It's not that I think conducting the war in Afghanistan is easy. You have to deal with the dicey Hamid Karzai, Taliban insurgents, shakedowns from tribal warlords, rough terrain, and an American public that has long since forgotten why we are there.
But could fighting the Taliban possibly be more difficult than feeding, watering, and entertaining six dozen garden bloggers for four straight days? Most of them, like me, women of a certain age? Most of them quite opinionated and that's why they blog? Most of them gardeners for decades and not easily impressed, just because you take them to see a little plant life?
However, the hosts of Garden Bloggers Buffa10, the garden bloggers' meeting that took place in Buffalo, New York last weekend– Elizabeth Licata and Jim Charlier– are clearly logistical geniuses. It would take me an hour to list the many ways in which they proved themselves to be incredibly competent and considerate hosts. So I will just skim the surface:
- Since garden bloggers tend not to make much money at it, it was brilliant and thoughtful that they made the meeting democratic. By arranging sponsorship for meals, they allowed us to eat like kings for four straight days, for just $100 a person, total. It would be impossible even to cook the meals we had for that price, let alone enjoy them in beautiful restaurants. They arranged a nice barroom and free happy hour in the hotel for the bloggers too. They got a sponsor for the nice air-conditioned buses. They got the wonderful photographer kc kratt to do portrait photos for just $30.
- They showed us loads of cool stuff, though Buffalo itself gets some credit here. One of the richest cities in America at the turn of the 20th century, Buffalo has Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks and Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings to spare, as well as charming neighborhoods and the most attractive housing stock of any city I've ever visited. Getting "oohs" and "aahs" out of even jaded gardeners in the midst of this 18-carat setting would probably not be hard under any circumstances. But Buffalo's gardeners are an amazingly high-spirited, playful, and brave group. One of my favorite gardens cheekily mixed a David, a Diana, a stone Buddha, and a big honking garden gnome.
- They kept things interesting by balancing the institutional (the Botanical Gardens with its Lord and Burnham conservatory), with the commercial (the amazing Lockwood's Greenhouses and Farm), with the private (glorious backyard gardens everywhere), with the obsessive (the lovely Michael Shadrack, a hosta expert whose taste in hostas is now so refined, he is most interested in the ones that can only be seen by microscope).
- They made us laugh.
- They walked the Walk. Jim Charlier's garden was one of the cleverest and most welcoming that we saw, and I would rather drink a fruity white in Elizabeth's courtyard than almost anywhere.
- They are leaders among men. Their talents might even be wasted on Afghanistan. Let's send them into the Gulf and have them deal with BP.