When I am not spending my time worrying about which new plants to grow, how to sell the ones we have too many of, how to make more of the ones that the customers want but never told us they were going to want making us guess wildly which involves gambling with my retirement funds for my golden years, I read my subscription to the Wall Street Journal. Every month or so they kick out a big glossy magazine full of fancy ads. As an example, in the December 2020/January 2021 issue the back of the magazine is all Louis Vuitton and the inside of the front cover is Saint Laurent. They have made a number of incorrect assumptions about my demographics. At least I look at the pictures, which are usually a disappointment because these days the models are deliberately and artistically not attractive, and probably ideologically also.
Right in the middle of this magazine was an article about landscape and garden designer Luciano Giubbilei, entitled “The Constant Gardener”, which is a take-off on a really good John LeCarre novel, but that is another story. Giubbilei is an Italian landscape and garden designer based in London who owns a house on the island of Mallorca which is one of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain and thus worthy of an eight page article with full color photos in this above-mentioned WSJ glossy magazine. Early in his career he had turned out “elegantly architectural, mostly green gardens in and around London that were steeped in the classical principles of his native country—symmetry, proportion, balance.” He was pushed to do things differently and so in 2011, at age 40, he began a residency at Great Dixter under head gardener Fergus Garrett. After this his career expanded and he is doing larger American jobs “including a Virginia flower garden, the largest his studio has yet attempted, whose beds skirt a refurbished hilltop barn and ebb into the surrounding meadow.”
This was a very long complicated introduction to the great quote of the day, although along the way I am hoping that the reader will think that I am a cultured intellectual person and not merely a propagator of millions of pachysandra plants. Here is the quote:
“As his style has matured, Giubbilei has become more confident. ‘I think he’s given himself a little more freedom to be more dynamic,’ says Roy Diblik, co-owner of Wisconsin’s Northwind Perennial Farm and a frequent collaborator. Diblik believes that Giubbilei and the generation of gardeners a half-step ahead of him—Piet Oudolf, Dan Pearson and Tom Stuart-Smith, among others—are leading a shift toward a greater understanding of what a garden is for, beyond the static ideal of beauty, often cultivated at nature’s expense. ‘They see this big transformation taking place in horticulture where it’s not about products, but a plant-driven future,’ Diblik says. ‘They see life as diversity.’”
At the end of the WSJ magazine article Giubbilei is quoted: “Gardens are about emotion, but there is even more of that in a landscape,” he says. “When you have a landscape, you can see something that overwhelms you. Is it bigger than words? Is it bigger than what the eyes see?”
And so I am glad that there are people out there thinking and analyzing and looking at the world from an aesthetic angle. I, or more precisely, we, here at Twixwood, are busily trying to grow enough good plants for those who are all excited about garden design and for those who are tough enough to do the installations. Somehow, I cannot leave this essay without mentioning that in our 2019 catalogue/price list we had listed, on Roy Diblik’s recommendation, Scutellaria incana, a native plant. I was going to list it just because I could not resist anything with the common name of Hoary Skullcap. The alert student of Twixwood catalogues will have already noted that 2019 was the only catalog year that listed this fine plant. We have some cold blooded rational computer people who make these decisions of what to grow and what to list. For some reason, completely unfamiliar to me, they do not let emotions get in the way of the making (or losing) money decisions.
In spite of my occasional disappointments I am still impressed with how far Roy Diblik has gone with his stubborn commitment to native plants and strange ideas and his continual slide shows and talks about his philosophy of how plants should be picked and installed and maintained. I remember when he used to work honestly for a living back at the old Natural Gardens just West of St. Charles, Illinois. He has come a long way.