Tuesday, June 30, 2009

GREEN LANTERNS









"Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade

Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid."
Tennyson

My Dearest Asher,

At dusk, in my wild garden, a hundred fireflies dance around the pearly pink calixes of trumpet lilies, the luminous cobalt blue of salvia and the throbbing yellow of gloriosa daisies. I would like to believe that one of the gardener's greatest reward are these these moment of unsurpassed beauty. Alas, Carl Sagan's voice echoes in my ears,

""Fireflies out on a warm summer's night, seeing the urgent, flashing, yellow-white phosphorescence below them, go crazy with desire...What is all this in aid of? What is the torrent of passion and obsession?"

He goes on to answer his own question,

''The hen,' said Samuel Butler, 'is the egg's way of making another egg.' It is on this level that we must understand what sex is for. ... The sockeye salmon exhaust themselves swimming up the mighty Columbia River to spawn, heroically hurdling cataracts, in a single-minded effort that works to propagate their DNA sequences into future generation. The moment their work is done, they fall to pieces. Scales flake off, fins drop, and soon--often within hours of spawning--they are dead and becoming distinctly aromatic.

They've served their purpose.

Nature is unsentimental. "

As if such a brutal summation were not enough, there is Diane Ackerman, in Cultivating Delight,

"Both males and females flash, using a personal code during courtship. There are also femmes fatales lightning bugs, which lure other females' mates by mimicking their passwords. ..A male answers and waits...How long she delays is what the male deciphers. ..Then the male dives down, expecting to mate, the femme fatale eats him, acquiring a chemical he carries that will arm her and her offspring against predatory birds and spiders."

Does this information add to my delight? Not at all. Once I saw fireflies as the purest magic. They were, to my younger eyes, as falling constellations, as tiny whirling fires,as a crowd of unmoored dancing stars. Do I need to know the state Vermeer's stomach before he transformed a plain dairy maid into a beguiling presence that reaches out from flat stretch of canvas and grabs you heart? I do no and what is more, I think, that as we grow older we need to process information of that sort with great calm. We need to look at the scientific pearls these brilliant writers cast before our pedestrian minds and turn gently to the unquestioned beauty of garden no scientist can explain away. Tonight and for many more summer nights, my garden is filled with fireflies. Join me. I want to look with younger eyes at the little green lanterns the fairies use to light their way home.


Monday, June 29, 2009

THE SARTORIALLY CORRECT GARDENER


Homemade garden smock.
Dante Gabriel Rosseti's take on the gardening smock.


A small sample of homegrown snow peas and strawberries.







The translucent petals of a trumpet lily glow in the light of a late summer afternoon.



THE SARTORIALLY CORRECT GARDENER


It is neither Pierre Deux, Souleiado, Anthropologie or Smith and Hawkens. It is just a homemade gardening smock made from cotton fabric bought at a factory outlet. Total cost of the fabric was something like five dollars and the ribbon used for the straps cost twenty five cents. Wearing it does not transform one into neither Vita-Sackville West nor Tasha Tudor. At the most, it bears an unintentional resemblance to a servant's smock in in a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
By unintentional I mean that I did not use a pattern. Not using the pattern means that I ended up with armholes that were considerably larger than what I had in mind, originally.
No matter. The correct attire for a gardener is a matter of taste. Cotton denim and corduroy make good trousers and aprons. The lighter muslin and chambray are good choices for summer shirts and dresses. My homemade smoke is a bit frivolous. After two hours weeding a muddy border will reduce it to a rag suitable for floor mopping. The ribbon is a mistake. It should be sturdy grosgrain, but all I had on hand was this shiny satiny length. That can be corrected later.
For the moment my job is to harvest lilies--a very Pre-Raphaelite activity--berries and peas. It is way too hot to fight creeping charlie, lamb's quarters and the dratted trees of heaven.
The yellow boots are excessive. There has been no rain for at least a week and the rain barrel is nearly empty. Plain old clogs work just fine in this dry weather.
Hats are a necessity. No question about that. My heart lusts for Borsalino's Pantropic Montecristi Optimo, but a hat like that requires that one hire a servant to tend it, as the Roman pedisequi tended the sandals of their masters during a banquet. No, this smock calls for something a bit more egalitarian--the conical Vietnamese Non La the Infanta bought at Washington DC's Chinatown, for example. A small Souleiado scarf is permitted , but dollar fifty bandannas from the discount store are best. Gardening is not an activity that calls for status symbols unless your are a disgustingly wealthy type, in which case, I I intend to come to your garden and sing Ca Ira at the top of my lungs. make your own dress, though, and all is forgiven.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

