During the past three weeks vegetation around the ranch has gone through a startling yin-yang cycle, swinging from somber brown to a myriad shades of emerald. Trees and bushes have leafed out, and hundreds of wildflowers appeared everywhere, each a unique celebration of the near-constant rain we’ve had.
In years before I have tried to triage the cultivated flowers from the wild, undisciplined interlopers, an ultimately Sisyphean task even if I had five gardeners working for me.
|Bringing Mao Thought to the garden.|
A week ago, though, I had a flash of inspiration from an unlikely source—Chairman Mao Zedong who in late 1956 launched a nationwide campaign named “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom.”
Surely, Mao wasn’t thinking of horticulture but of jolting the Communist Party bureaucrats to express themselves freely and come up with new ideas.
As you would expect in a totalitarian government, the initiative didn’t go well for the creative thinkers.
I hope my free-form gardening scheme fares better.
My adaptation of this bit of Maoism is to let cultivated flowers and their more rambunctious cousins duke it out in our flower beds.
After three weeks of rain, this botanical class struggle has begun in earnest, with blooms of whatever popping up everywhere. It should deliver quite a spectacle by mid-summer.
However, Stew walked around in the garden this morning and he is not swayed by my new enthusiasm. He’s downright alarmed, actually, and predicts the place will end up looking like a Louisiana bayou overtaken by kudzu.
I took the same walk but I’m far more optimistic. I saw frail cosmos, sprouting from last year’s spent flowers, standing side-by-side with four-foot-high sunflower stalks from seeds that probably blew over from a bird feeder 20 feet away. Yes, the effect is somewhat disorderly but exciting nevertheless.
Orange flowers Mexicans call “Bastón de San Francisco” (Leonotis nepetaefolia), which also grow a good four feet high, have returned full-force claiming ground here and there, and shoving their way into a patch of daintier Asters that I grew from seed in the spring. So far the asters are valiantly defending their turf.
Bright yellow Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) I grew from seed two or three seasons ago and thought had disappeared, also have made a roaring comeback, seemingly everywhere.
|On second thought,
take those flowers and shove ’em.
A delicate and aromatic Star jasmine I had given up for dead now is merrily climbing up the trunk of a gnarly and thorny Huizache, as if to illustrate that given enough rain, even the most unlikely plant pairs can kiss and make up. This “beauty and the beast” combination actually looks, hmm, interesting.
My gardening brainstorm doesn’t extend to bona-fide weeds, which still need to be pulled up and discarded. This concession I hope will be enough to give the yard a semblance of order.
Many of the wild flowers haven’t bloomed yet, so the final result of my new scheme is yet to be seen, and maybe even appreciated by visiting friends. Maybe not.
Back in China, Mao’s dip in the pond of glasnost lasted only a year, after which came a crackdown on dissent that went on until 1959.
Historians suspect that Mao’s call for more openness was only a ploy to suss out dissenters who were promptly dispatched to prison or reeducation camps, like so much crabgrass.
I’ll report back in August on how well my experimental mix of Maoism and gardening worked out. As they say on TV, stay tuned.