The Myth of the Magazine Gardener

There exists no greater paradox that the white-caprised gardener one often finds suspended on the front cover of gardening magazines. Beads of dew perch playfully on the edge of their finely honed pleats, a faint nimbus of light enfolds their incarnation, and the very heavens above resound with the benedictions of swaddled, airborne infants.

Shining out amidst sheaves of alarmingly compact peonies, they prod the camera with a glistening spade – “Here I am,” they seem to tell us. “Behold my carefully mulched and thriving specimens. No mosquitoes fly here in magical garden land; nor do hornworms, aphids or rust mar stem and leaf. The temperature is always 30 degrees, my back never aches when I bend over, and I regularly consume vast quantities of refined sugar without gaining a single ounce.”

The whole thing is a lie of course – yet still we find within ourselves a strange veneration for these pristine anomalies.

Perhaps we could identify with the fisherman who finds the newest issue of Swordfish Monthly in his mailbox. Gazing at the front cover, he finds himself doubting as to whether the tanned angler ever wrangled that monster by himself; or, for that matter, even knows how to steer a boat.

But it doesn’t matter.

He looks good there, perched on the prow of his deep-sea yacht. Looks, right. As the young woman nearby raises a malibu cocktail approvingly in his direction, we are reminded that not all anglers wear dirty blue coveralls and smell like worms – some of them may even be sexy, successful people.

And yet we also know that image, poised and perfect, is as delicate as mayfly wings. Introduce the tiniest variable – inclement wind or a tangled line –  and the entire facade collapses like a high school stage production.

And so the magazine gardeners. Five minutes in their company would surely confirm our worst fears:  Their virginia creepers have land-locked the neighborhood,  their hollyhocks resemble the rusted out wheel-wells of an old Chevy, and their breathe is reminiscent of old newspapers.

As the pleats unfurl, the halo evaporates, and the winged puttos scramble back to the nearest renaissance painting, we may be shocked. But that shock soon turns to relief as we acknowledge the myth of the perfect gardener.

Surely there will always be magazines, home and garden shows, and master gardener course flyers that must be stocked with such characters. But we remind ourselves that when the fork meets the topsoil – you just can’t bluff your way through a garden.

Benjamin Inglis, Media Assistant