grow Orchids in Maine!), how to stamp out invasives, woo butterflies, grow the old and the rarest and the finest heirloom tomato that ever graced a salad, find Gertrude Jekyll’s original color scheme for her very first long border. . . .
A certain aesthetician has reportedly found Monet’s secret manure formula and will impart it to you for a fee and a vow of silence. And, under the Fool Proof Gardening section of your bookstore, Amanda Allurement’s recent classic, Drop Dead Gardening, is now released on tape as well. You may recall that Amanda, in her salad days, launched the first Away series: Away With Bugs, Away With Weeds, Away With Blank Spots in the Garden, Away With Backache and Broken Nails, all of which gave birth to the Care Free series so that we were blessed with Care Free Perennials, Annuals, Bulbs, Bushes, Trees. . . . Some of the chapters read: All About Lima Beans, Up-to-Date With Vintage Flowers, Never Prune Again, Natural Remedies (Twig Slaw, Pebble Soup, Sassafras and the Common Cold, Rhododendron Honey for the Insomniac — Alexander the Great’s Secret Recipe), Ethnobotany for City Dwellers, Mulch That Barbershop!, Seasoning With Leftover Seeds (Parsley and Poppy Seed Soup), Let Your Beans Flop (Taking the Girdle Off the Garden), Corn in Your Window Box, Rutabaga: The Miracle Veggie, The Little Beet That Could, The Story of Ketchup, What to Wear When You Hoe, Holy Hollyhocks (Faith and Flowers), Money, Madness and Manure (The Dark Side of Mulch), The Cucumber That Took Cincinnati, The Search for the Peeled Potato, Will We Ever See a Square Pea? And one I might write: The Salads of Central Park.