ROMAN SPICE BOY


The spice barrel at Traveller's Rest contains no aphrodisiacs so far.
"Canius, Cerialis, Flaccus--will you come? My dining couch holds seven--there are six of us--add Lupus. The housekeeper from my farm has brought me laxative mallows and the various resources the garden affords amongst which are lettuce which sits close to the ground and leeks for cutting. Burping mint will not be absent nor the aphrodisiac herb. " Martial




Google artichokes and you get an outpouring of conflicting information. Several sources claim that it originated in Sicily while others, perhaps more accurately, place it in the Maghreb--Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Some say the ancient Romans brought it home from North Africa and others say that it was the Moors who introduced it to Europe when they invaded Spain. Given that Iberia and Sicily were once considered part of the Maghreb--meaning "place of sunset" or "western" in Arabic, the origin of this homely thistle is up for grabs.
Although in the dinner invitation quoted above, Marcus Valerius Martialis, ( Martial), the author of Epigrams and self-described Celt-Iberian, does not specify the aphrodisiac herb he will be serving to his guests I would be willing to bet that it was artichoke, a popular veggie during the Domitian era. Since ancient Romans were deeply concerned with the effect certain herbs had on their physical well being, it is tempting to hypothesize that Martial hopes to minister to needs of guests in need of ancient Rome's horticultural equivalent of Viagra. That shall remain a mystery.
Martial's bio is full of gaps. No one seems to know what he did in his native Calatayud, Spain, prior to perambulations through Rome and Gaul. There seems to be about his status as a a Roman citizen. We do know from his books and those of his contemporaries, that while living in Rome he owned a a little farm at Nomentum. That is where he got the green ingredients for his dinner parties. He mentions lettuce, leeks and rue in another invitation and elsewhere he makes reference to arugula and catmint. The latter is still in use as an aromatic in parts of Iberia,
" Prima tibi dabitur ventri lactuca movendo
utilis, et porris fila resecta suis mox vetus et tenui major cordyla lacerto,
sed quam cum rutae frondibus ova tegant

ed quam cum rutae frondibus ova tegant;


First, there will be given you lettuce useful for relaxing the stomach, and shoots cut from their parent leeks; then tunny salted and bigger than a small lizard-fish, and one too which eggs will garnish in leaves of rue."
Artichoke Cynara cardunculum, is not technically an herb. It is a thistle whose long history dates as a delicacy is goes all the way back to Roman Egypt. In Sixteenth Century France it was served in syrup to those whose libido was not quite what they wished it to be. I wonder what my male guests would think if I were to invite them to a Roman cena--in keeping with Roman tradition it would follow start at 4 P.M., following a visit to the baths. If I get an early start, by next year I should have the beginnings of a Roman micro garden. I already have lettuces, mint, arugula and catmint. All I need is leeks and artichokes.



Links to this post

Saturday, June 27, 2009

TOADLY GREEN



“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold

Poet's jasmine,







"Toad at his best and highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.” Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows. Illustration by Charles van Sandwick.





































































































































































































First there were tadpoles--dozens of them, swimming swiftly in the brackish water of the lily pond. Occasionally, an eastern box turtle shared their aquatic world without interrupting their frantic exercise. Then, in late June, as the roses faded and the trumpet lilies and poet's jasmine began to bloom, they morphed into toads, oh, frabjous day! Toads are a sure sign that the garden fosters biodiversity. It offers everything a toad needs--an environment free of chemicals, lush vegetation, plenty of water and a reasonably well stocked snack bar. The slug, that dreaded enemies of my hostas, happens to be one the toad's favorite treat. Alas, toad is one of the favorite treats of the hog nose snake, another frequenter of my lily pond. Toad is not without defenses. Even as a tadpole he poisons the fish that dare eat him--that might explain the disappearance of the Mossadnik, the Israeli fish meant to instill terror into the insect population. As an adult, he secretes a toxin in the paratoid glands behind his eyes. He does not hesitate to express the toxin when threatened by predators and he can inflate his body to appear more menacing than the toothless creature he really is. I envision him lurking in the greenery, long sticky tongue extended, ready to snap up his quota of slugs. The thought comforts me as much as it ought to strike terror into the hearts of the invertebrates that wreak havoc on my borders.
Celia Thaxter, author of The Island Garden, observed with uncharacteristic acidity that the slug, "He is beyond description repulsive, a mass of sooty, shapeless slime and he devours everything." Having deployed all the chemicals weapons against "the worst of plagues, the snail without a shell" Thaxter dispatched a note to a friend,
"In the name of the Prophet, Toads!"

