If you would be happy for a week, take a wife. If you would be happy for a month, kill a pig. But if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.

This proverb is etched into a stone at Ladew Topiary Gardens in Maryland, a whimsical wonderland of hedges, fountains and flowers. 

Ladew is the kind of place that inspires competent gardeners to take their own efforts to the next level and intimidates the rest of us.

Harvey S. Ladew, the wealthy playboy who created Ladew Topiary Gardens, died in1976.  Late in life, he arranged for his home and gardens to be transferred to a non-profit organization so the public could enjoy his life’s work.  Mr. Ladew had hordes of friends, partied with the stars, traveled the world, and was known for his sense of humor.  I’d like to believe he chose his proverb as a joke.

Even though he must have employed a team of landscape experts, I’m sure Mr. Ladew was well aware of the headaches involved in maintaining a garden.  As far as I can tell, gardening mostly involves losing the battle against weeds, watching birds and deer pick off long-awaited produce, and enduring dull watering sessions enlivened only by mosquito assaults.  A good sense of humor may be the most essential characteristic of a successful gardener.

I’m not much a gardener.  Perhaps my sense of humor needs some work.

I do love a beautiful garden though.  Especially when it’s maintained by a non-profit organization or as a public park.  If only we could redirect a fraction of the collective energy and funds expended on private gardens to build public parks, every city and town in the country would enjoy a garden like Ladew’s.  Topiary and all.  Happiness would abound. Husbands would better appreciate their wives and pig slaughter would quickly fall out of style.*  Sounds like my idea of a perfect world.


*Yes, I know all the cool cats are butchering their own mammals these days.  And they’re really into their own private gardens. Yet more proof that I am not a cool cat at all.