The office is nearly cleared, and all but two boxes out of fifteen are sorted. The Triffid Ranch now has two more growing spaces for Nepenthes pitcher plants, and a new “proofing oven” shelf arrangement for caring for tropical carnivore arrangements. One more spare weekend, and it should be Done, only a month after it started. Kids, when your parents tell you to clean your room, please listen to them. You don’t want to spend your holiday vacation chipping newspaper cuttings and magazines off your closet shelves, where they’d turned to diamond from the pressure of the detritus piled above them.
The last two weeks weren’t all work: the Czarina and I celebrated nine years of marriage the way we started. Namely, dinner, long walks, and a quiet night at home. Her only problem with this involves our choices of entertainment. Invariably, I end up watching my favorite film for staving off the holiday blues, and she has to deal with my bawling my eyes out when the best-developed and most likeable character in the whole movie gets blasted out a shuttle airlock by Sigourney Weaver. (I’m the same way watching the best alien encounter movie of 1982, right when Kurt Russell throws a stick of dynamite at it.)
It’s not so much that Alien is a great gardener’s movie, although it does make me look forward to the upcoming spring’s paper wasp and cicada-killer wasp populations returning. (When the ongoing cleaning and sorting of the office left me barely able to crawl to bed, I actually managed to get in a bit of light reading. Normally, I have precious little patience for fanfiction, but I confess a stout appreciation for Kim Newman’s new collection Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles. Of course a man of such education and erudiction as Professor Moriarty enjoys a hobby of raising wasps when taking a break from his career as “The Napoleon of Crime”. In that regard, he’s a man after my own heart, even if he’s fictional.) It’s that it’s hard looking through the new crop of horticultural hardware catalogs without seeing references to the movie.
I mean, c’mon: if you’re spending your days spreading pesticides powerful enough that you need a powered pesticide helmet and suit, being dragged back with some sort of organism attached to your face may be only one of your immediate issues. Those who read Aurealia C. Scott’s Otherwise Normal People, about the world of competitive rose gardening, might remember one of the subjects needing one of these suits because her preferred mix of fungicides, insecticides, and mutagenic poisons was just a little too strong for humans to handle. This right here is why I get offended when I’m told that carnivorous plant people are weird. We may be weird, but rose people make us look well-adjusted.
And then there’s the obvious reminders. Most of the last week consisted of regular trips to the paper recycler and to the local Half Price Books (and when it comes to piles of back issues of Horticulture and Mother Earth News, these places are the same thing), with the difference being that Half Price trips meant waiting to see if you brought in anything worthy of payment. While waiting one one such expedition, I poked through the art section and came across a copy of WWW HR Giger Com, a retrospective by the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. Generally flipping through it, I found one very good reason to snag it. Giger related the issues he had as a designer on the 1995 film Species, and how he’d gone to a significant outlay of money and time to create a “dream train” sequence which was hacked to pieces by the studio. In response, apparently Giger turned the back yard of his house into a course for an electric train for his and his friends’ use. To complement the train line, he landscaped the back with artifacts of his own design.
Now, I wish I had pictures of this, so you’ll have to snag a copy of the book to see for yourself. I just need to reiterate: HANS RUDI GIGER BUILT AN ELECTRIC TRAIN GARDEN IN HIS BACK YARD. We should be either relieved or disappointed that he didn’t design a miniature golf course to go with it.
Again, I can’t find any photos of the train garden online, so you’ll have to trust me on this. It also gives me a very special goal in garden design. I don’t want to copy Giger’s garden, or even make something reminiscent of it. I want to construct a garden that makes him gasp in surprise and wonder. As can be expected, I have quite a long way to go.