American Impressionist Childe Hassam, whose lyrical watercolors enrich Thaxter's text, might have been the friend to whom she appealed. He was one of the artists who summered in Appledore Island where Thaxter gardened. If so, he does not seem to have found the toad painterly. That surprises me. Toad is graphically gorgeous as the above illustration by Charles van Sandwick attests. Beatrix Potter's Jeremy Fisher is certainly a handsome fellow and so is the toad portrayed by Hokusai. In Kunioshy's painting of adventurer and writer Tenjiku Tokubei riding a giant toad, the toad is decidedly the most impressive of the two.

The toad, slugg and snake triad is something cultures older than ours have incorporated it into mythology. In Japan, for example, this triad is known as san sukumi, three that fascinate each other or three deadlocked enemies, thre frozen in time. This is tension with which I must not tamper--unlike Thaxter's my toad is is not an import. He is as homegrown as the snake and slug--lest the ghost of Aldo Leopold smite me with a bolt of lightning. A gardener of my ilk is a guest in her own garden, an observer more than a participant. All around me there are gardeners groomed within an inch of their lives. The glorious stand of jonquils that used to grace a nearby garden succumbed to the untender mercies of a fellow whose job is to keep lawns pristine. Lawn lovers rejoice at his chemical array because gardening, for many of us is indeed an effort to bring order to chaos. Mine is a chaotic garden. To see its loveliness one must love chaos or learn to look selectively. There is a certain elegance in the lacy petal of a Hermosa rose rendered into lace by a hungry slug. As long as the rosebush can withstand the slug's attention, I will continue my laissez-faire policy. More than that is the work of toad.


Friday, June 26, 2009

GARDENING FOR POLLINATORS













Plan for a 10x12 feet butterfly garden from Better homes and Gardens, www.bhg.com



PLANT LIST
Star flower (Pentas lanceolata): Zones 9–10; annual elsewhere
Creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens ‘Sunbini’): Annual
Mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’): Zones 7–11 ; annual elsewhere
Sulfur flower (Cosmos sulfureus ‘Little Ladybird’): Annual
Spider flower (Cleome hasslerana ‘Rose Queen’): Annual
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’): Annual
Zinnia elegans ‘Cut and Come Again’: Annual
Zinnia Profusion Series: Annual
French marigold (Tagetes patula ‘Yellow Boy’): Annual





A bee in prepares to sip nectar in my garden.


A zebra swallowtail butterfly feasts on phlox in a sunny border.





The Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation have me in their thrall. Not only have a signed up to make my garden a wildlife habitat, I may take the steps recommended to improve conditions for butterflies and bees. I already participate in the Save the Boxies project, designed to stop the deforestation of the eastern Box Turtle habitat in my neighborhood. Our latest victory was to persuade the mayor to change the town crew's schedule so that no mowing will be done when the boxies are most likely to be on the path of lawn mowers. Next we might try to have the speed limit lowered in our couple of blocks and if we want to be become the most hated people in the corporation we will petition to have all car traffic banned at the local park.
This, from the Wildlife Federation, www.nwf.org

Did you know that one out of every third bite of food comes to us
thanks to pollinators? From beautiful butterflies to busy bees, it’s
clear that
pollinators are essential to life on our planet.


But, declines in pollinators in North America and around the world
pose what could be a significant threat to biodiversity, global food
webs and human health.


