From the author: The Ladies Intergalactic Gardening Club tours the latest entry.
She knew that Harla Voodenfelt's garden would be striking, and would utilize all of the latest trends in terraforming and genetic engineering, but this was beyond expectations.
The Ladies' Intergalactic Gardening Club was on day five of touring Harla's latest design. The previous two days had been spent entirely in a hedge maze spanning all 17 islands of the longest archipelago of the most recently acquired Voodenfelt planet, Boolaroo (Harla named the planet after her third most favorite Venusian Retriever). Now, their touring barge had lifted the entire party a half-mile into the air so that they would breakfast while in view of the full maze from above, which spanned before them in an arc. Beyond the islands, a perfectly conical mountain rose at the edge of the largest continent. The rocky height was resplendent with color. Bands of fluorescence climbed the mountain in a repeating pattern, topped by a pale orange snowcap behind which this system's red sun was slowly rising.
Just as the sun emerged fully from behind the mountain, Harla appeared. She came from below decks at the bow of the barge, right between the breakfasters and the view. She wore a conical breakfast dress which matched perfectly the shape and colors of the mountain behind her, with the bodice in the color of the snowcap. She raised her arms in an imitation of a morning stretch, reaching around the sun. The light caught in a gemstone in her hair at just the right angle to shine redly upon the deck before her. Within that shining light were a string of small spots that looked at first like imperfections in the gemstone revealed in the light, but upon a second look were clearly an intentional projection of the 17 islands in the sea before them.
Miryam sighed again and rolled her eyes. Show off. This should be about the garden, not these theatrics. Still. It was impressive. It would all be very difficult to outdo her next year when Miryam's turn came around again. Miryam simply didn't have a gift for performance. The garden itself would have to be enough to drop jaws.
Last time her turn came around, one hundred and fifty-three years back, planet-wide gardens weren't fashionable yet, The Ladies Intergalactic Gardening Club was still working mostly on the continental scale, that all changed with Vennsa Gollyhuor's sand garden on Caladia VII eighty years ago. She had a team of genetic engineers rework the tiny native life on the rocky world, so that they'd become obsessed with constantly rearranging the various colors of rock and sand into perpetually changing patterns. Vennsa's garden changed the game, increasing the size and scope that future gardens would require. The next few years were hastily thrown together worlds and clumsy genetic experiments, vainly attempting to reach Vennsa's level. Harla's garden was the first to do the job. It took decades to put together a proper planetary garden.
Harla finished her morning greetings and sat down just as the touring barge began to move again, and the android servants began to clear the breakfast detritus. The barge moved quickly over the mountain at the edge of the sea, and on to the continent. Harla led the group of ladies in their various brightly colored breakfast dresses out onto the transparent observation deck beyond the visible bow of the barge. Servants brought glass cocktail tables out onto the deck, and placed bright orange drinks upon them. Miryam walked over to a table populated so far by only Vennsa and her sister, who were both looking particularly sour. Did they think that Caladia VII would never be outdone? Miryam smiled as she greeted the sisters, making sure to fix their sour looks in her memory for comparison next year.
The colors of the trees below were spectacular, and arranged into massive formations which illustrated the family crests of each of the women in the club, each crest a dozen miles across at least. It was the beginning of what was sure to be a spectacular finale to Harla's tour, but Miryam was smiling as she thought of the finale she had planned for her tour next year. As the ladies are on their final day of passage across the garden world she had designed over the last 50 years, they will be treated to a truly rare spectacle: Another planet in the system will appear above them in the sky, on a collision course for her garden world, and with a massive garden of its own visible on the surface of the descending globe. She couldn't help but giggle just a bit, not caring what the sisters across from her thought of it, perhaps they thought her amused at their discomfort at finally being overtaken as the top gardeners in the club, well that was also true, so let them think it.
Next year, she would show them all a real garden.
This story originally appeared in The Flash Fiction Press.