The Spiritual Gardener: Filoli
Has this ever happened to you? The other day I walked into a busy Starbucks for a latte and the barista asked the person in front of me in line her name to put it on her cup.
This person gave her name, which turned out to be one of those new-fangled, made-up names that no one else has, that sounded something like “Shillelaghfiddlesticks.” And then on top of that the owner of this rarity was punctilious about the idiosyncratic spelling: “That’s ‘Shillelaghfiddlestix’, with an X on the end, not CKS.”
Really? I saw the barista gamely trying to write a name sort of like that on the cup, but I felt sorry for her. When the name was called out it inevitably was nothing like the name as it was given, and its proud owner was very indignant and, of course, made a shaming scene about it.
Honestly, I think people can call themselves whatever they like in our modern age, and I guess it is a sign of great cultural progress overall that we don’t all have to have saints’ names or Old Testament names anymore. Although I do feel a bit sad for the poor young woman in Denver whose mother decided to name her Chandelier “because I just liked the sparkly sound of it.”
Or a person of our acquaintance who was named Mancy and had to spend the rest of her life angrily correcting people with an outraged “No, it’s not Nancy, it’s Mancy, with an M of course!” I suppose in time, if these bold name pioneers are very good, they may be canonized eventually, and we will finally be lucky enough a Saint Chandelier and a Saint Mancy, and that would all be perfectly wonderful at last.
The problem with my name is just that it is too common. In any given Starbuck’s at any given time, it seems there is at least one other “Dave” getting coffee, so to avoid confusion I have taken to the use of Starbucks pseudonyms. You should try it, it’s fun. For a while I was “Finch-Hatton”; before that “Pinfeather.”
Lately, I have gotten frank scowls when I say my name is “Harry Gordon Selfridge.” “Rupert” for some reason always gets a smile, so I like to use that sometimes. And “Dionysius” elicits badly bungled versions that are extremely hilarious – at least to me, such is my sense of humor.
We were diligent in dividing our bluebells last spring, and now we are being paid back in a glorious pale blue dividend!
The first peonies opened today, the pinks. The blue clematis is magnificent, the orange poppies are exploding all over the place, the bluebells are finishing, lots of different irises are blooming, though still only about ten percent; the pink azaleas on the corner are opening and now even the pink rhododendrons are too.
Recently I was in San Francisco on business and stayed at the St. Francis Hotel for old times’ sake. I was put in one of the rooms in the old part of the hotel, so the room was a huge suite with elegant brass fixtures and rock crystal doorknobs. This is a great old hotel; I never tire of it.
I had a fantastic dinner with business associates in Pleasanton, a gracious and lovely old California town in the Livermore Valley of the East Bay. We ate wonderful food outside on the patio under mellow lights, and in the soft air and under the velvet sky of northern California. But the highlight of this trip was my drive south of San Francisco to the Filoli Center, one of the great gardens of the world and something I had long wanted to see.
And of course, this is a perfect time of year to see a great garden, particularly because Filoli was staging a big May flower show, so every room of the stupendous mansion was crammed with more and ever more gorgeous floral arrangements; it was all rather overwhelming, and a feast for the eyes.
And the gardens themselves! Well, they are of course superb. Favorites: the colossal tree peonies, with hundreds of blooms, one had to just stand before them in simple awe; the long iris border, with purissima irises as a running backdrop to set off clumps of more color-charged varieties; the spectacular twin colonnades of colossal columnar yews that I had seen photographed in books and had always longed to see in person, and they did not disappoint; the long row of “old” roses, each one a famous name I had read about for years but had never met in person, and how amazingly scented they are; the sunken summer garden, tied together visually with light blue and accented with purple, pink and pale yellow, with loud shocks of foxgloves in all four corners.