The Good Life Michele He­wit­son

Try­ing to im­pose or­der on na­ture is a fool’s er­rand, but that doesn’t stop peo­ple from try­ing.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - MICHELE HE­WIT­SON

The first of our bearded irises came into bloom re­cently, just in time for our sec­ond set of spring vis­i­tors. This was most oblig­ing of them (the vis­i­tors for com­ing all this way, but also of the irises). Some­times plants can be oblig­ing, but it doesn’t do to rely on them. They are wild things, af­ter all, and go their own way, in their own time.

A nice chap wrote to the Lis­tener not long ago to tell me to go on singing to my sheep, de­spite my hav­ing been told, as a tot, that I was tone deaf. I have taken his wise and kind ad­vice and stepped it up a notch: I now also sing to my plants.

You can do these sorts of crazy things in the coun­try, where no­body can send the men in white coats to carry you away. So I sing: you can’t hurry plants/no, you just have to wait/plants don’t come easy/but it’s a game of give and take.

You also can’t be done for pla­gia­rism if no­body, ex­cept the plants, is there to bear wit­ness. At least, that’s my the­ory.

I once thought that you could tame plants, but as ev­ery gar­dener even­tu­ally dis­cov­ers, they are as way­ward as the beau­ti­ful hare that lives in our gar­den. We should shoot the hare as he – we think it is a he – eats the wild plants, which he re­gards as his larder, and why should he not?

The hare is big and beau­ti­ful. He has golden fur and glo­ri­ous, up­right ears. Un­like rab­bits, hares do not hare off when they spot you spot­ting them. The hare stands up on his hind legs and looks at us. I would like to tame him, but you can­not tame a hare any more than you can tame a plant.

You can trim and prune and feed plants, but they will mostly do as they please. I once saw, in Ja­pan, a man up a tree, trim­ming leaves with a tiny pair of nail scis­sors.

Also in Ja­pan, I saw pre­cious plants be­ing con­tained in bam­boo cages. “What ter­ri­bly naughty plants they must be,” we said, “to have to be im­pris­oned.” These plants looked in­sane, and they prob­a­bly were, hav­ing been locked up all their lives. If I were a plant in a cage, I’d curl up my roots and die, out of sheer spite.

Au­thor Elena Fer­rante has writ­ten, in her Guardian col­umn, about her love of plants. She both loves her plants and fears for them. “I worry about late freezes as if they were earth­quakes or tidal waves.”

She frets about her plants. “They are pris­on­ers and yet they ex­tend, twist, creep their way in, break the stone … they have in them­selves a blind force that doesn’t fit with their cheer­ful colours, their pleas­ing scents. At the first op­por­tu­nity, they man­age to get back ev­ery­thing that was taken from them, dis­solv­ing the shapes that we have im­posed by do­mes­ti­cat­ing them.”

I think she would ap­pre­ci­ate our hare, who can­not be do­mes­ti­cated. Coun­try peo­ple would think we were mad for let­ting it leap. You have to find a bal­ance, we think; we opt for beauty over bul­lets. Live and let live is my cur­rent phi­los­o­phy. But if he eats my del­phini­ums, he’s jugged hare.

The irises are di­vi­sions from my Auck­land gar­den. They cost about $10 a pop, so I was bug­gered if I was leav­ing them be­hind. The per­son who bought our Auck­land house took out a 90-year-old, grace­fully me­an­der­ing gar­den path – whose curves were lined with said irises – to put in a con­crete drive­way. Peo­ple have dif­fer­ing ideas about aes­thet­ics. Some peo­ple look at an old gar­den path and see con­crete; some peo­ple would look at our hare and see a pest; some peo­ple put plants in cages. There’s an old coun­try say­ing: there’s nowt so queer as folk. We can all agree on that.

You have to find a bal­ance, we think; we opt for beauty over bul­lets. Live and let live is my cur­rent phi­los­o­phy.

The Auck­land bearded irises bloom in their new home.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.