06 October 2008
There are some journeys in life that seem to have no end in sight. There are some paths that take you places and no matter how many times you look back, the twists and turns make no sense. You look ahead and the path is dark with the faintest light ahead but it's the only light there is and so you follow it because, let's face it, plunging into a dark wilderness is scary! There are also travels that lead you to places you never even dreamed and in looking back the stepping stones behind you are perfectly aligned and how you got from point A to point B becomes so ridiculously obvious that you smack your forehead and ask yourself, "Why didn't I see it before!?".
My garden path has sure been an exciting one and it's about to get even better! Allow me to unfold the tale for you:
In May of 2007 a friend and I decided to spend our summer holiday at Great Dixter in England, working in the garden. We met the previous year at a gardening symposium hosted by the staff at Dixter and decided we wanted more! We spent two glorious weeks pulling weeds, pricking out seedlings, plunging and trussing clematis, and doing generally whatever needed to be done.
One day during our stay a party of Americans came to lunch. They were all from a garden called Longwood. I'd heard of it but had never been there. They talked about what the garden was like, their duties, some of the programs the garden offers and compared notes with the Dixter staff about what it's like to run a public garden. I was intrigued.
Fast forward to April 2008 when another friend and I visited Dixter during our self-guided tour of English gardens and who should we meet but two recent graduates of Longwood's Professional Gardener Program. They were very enthusiastic and patiently answered all our questions about Longwood, going to England, working at Dixter, etc. At some point during this conversation, my friend at Dixter turned to me and said, "Why don't you go there (to Longwood)?" I contemplated his question for a moment and thought, "Yeah, why don't I?".
When I arrived home I downloaded the application from the Longwood website, collected all the necessary papers and letters of reference, posted them and waited. Now, you have to understand, I've applied for similar programs in the past - all in England - and can boast that I've been politely declined by some of the most prestigious horticultural institutions there are, so I was determined not to get my hopes up.
July came and went. No word. August flew past. Still no word. Labor Day favored us with cooler than usual weather but still no word from Longwood. I dithered about whether or not to plant my Sweet Peas (I didn't). Patience not being my strong suit, I wrote to the program secretary and was favored with a reply: "We'll be in touch soon". She wasn't kidding: The next day I received a phone call inviting me to interview for the Professional Gardener program (cue Hallelujah chorus)!
My belly did somersaults throughout the month of September until I flew to Philadelphia and pointed a rental car in directions unknown. I spent a whole day wandering Longwood muttering "ohmygosh!ohmygosh!ohmygosh!". My interview was the next day, following a luncheon with the committee members and other candidates. After an afternoon that is still somewhat of a blur, I retired to a restaurant in town and was startled when my phone rang. It was the program director calling to welcome me to Longwood!
This is where I look back at the path and smack my forehead. All the gardening classes, lectures, hort society meetings, longing journeys through gardens near and far, have prepared me for this next step. Looking ahead, the trail is bright and sunny but there's a curve up ahead and I can't quite make out where it leads. Rather than being dark and foreboding it's beckoning and, I'm quite sure, obscenely floriferous. I'm going to Longwood! Come along and wander the path with me!