Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Convergence of Work and Play Today

Today, work is play. I have an interview at one with HGTV's The Gardener Guy, Paul James. Tomorrow is National Public Gardens Day and Mr. James is its spokesperson. And the Smithsonian is home to some of the most unique public gardens in the U.S., perhaps even the world.

Most days, I'm a crazed editor, attempting to do far more than it is humanely possible to accomplish, and do it in the face of major stumbling blocks such as faulty publishing software platforms (don't even get me started on yesterday!). But today, in a state of utter calm, I will take leave of the cubicle and join Mr.James for a stroll through the native plants and vegetation and ponds and other delights that make up the garden surrounding the National Museum of the American Indian.

My friend and colleague Barbara Faust, an associate director at the Smithsonian and its chief horticulturalist (also a member of the American Public Gardens Association, sponsoring National Public Gardens Day) says she'll likely stop by to join us. Recently, Barbara told me that the Smithsonian had allowed her unit to change its name from the work-a-day Horticultural Services Division to the far more enchanting and certainly more authentic, Smithsonian Gardens. I know these places as nothing less. I have taken refuge on more than hundreds of occasions in my 20-plus years at the Institution within the sweet confines of these sanctuaries. (I always laugh at my frequent tardiness to any meeting scheduled at the Castle, because I always stop and smell the roses on my way over.)

Whenever I can, I grab a salad and a seat in the Mary Ripley Garden. My favorite bench is a shaded one in the horse shoe curve just on the outside of the Arts and Industries building. Here, petty office disputes melt away, office gossip grows insignificant, peace reigns and thoughts are collected. Namaste.

And this is also my botanical university. I see plants here that gardener Janet Draper collects and I make mental notes to have them also in my garden. I'm now a proud owner of a Harry Lauder Walking Stick. And this year, I'm going to nestle parsley in between my flowers, just like Janet does. And I'm absolutely going to have to figure out a place where I can put one of those tree peonies that bloomed earlier this spring. There are plants that stink and plants that soothe and whenever I'm there, I'm picking up tips, hints and ideas.

Now as for my interview with Mr. James, I hope he won't mind that I've never seen his TV show. (We came late to purchase cable, thinking we could keep our kids from watching so much TV.)  But perusing his website, I'm thinking we're going to get along just fine. My favorite one of his rants is one he did on gardeners who dump tons of fertilizer into their yards. I think he'll enjoy the native plants and restored ecology of the gardens surrounding the American Indian Museum. That place is a happy, healthy thriving space that rightfully shames the National Park Service and its nasty grass habit. NPS insists that grass is what should dominate the National Mall. Even though the original Mall was a beautiful garden of trees with meandering paths and a whole lot less grass.

Aha! I think I've found my topic now. I wonder if I can foment Mr. James into a rant about grass. I hate grass. I bet he does too. I'm off to start the day. The Putterer

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