You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all the time.
I think it was an American president who said that first, and later Bob Dylan used it. Anyway, now I’m using it, in relation to the garden (of course) and specifically in relation to how people react to my garden.
People seem to react to my garden in 3 distinctly different ways:
1. There are those who love it. They express interest, curiosity, appreciation and pleasure. They go outside to experience it close up no matter what the weather is like. They notice things. They notice buds, spiders, flowers, birds, leaves …
2. Then there are those who just don’t notice it. They might be in the family room that has big windows looking onto the garden. They might even be outside on the deck. How can they not notice the garden? Maybe they are preoccupied with other things. Maybe they are more attuned to their inner worlds. Some of the people in the non-noticing category are passionate gardeners themselves, growing and harvesting their own produce. We may be fellow gardeners, we may be friends, but we’re not in synch garden-wise. It's as if a garden that isn't devoted to growing food doesn't really count.
3. Some people react in a way that makes me laugh. They seem to have an idea of what a garden should look like. When my back garden doesn’t fit with this idea, this makes them uneasy, uncomfortable. I think it feels risky to them. Maybe they see it as wild nature out of control or simply unhygienic. Sometimes they change their minds.
In an early post I wrote about a 3 year old girl who visited with her mother. She looked out at the garden and said: 'Mummy, why is the garden dirty?' The next time Gabriella visited was two years later. This time she was entranced, strolling along the paths and dreamily picking flowers for her mother.
Recently G. dropped in. He stood at the window and stared out at the garden. 'It needs a focal point'. 'It's not that sort of a garden', I explained. 'It's not so much for looking at, it's for being in.' So we wandered into the garden, and he got it. Like Gabriella he got to see it differently and now loves it.
My mother has also changed. Initially the untidiness and presence of insects made her uneasy. I explained the idea of creating natural, relaxed and informal garden pictures, and now she loves it.
Recently we needed an electrician. In between doing whatever it is that electricians do, he silently stared out the window onto the back garden. Then he looked out of the side window and noticed the group of Japanese maples next door. His relief at seeing something familiar was almost palpable. He turned his back on my garden. 'Look at those beautiful Japanese maples! Aren't you lucky to have them outside your window?'