Wednesday, September 8, 2010

9.5 Garden Party

First we move the furniture around.
I decide to use some potted cosmos to cover bare spots in the back garden, clearing more space on the patio for chairs. I will not move the potted Mandeville rose off the patio, because that is the one plant that absolutely belongs there, with its tropical red flowers and thick green vines climbing up a trellis. Anne cleans up the barbeque grill and breaks out some more of the all-purpose plastic chairs. She pushes the metal picnic table against the house to use as a sideboard. She makes a crop of weeds pushing their way up through the cracks between the patio blocks go away.
I busy myself giving the garden foliage a company trim, brush, and shampoo. I cut off the tops of a lot of spent flower stems. I pull out a lot of volunteers. I sweep up pieces of fallen, broken acorns. I get close to the green mats of low steppable groundcovers, each colony in its own frame, more or less, some significantly less. Maybe because it’s September now, and cool this weekend, they seem revived and healthy and victorious in the battle over the persistent intruders which would break up their formations and obscure their uniformity. I cut off a lot of faded black-eyed susans. I trim some tall phlox, which are also, sadly, in their in the sunset of their pink florescence.
Even the purple loosestrife have declared an end of bloom-time, and we are now awaiting the garden mums and purple asters, tall and leggy as they are, and the Montauk daisies, ditto, to make a brilliant appearance. Of the designated fall bloomers, only the anemone – deep reddish-lavender buttons – have unveiled themselves with surprising promptitude. Other years they are the last of this group.
The guests arrive, the party begins, and various plant lovers take little walks around our curving brick paths. This gives me the opportunity to remember what everything is called – the dense, grassy northern sea oats, the pink Chablis sedum (typically an August bloomer, but looking good now), the cat mint (a little second growth), ditto for the spirea (tall and thick and rust-reddish on its dusk blooms, which no one notices), the long-gone red bee balm (monarda), the last pincushion blossoms (looking like tasty purple candies), the yellowish faded achillea (yarrow) standing up beside baby-blue balloon flowers…
“Do you have an herb garden?”
I walk her over: the spears of garlic-chive have pretty little white flowers, the oregano has tiny white flowers, the parsley is dark green, and the rosemary is decent, but I forget to point out the mint to anyone, though it is growing wild everywhere
In the end it is not about the garden. All sorts of people are perfectly happy to crowd together on the patio in our plastic chairs and some of our neighbor’s, and sample each other’s dishes and figure out who all lives in which house. Darkness falls, the twilight is beautiful and then swiftly gone. A crisp brilliant afternoon yields a cool evening, and we have no more light to see by, and no artificial light to shine on the public square when it’s time to break up and many guests volunteer to carry our countless odds and ends back to the kitchen. But people have brought their own light, their own better angels, and make of our dark hour their own pluralistic, peaceable kingdom.
Well, who knows, we can’t see them in the dark any more, but maybe the plants had something to do with it.