Help pollinators in your neighborhood during National
Pollinator Week (June 22-28) by taking one or more of
these five simple actions:


Cone flower1. Use Native Plants
Hummingbird2. Hang Hummingbird Feeders
Bee3.Build a Bee House
Butterfly4. Plant a Butterfly Garden
Certified Wildlife Habitat(tm) sign5.CertifyYour Yard with National Wildlife Federation

Barbara Damrosch included a plan for a butterfly garden in her delightful book, Theme Gardens. Her instructions are useful to experienced gardens and a must for novices. I intend to discuss her garden plans in detail in future posts.

CORNELL UNIVERSITY'S URBAN BIRD PROJECT










Bluebirds, robins, cardinals, cedar waxwings, wood thrushes, carolina wrens, crows, owls, herons, kingfishers, bats, flicker, red bellied and pileated woodpeckers, Baltimore orioles, nuthatches, quail and the occasional pheasant, all frequent my neighbourhood in goodly number. Just how goodly is that number is a question scientists at Cornell University's Bird Lab want to know. In order to get an accurate answer, they have sent me forms I am to fill after ten minutes of birdwatching.
Mine is not the only neighborhood where Cornell scientists want to hear about. Their urban bird project encompasses the whole of the United States. Anyone can participate. It costs nothing and as a bonus, applicants get a package of sunflower seeds. Check it out.



GARDEN ARCHAELOGY

Wooden recreation of an ancient Egyptian garden.






















Pavillion at Qianglong gardens. Photo by Etti bonn-Muller.











Gardens are ephemeral. Few are handed down from generation t generation. In my own block, a three-generation garden had pretty vanished in less than ten years. A block away, the garden of a historical building has also disappeared. Lilacs, peonies, Rx, Doctor Huey, Dr, Van Fleet, Dorothy Perkins, and May Queen roses endure in cemeteries, at abandoned farmhouses and in a few gardens of West Virginia's Tri-County--, Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan--where I live. That is a good thing. Gardening might have been one of the strongest links shared by the British, Irish, Italian and German, German-Jewish and African immigrants who first built homes in my community once the indigenous had been displaced. These long lived plants tell something of the people who founded Tri-County communities. They tell us that they did more than raise crops, build mills--there were once seventeen of them in my town--and make weapons.
Sure, it is not ancient Egypt or even the more recent mid-eighteenth century Qianlong. Yet, a knowledge of the gardens local folks created we might help us understand our past better. Kathryn Gleason, professor of landscape architecture at Cornell University and founder of www.gardenarchaeology.com put it more eloquently in Archaeology Magazine,
"Gardens in most times and cultures are the most complex type of "artifact" that we can study. They are both "things" and environments that have been carefully designed to establish the owner's--or in the case of public gardens, the patron's--position in political, religious, and social life. Gardens were important to an illiterate audience in telling a visual story, often on many levels, and so were closely connected to ideas of theater. And, of course, gardens tell us a variety of things about people's relationship to an idea about nature--from a king proving that he can control nature's forces (often with the help of a specific god) to an individual creating gardens to interact with the natural forces in terms of religious ritual and daily life--the "spirit of a place" as we still say today."
None of the old roses seen around the Tri-County are old enough to have been around in the colonial era. The Wichuraianas May Queen and Dorothy Perkins, Dr, Huey and Large the Flowering Climber Dr. Van Fleet all date date back to the early Twenthieth Century.
What of the ancient roses such as the Apothecary's rose? How could they have vanished so utterly? Should they not have hybridized in the wild as they did in Europe and Asia? Old roses are not particularly tender. They are usually vulnerable to viruses. Why have they disappeared where the earlier varieties of lilac and peonies remained?
There seems to be little interest in garden archaeology in the Tri-County. That is understandable. Archaeology itself is hardly the hottest discipline around these parts. Tom Hulce, professor of Archaeology at Shepherdstown's Shepherd University once said that digging local gardens indiscriminately was the equivalent of burning old books. I plead guilt to the charge. My garden yields clay marbles, fragments of Flow Blue china and rose he headed nails. I would it would yield clues to its horticultural history just as readily.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

THE WAY TO BLISS

Rosa gallica versicolor, Rosa Mundi.






R. gallica var officinalis, Apothecary's Rose.






A view of the Potomac River on a summer afternoon.







