Posted on: Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A longitudinal cross-section of a plant ovary, one of Blaschka's glass models, HMNH/Harvard Botanical Museum
Is a passion for gardening a genetic phenomenon? My grandmother was a botanist and avid gardener, my artist mother tills the soil so darn effortlessly, and I live in a floating world that is architected by ideas of gardening and art farming, regardless of my present locale.
Not too long ago I confessed to one of my dearest friends that I had always wanted to marry a gardener. Around that same time I came across this photo of my husband, Ludmil, helping his mother garden in Paris when he was all of three years old. "That's the guy", I thought to myself when I saw this image. "He's the one I want to plant seeds with and share bucket loads with for life."
Ludmil and I now try to spend part of each year together on our farm in Tuscany tackling incessant garden work and the maintenance of indigenously-seeded plant beds and tree stands. This is not cucumber sandwich, "Ladies Garden Club" activity, but rather a time consuming, labor of love and a deep-rooted commitment to manic homestead stewardship. My mother-in-law, Elvira, is the goddess of the plants and vines at Linari. She operates on a plane that rivals Peter Tompkins' far-out knowledge in his cult-classic book, 'The Secret Life of Plants'. Elvira even referred to herself last summer as a 'plant sexual' which I immediately thought was totally 'chicissimo', or the ultimate in (green) personal style.
I often wonder whether Ludmil and I will pass along our unified passion for the land and all things green and unruly. Linari's precious walnut saplings, planted by my father-in-law, Eftim, stand at attention in a field that is surely idyllic but frighteningly demanding in the pruning maintenance that must now occur more than once a year. On farms and fields everywhere these days, I ask myself who will tend to the plants, the trees, the vines, the open views if a love for garden and soil, in all its messiness, is not in the end a generational (genetic) phenomenon?
Alba (temporary installation), Abigail Doan (2005)