There is often no better test that sticking your finger into the soil. And yes, just a centimeter beneath the surface and the soil feels slightly damp. If you are still in doubt, there’s the sniff test. Indeed - that smell of early mould.
I have an hour to rest before getting back to Esplanade this afternoon. So I decided to sun the succulents and myself by the balcony, and reread this classic by John Dewey.
Dewey sets out this conundrum. Art is created from experience. But when it becomes a product and is set apart from experience - say in a museum - it acquires its aura and aesthetic value. But it also loses some of its initial potency of its creation, the risk or finesse or pleasure in the process of making or in the community life that could have surrounded it. The compartmentalising of aesthetics and art always exists. In part it is accentuated in modern society with the commoditising of art. If we continue to think of art as industry, we risk robbing it of its potency as life, experience. At the other extreme, if we spiritualize it, we risk alienating it from common life. So perhaps it is to think of art more like a garden and forest, instead of a temple or factory.
Anyway, back to gardening. Plants are not simply ornaments, even though they are beautiful, exotic and, in today’s crazy crazy market, valuable collectibles. They are primarily living systems. Outside of their natural habitat, they do require your intervention. But there is no one, unchanging formula to just apply. You cannot avoid getting your hands, literally, dirty.