In the movie, “A Little Chaos,” which is about the creation of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, one of the gardeners says gardening is, “an act of faith . . . .God put us first into a garden, and when we lost Eden, we were fated to search and reinvent it again.”
The story is about two gardeners with different approaches to their craft. One (who is a man) wants to dominate nature and instill order on the landscape. The other (who is a woman) wants to work with the landscape and thinks a little chaos is more interesting and natural.
In terms of the flower garden in my front yard, I have tried for years to be like the first gardener – instilling order in my plantings and symmetry in their placements. My garden has a theme of purple flowers: lupine, allium, coneflowers, night sage, iris, phlox, crocus.
My garden’s composition has changed due to my varying degree of attention and the severity of winters, watched over by a statue of a little naked boy who is sitting and reading. Even the statue has faced challenges. I’ve reattached his foot twice and even his head once after various misadventures and mishaps.
Weeds are a never-ending battle. My attempts to recreate an orderly Eden where humans have prime dominion has given way to a philosophy more like the second gardener who welcomes chaos and nature. And who’s to say that Eden didn’t have chaos? I like to think that we come from nature. What is nature if not chaotic?
My garden now sports a mix of cultivated and wild flowers. Some white flowers have crept in with the purple, although the white ones bloom after most of the purple ones are done. I don’t even know the names of the wildflowers, they just started growing with no help. I rather like not knowing their names. This makes me look at these flowers more deeply. If I knew their identities, I would say their names in my head each time I saw them and then immediately look away. Now there is mystery and wonder.
Patches of grass intersperse with the flowers. I could continue to spend time trying to dig up all the grass, but I’d rather spend my time writing or playing. It’s freeing to have given up trying to instill order on the landscape. My garden does not have to be “perfect.”
In the “chaos” movie, the lead gardener at Versailles hires the chaotic gardener because “the gardens are large enough to contain more voices than just my own.” The movie ends with a scene from the woman’s completed garden, which is an outdoor ballroom. The king of France and his court dance in a space where order and chaos intermingle in a triumph of design.
I’m not sure what my neighbors think of my garden. No doubt, some wish I would spend more time controlling it. Perhaps others who drive by simply enjoy the colors. All I know is that, with its colors and a little chaos, it’s Eden enough for me.