Personal, not good or bad.

March 14th, 2009
A Matter of Taste

Walking over to Shady Grove for lunch on Tuesday I passed two flower beds.

One I loved…
annual flowers

The other I hated….
annual flowers

The one I loved is a commercial planting, the traffic median at the northwest corner of Lamar and Barton Springs Road. The other is a private home.

As I continued walking, I wondered why this should be so. What’s the difference between these two plantings? They are both exuberant arrangements of colorful winter annuals, planted in a small space, on flat ground. Why did one attract me and the other repel me?

Was it just a form of plant snobbery? I know a lot of people look down their noses at certain plants. These are usually the plants that every suburban non-gardener picks up by the six-pack or flat at the big box store. But I happen to like both snapdragons and pansies (although I prefer their diminuitive cousins the violas). And although there are some flowers that make me instinctively recoil, I learned over the year to avoid absolutes in my garden tastes. If I look with open eyes and an open heart I’m always discovering exceptions to the rule. For example, generally I don’t like orange flowers.

So it must be something that differs about the arrangement of these two plots. I think the commercial planting actually looks more natural and the private garden has that installed look of an office park or strip mall. Maybe that comes from the fact that in the median planting the flowers are not a solid sheet of color (I hate that). There’s a balance of space between the plants which provides a flowing rhythm. The flowers seem more proportional, too; that is, there is a lot of greenery visible. By comparison the arrangement of the snapdragons and pansies seems busy and artificial. For all that it is a “living carpet of color”, it seems stiff and lifeless.

I love flowers. I’m still trying to figure out why one of these works for me and the other doesn’t. What about you?