Service of Perfection

May 13th, 2013

Categories: Gardening, Perfection


Peter Van de Wetering’s nursery has for 50 years been responsible for the plantings along Park Avenue in Manhattan from 54th to 86th Streets. Constance Rosenblum, in her New York Times article, “A Gardener’s Stage: Park Avenue,” reported that in fall workers plant 70,000 bulbs to best control the results for spring enjoyment. They don’t use the same bulbs year after year because tulips, she explained, “can be temperamental.”

Deadhead tulipsThere would also be the back-breaking work of deadheading thousands of spent blossoms and the unsightly look of droopy green-leaves-turned-yellow before they can be cut, not before July 4th weekend: So not Park Avenue.

In spite of the goal—perfection—and every possible step and expense taken to achieve it, there are always some rogue blooms to delight. My father and I made a game of being the first to call out a yellow one among the 30 blocks of mostly red or vice versa.

Peppermint was the color of the tulips on our city street this year and an orange and red one snuck in, making me smile. [Photo above].

“You can plan every detail but something unexpected is bound to happen,” is a version of the advice my friend Liz Mayers’ father shared and I’ve held dear. Mr. Goldberg’s admonition is as true for fields of flowers as it is for work projects and life plans. Unfortunately imperfections are not always as charming as flower surprises such as when job loss, illness or reversals of fortune derail savings plans or home ownership or terrorists ply their trade. Hedging bets is not always possible as with tulip bulbs.

There are examples of foolproof perfection. Can you name some?

Perfect bear dive

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9 Responses to “Service of Perfection”

  1. Frank Paine Said:


  2. Maureen Klein Said:

    Peter Van der W… brings back memories of visiting his beautiful nurseries and getting flowers for Great Neck the Beautiful fund raiser “Adopt an Island” back in ’76 on. Those were great field trips to his nurseries out Riverhead way and I remember he told us about the famous Park Ave beds he did.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    No such thing as perfection. FP beat me to it.

  4. Ginny, President, Ginny Pulos Communications Said:

    The one that comes to my mind is the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics in China. I’ll never forget those thousands of drummers drumming in stunning precision. In order to get that perfection however, there were numerous rehearsals — many more than by western standards, performers standing for hours in formation the day of the event and performers even wearing diapers so as not to take a potty break before completing the task at hand!

    The result was flawless execution and announcement of the stunning lengths to which the Chinese will go to win. The Chinese government’s message to the world? “Watch us. We are here. We are powerful. We will stop at nothing. We will rule the world!”

    This is a completely different way of thinking. We don’t mind imperfection. In fact, we believe imperfection brings with it it’s own kind of beauty, innovation and growth. I have the feeling that the Chinese don’t tolerate imperfection. Period. The west should take note.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You give us lots to think about.

    You are right: I remember the performance although I didn’t know the back-story you shared. Whew! I had similar thoughts: We can’t compete with this, a performance indicative of precision-on-steroids.

    As for us not minding imperfection, we are selectively unforgiving. While on the one hand we re-elect mayors even though they may be in jail, one slip of the tongue and the media is all over another public figure.

    Creativity has a tough time seeping out of extraordinary attempts at perfection, yet we don’t want someone who manufactures medicines to be experimental or airy fairy when cooking up the recipe for capsules we’re prescribed.

  6. Mason Clark Said:

    If there is no infinity, there is perfection. Of course, the converse may also apply, but then I happen to believe, if in little else, in both infinity and perfection, however impossible that may be.

    On October 8, 1956 Don Larson pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. I saw it on TV. It was perfect, and nobody can make it less than that.

    What about “holes in one” in golf? How can you do better than one shot on a hole of golf?

    On March 3, 1946, I heard Beniamino Gigli sing the great tenor aria from Act III of “Manon Lescaut” twice at San Carlo in Naples. The second time he sang even better than the first. I can still see and hear him in my head. I have listened to many thousands of fine singers since then, but no one else ever who sang as well as he did that evening. He was perfection.

    I came upon Gustav Mahler late in life. The remarkable thing about his music, whatever it may be, is that each time I hear it, I think, “That’s perfect.” Of course, it not always is, someone hits a false note or something, but sometimes it really is perfect. And, as a body of work, it is a perfection never to be equaled.

    To write of only two paintings, I have seen both Titian’s “Pieta” and Domenico Ghirlandaio’s “An Old Man and a Boy” many times, and each time I see them I see more than I saw before. They are perfection and strangely similar in their ability to express the freedom of age, in the former, to believe and in the latter, to love.

    Then there was that sunset last week. Don’t tell me that wasn’t perfection.

  7. RC-F Said:

    I always liked the Greek(?) definition of perfect, inclusive of the required flaw. After all, if you seek perfection, the Gods will punish you for trying to attain their status. Perfection must include non-perfection, that is what makes it perfect!

    Think of the person who does everything perfectly – insufferable…and they are usually not exactly happy themselves. So I prefer un-fool-proofed perfection myself. Those tulips, individually, have variety and nod and bend in the wind individually…that is what makes it such an amazing array. Not its perfection. Enough.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I like your optimistic view of perfection. You give excellent examples.

    However, if the person observing the sunset is in a crummy mood or is very sad or the one listening to Gigli dislikes opera or is distressed when hearing a symphony by Mahler, they may not agree with these examples.

    Hard to argue about the hole-in-one or the 1956 baseball game. Sports figures didn’t use steroids in the 50s, did they?

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Perfect people are irritating, especially if they remind you about it. I once knew a man who would follow his wife around the kitchen washing, drying and putting away every utensil she used. When she needed to stir noodles or flip a hamburger, she’d have to dig out the spoon and spatula from the drawer. I’d have lasted two seconds with that arrangement–although their kitchen always looked perfect!

    Mathematics, largely a mystery to me, is perfect.

    I don’t have to worry about what the Gods will think because no matter how hard I try, the results are never perfect. Nevertheless I try for perfection within the constraints of time. Goodness knows what would happen if I didn’t!

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