Today we were to vote on the first round of the Lovely Garden Competition. We had a record-breaking twenty-three entrants, I’m happy to report. However, the one at the bottom of the Close was described, on its application and by the judges, as a “wild garden,” which drew the immediate wrath of the other ladies (and one gentleman) on the committee. The edict was to eliminate it from the contest. I confess, troublemaker that I am, I felt compelled to question this stance.
I was told that a Lovely Garden must be planned and manicured—it must be controlled, not wild. When I asked why, one woman nearly fainted with shock and disgust: “Because that is how it always has been! This contest has been running for over fifty years. Those are the rules that we follow, and you know that, Miss Agatha!”
I can relieve your minds that I did not rise to such bait. Instead I calmly made my case.
“Is it not true, Mrs Tartuffe, that when the Lovely Garden competition started, the Club President banned all gardens that grew Edelweiss?”
“Yes. Mrs Smith’s father had been killed in the war and she was worried about associating with anything German.”
“And do you suggest that we begin banning Edelweiss again because anyone growing it is most certainly a Nazi?”
“Don’t be silly,” she retorted. (Note: I was not unaware that her own garden exhibited said flower.)
“And is it not true that in the 1980s, both bachelors and those who grew pansies were excluded from the competition?”
“I am afraid so,” she said, shamefacedly.
“And do you know why?”
“Yes, we all know why.”
“And do you suggest that we now exclude any gardeners of the homosexual persuasion?” I knew this would drive home the point as her very own son, a practitioner of man-on-man love, was hoping to take home the blue ribbon this year. Her red face provided her answer.
“So when you look back on the Club’s past,” I said, ”you can see rules or policies that now seem just a little bit ridiculous. My question to you is this: in 2052, when the Club Contest Committee meets to look at applicants, how will they view our ban on wild gardens? Will they say, yes, that’s entirely sensible, or will they see our ignorance and bigotry the same way we see Mrs Smith’s or Reverend Lance’s? If you do not rate the wild garden, do not award it points. However, should we deny this young man” (who looks quite fetching in his gardening gear) “a chance? Should we deny him his right to participate just because his beliefs about gardens differ from yours? Thinking of those gardeners of the future, which side of history would you prefer to be on?”
I am pleased to say that the wild garden will be considered for this year’s honour. Hurrah for the triumph over close-mindedness! And if the young, wild gardener on Blackbird Close is reading this, I would be happy to join you for tea amongst your Tufted Vetch and Creeping Thistle anytime.