Round Robin: A Model Garden

| October/November 1995

DENVER, Colorado—There were models everywhere: applying makeup in my bathroom, snacking in my kitchen, and posing in the garden. Delivery trucks arrived in front of my house bearing designer clothes with labels so chic that I’ve never heard of them and imported shoes more expensive than my car. Wrinkles were steam­ed out of the clothes in the hallway while boxes of gloves, hats, and jewelry covered the dining-room table.

High fashion had come to my house. The Denver Post, for which I write a weekly gardening column, was shooting its fall fashion section. The logistics of a major shoot are daunting, and finding a private, cozy spot with lots of backdrops makes things easier. Who could say no to the prospect of lithe, lovely people clad in the latest fashions bringing a little class to the place for two days?

I’d fluffed up the garden, preparing for their arrival. I wanted it to look perfect. The borders were at the peak of their midsummer bloom. The only trouble was that the stylist and photographer wanted the setting to look like fall. These were fall fashions that they were shooting several months ahead of time.

Barbara, the stylist, chose what I would consider the least scenic parts of the garden. These are the areas that I escort visitors past quickly. They shot by the irrigation ditch, where the feverfew was a mass of leggy sticks mingling with floppy double soapwort and dying stalks of poison hemlock stood like skeletons. “Perfect!” Barbara proclaimed as I cringed, thinking how my garden was being captured for posterity.

They shot by the potting shed, where I hang bunches of herbs and everlastings to dry. The rusty wheelbarrow sat there upside down like a beached whale, waiting for me to repair the punctured tire. Clay pots of dead plants, casualties from the summer, lined the shelves. The ivy topiary had fried in the hot sun; I’d managed to rot the Spanish lavender. This was not turning into the testament to my gardening skills that I’d hoped for.

I tried to busy myself with my chores, trying to ignore which shortcoming of the garden was being showcased. I talked with the models as they took refuge from the hot sun in the kitchen. It was close to 100°F outside, and they were dressed in leather and wool. I watched them as they applied masking tape to the bottoms of those expensive shoes so as not to scuff the merchandise. I watched the pecan pie and chocolate bars disappear. I don’t suppose these thin creatures eat that way very often, but I figured that they were sweating off ten or twelve pounds for every hour in the blazing heat.

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