If you'd ask me, I'd tell you that I like gardens that are individualistic, quirky, surprising. But I've spent the last few days on business in a setting that is the very opposite of that–at the William F. Bolger Center for Leadership Development, which is owned by the United States Post Office–and found it weirdly peaceful and pleasing.
Set in the woody Maryland suburbs, it really seems like a Soviet-era retreat for high-up apparatchiks. Indeed, the main building above, built in 1959, was named The Generalate in fine Communist style, even though it was commissioned by the Sisters of Mercy, an order of Catholic nuns. The Sisters sold the joint to the Postal Service in 1980, who bought it as a training facility, which they now rent out to other organizations.
What's really nice about this place is the incredible aesthetic consistency, though you could reasonably argue that it's consistent in considering aesthetics irrelevant.
Only the most common plants are used here, and they are used in such a way as to prevent any dangerous mixing of ideas!
Petunias–these are employed in industrial quantities–are grouped with petunias. Roses with roses. Liatris with liatris. Colors in each block are NOT to harmonize with other colors in other blocks!
There is careful attention to labelling here, and it would be impolite to question whether such labelling is really necessary when the planting is so devoted to only the most common subjects.
Of course, the labelling is often wrong. That's liriope below, but it isn't variegated. However, if the Party says it's variegated, it might be wiser not to suggest otherwise.
Still, I find myself in the peculiar position of having completely enjoyed moving through a landscape of grand old trees and meticulously maintained petunia and begonia and marigold beds.
Real taste is dangerous, subversive, anti-collective, too much about individual expression to be trusted. What's happening here is something else, but there is no question that the people who maintain this place really care about it. It's colorful where it should be. It's immaculate. It's restful. Every single person I've interacted with here, from the woman who runs the coffee stand outside the dining hall to the clerk at the desk has been unbelievably lovely.
After two nights at the Bolger Center, I'm ready to hang up my spurs and join the Party.