You are standing at one end of a very long hotel hallway. A bright window, covered by gauzy fabric, is at the far end. On each side are doors, dozens of doors, some ajar, some wide open, most closed. Sprinkled along the length of the hall are small writing tables. There is an alcove for elevators.
As I get older, more doors in my own hallway of life have been opened and I have observed that each leads, not to a room or suite, but to another hallway. I imagine with gathering enthusiasm the richness hidden away in each.
Opening even one more requires that I ignore the barnacles of insouciant malaise accruing with the years. We live lives upside down, don’t we? Boundless energy of the young is replaced by insatiable thirst for opening doors. Is this a fair trade? It sure is.
Regular readers will recall my fascination with the Kruger-Dunning Effect (call it ‘KDE’). Remember? Wikipedia calls it a ‘cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average’. Charles Darwin said that ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge’.
In plain English, one cannot guess. Open the door and be surprised.
Why has this notion become so important to me? It’s this, at least in part: everyone’s an expert when it comes to gardening, and design, even though the depth of necessary knowledge is neither readily apparent nor easily separable from stylistic preference.
I'm not speaking about individual preferences. Some like blue, some prefer red. No, I'm talking about knowledge or, as a stand in, realizing that unknown depths are plumbed by recognized experts. People are entitled to preference. But ‘facts is facts’.
Is there any feeling more wonderful than shining the light of understanding on a troublesome issue? Much of my email concerned last week’s piece on the troublesome staining associated with some Black Olive trees in some years. That column was the logical successor to a series of essays describing street trees in southern Florida. Recall that we have but three widely-available major shade trees (Live Oak and Mahogany being the other two). Your Design Pundit has been discussing each in turn, and at length.
My email was, in a few cases, humorously KDE, especially from those who should know better. Black Olive staining, let me reiterate, does not occur every year. Staining is provided by a troublesome caterpillar. When it does appear, the caterpillar is more likely to be present in the first half of the year. Most email was appreciative, while a few writers, including those who should know better, concocted personal caterpillar gumbo from a very simple recipe.
Meanwhile, shrub pruning, too, is more complex than apparent. The proper care of shrubs is so often a jumbled mess because maintenance professionals do what they can with what they have, which is so often a garden full of personal choice without horticultural reference and with direction from the uninformed. What is a maintenance worker to do?
Take for example the noble Plumbago, a pendulous pastel blue wonder with small light-green foliage in a bundle most happy at 5 feet by 5 feet. New growth on this plant shoots out from a heavy center. And since flowers occur almost entirely at the apex of new shoots, proper pruning, year by year, is needed to create the cascade effect of maximum flower richness. Indeed, if you shear Plumbago you might as well use a non-flowering, green plant. Plant it too close to a curb, as at Mercato in North Naples, and shearing is obligatory. Similarly, Firebush and Thryallis can be resplendent. Or not.
And timing, too, is important. Recently, a landscape crew was doing an annual pruning to Ixora ‘Nora Grant’, admittedly alien to our soil and, yes, over-used, but possessed nonetheless of glorious tropical flowers. These plants were situated below some windows, and in peak bloom about a month ago. When the crews went to reduce the height below windows as instructed, many residents were aghast: ‘Don’t they know anything?”
Sure they do. Language notwithstanding, much of the time the people you see in the field are quite knowledgeable professionals deserving respect. More on this in a few weeks.
Please feel free to email me with your questions or observations.