The Other Garden

The Other Garden
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An agave blossom festooned with pom poms thrusts itself into the sky above The Huntington Desert Garden

A person’s relationship with a garden can be one of the most profound relationships we can have. Just as profound as the ones we have with our husbands, our wives, our children. A connection with a garden can be like the one we have with a lover – thrilling, exciting, intoxicating, sometimes even illicit and a bit surreptitious; a fling, or an affair.

I have a relationship like that with a garden, one that isn’t mine. I have to confess that for many years, I have been cheating on my garden with another garden. I love my garden with all of my heart, but things have been rough lately – we are going through some hard times, so when I’m feeling low my mind wanders and my heart is tugged toward this other garden, my mistress, my “other garden”. She is a wonder to behold – similar to my garden, but different in so many ways. She gives me things my garden can’t, and I need her desperately sometimes. Sometimes my need to see her is so intense I feel it physically; an ache, a deep pulling in my center. And I run to her.

Cheerful cassias soften the sharp teeth and hard edges of a bank of Aloes and yuccas. Skirts are kept on the tall succulents, the way I prefer!

She is older, solid and stately – but unusual, quirky, witty. She is expansive, generous, always available to her public, with layers that open up and draw me in further. Even though I know her very well, she blows my mind whenever I walk her paths. I learn new things when we spend time together, I’m often breathless and giddy because the conversation (in my head) is so fast that I am spinning. My heart beats faster, and I laugh out loud.

Of course the newcomers walking by me think I’m crazy – an unusually pale woman in a large black hat and sunglasses, cooing at the cactus and giggling at the way a particular Agave fransozinii is expressing its sense of humor with an extra swoopy undulation of it’s leaves. But only for a moment, because soon they are just as enchanted as I, exclaiming to each other, pointing, laughing loudly and sighing with the wonder of it all.

We who live in drought country don’t clip boxwood balls, we plant echinocactus and mammalaria

That is how magnificent my garden mistress is. Everyone who meets her falls for her. We are under her spell. She is that rare thing that changes many lives, but somehow makes you feel like you are her one and only. I go home, wistful, full of thoughts and feelings, to my own garden. She is waiting patiently, ready for me whenever I might be ready for her.

Echeveria agavoides cuddles up to lava rock, as snow poles stand guard and palm trees observe from afar

My little garden and I will make it, I have no doubt. She is the center of my world. We have grown together and we take risks together, and my garden is always there for me. We mirror each other. She is the expression of who I am, right now. And I admit, she is pretty ragged around the edges, so sometimes I turn away and seek my reflection is something more pleasing, more alluring.  But we will continue to work together, and I will take the joy I have taken in another garden  and put it into us, into our relationship, and we will be stronger than ever.

Visiting this garden and walking these paths countless times over the years has been the most incredible and enjoyable education

Do you cheat? Tell us about your “Other Garden”!

Posted by

Ivette Soler
on March 25, 2015 at 12:12 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling, Public Gardens, Real Gardens.


    • Kevin
    • 20th September 2015

    That’s a lovely desert garden – different from other gardens showcased here but lovely nonetheless!

    • Ivette Soler
    • 18th January 2016

    Thank you Kevin! I agree, the Huntington has many beautiful gardens in it, but the desert garden draws me like magnet. It is so unusual and gorgeous! It isn’t a classic English style garden, nor is it typical of the Mediterranean gardens we see on the West Coast – it is a thing unto itself! Otherworldly and unique – I love her!!!

    • filippine
    • 22nd March 2016

    Yes, I cheat, and I have to confess, I am guilty of being aroused by other people’s gardens in magazines as well.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 21st September 2016

    Oh, Filipine, you aren’t the only one aroused by Garden Porn! The magazines we hide under the sofa, or between the mattress and the box spring … yes, I know. I am one of you! Hahaha!

    • DC Tropics
    • 17th October 2016

    Basically, I lust after any garden that’s bigger than my own, and that’s pretty much all of them.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 5th November 2016

    DC Tropics, I am sure others are wanting small, jewel-box gardens! Isn’t it true that we desire the thing we don’t have, maybe just because it is different? But yes, there is something about a large, grand garden that inspires deep lust in those of us who are passionate plant collectors – we just want MORE! More room means more PLANTS!!!

    • Laura Bell
    • 10th November 2016

    Vegetable gardens, actually – with long rows of overflowing abundance. My own plot is small, and not especially generous. I envy those gardeners their land, their water, their time spent tending such an Eden.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 14th November 2016

    Laura Bell, my pulse also quickens when I see images of those abundant edible gardens that belong to restaurants or small-lot farmers. What a dream! I know that I could never make such a dream reality, which is why I tend to integrate food all over my garden – but the focus and beauty of a working vegetable garden is beyond amazing!

    • ks
    • 15th November 2016

    Ah yes Ivette, my dalliance is with the display borders at Digging Dog Nursery in Mendocino County. I go back again and again, take photo after photo , and try to figure out how to mold my real garden into it’s likeness. The size difference makes this of course impossible , but if I can even achieve a 3 plant combination that gives me a Digging Dog moment every day I am triumphant ! This has been going on for years. I am unrepentant. And worse still, I have cheated on Digging Dog with the Lurie Garden in Chicago , but only every couple of years . I feel this is acceptable.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 15th November 2016

    ks I have never been to Digging Dog and I MUST go soon! I hear it is just incredible! You are lucky to be in close proximity – those of us who live close by our objects of desire get to sneak off and revel in the wonder of it all. Living close to The Huntington has made my little home garden so much better – I find motifs that I try out and I come across plants that make unresolved areas make sense. I will think of you the first time I go to Digging Dog!

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