Writer Ira Glackens, son of painter William Glackens, was a conservationist before it became fashionable. He was an expert on heirloom apples, many varieties of which he planted at Labrador Farm, the Glackenses' country home, in New Hampshire. I remember chatting with him about Sheep's Nose, Fameuse, Sops in Wine and Thomas Jefferson's favorite, Spitzenburg. Unfortunaly, I had no great interest in apple trees, at the time. The tri-state (WV,MD, PA) area where I lived produced excellent apples and until recently one could buy Winter Banana, Grimes Golden, and Northern Spy at roadside fruit stands. One hardly needed an orchard unless one were Ira, who added a a dozen or so fruit trees to the back yard of the grist mill where he and his wife Nancy would spend their final couple of decades. That done, he went out and got himself a bright red Jeep so that he would have something sturdier than his Volvo and and vintage Jaguar to drive when he felt the urge to spray his pocket handkerchief orchard.
The fruit trees still remain where he planted them, thrity some years ago. Sadly, his heirloom roses and most of the the shrubs are gone. Gone, as well, is the Carolina sweetshrub, Calicanthus floridus he planted by the gate to the mill. Though lilies remain in some of the circular borders, the Rosa hugonis that leaned against a brick wall opposite the calicanthus shrub, has vanished. Nothing is left of the Gallicas officinalis, versicolor, and Tuscany Superb, the Albas Konigin von Danemark and Cuisse de Nymphe, the Bourbons Variegata di Bologna and Madame Isaac Pereira, Centifolias Chapeau de Napoleon, Fantin Latour and Rose des Peintres, and Tour de Malakoff, the Hybrid Perpetual Baronne Prevost and La Reine Victoria, the Moss Salet, the Damask Jacques Cartier.
One of the first roses he showed me was Rosa gallica var officinalis, the Apothecary's Rose, also known as the Red Rose of Lancaster. I will never forget the silky delicacy of its red petals nestled against the pale ivory of his palm. Gallicas are ancient roses. Greeks and Romans cultivated it and later mediaeval gardeners planted it their physic gardens for medicinal use. Ira, who loved history, loved them less as flowers than as symbols of a time when the world had been a better place. As for me, the scent of Gallicas was the olphatory equivalent of Proust's madeleines. It brought back the sun baked rose gardens of my Brazilian childhood, the cool, quiet courtyard and rose encircled fountain of a boarding school up in the verdant hills of that had once belonged to my Kariri ancestors.
I mentioned earlier that most of the roses of my childhood were French. How many of them carried parts of the genetic code of Gallicas is something I may never know. European immigrants often changed their own names when they reached the New World. They also changed the names of the plants they brought with them. My Brazilians ancestors retained the names of the Alba Amelia and the Hybrid Tea La France, . They changed Cecile Brunner to Rosa Menina and Black Prince to Principe Negro. I have yet to find out the true name of they renamed Sangue de Cristo. What they could not alter was the unforgettable fragrance of the Old Gardens Roses they brought from Europe. That I would rediscover it in the garden of an old grist mill in West Virginia is only one of the gifts that came my way through Ira.
In the years I lived near his house I knew Ira as painter, as a biographer, as a cook who baked bread and made a delicious moussaka, and as a gardener. Years after his death, when I had planted and lost more roses than he had at the mill house, I learnt that Ira had written a great number of articles on horticulture and that he had served as at chairman of the American Pomological Society. I regret enormously that I did not take the opportunity to learn more from him. In part, I wanted desperately to avoid giving the impression that I hoped to benefit from his wealth. As it was, he and Nancy gave a number of undeserved presents and in villages such as mine it takes great intestinal fortitude to compete for the affection of wealthy folks. I think that is a pity.
I think it eqyually sad that the garden and orchard Ira planted in West Virginia may be irretrievably lost. This year, I planted several of his roses in my own garden. This is my second or third attempt to grow them on a piece of land that was once a grazing meadow for the cattle belonging to the original owner of the grist mill Ira so lovingly restored. Unlike those I planted nearly a quarter of a century ago, these roses are cloned, not grafted. In West Virginia's hot and humid climate, blackspot is practically a given. My organic garden, the cooling breezes wafting from the nearby Potomac river seem to be charged with fungi. Aphids and Japanese beetles thrive in this environment and all but the tougher roses languish. Through the years, most of my original planting, died down, leaving behind Dr. Huey rootstock, an unhandsome plant that produces an unhandsome, unscented red blossom. But gardeners know that the way to bliss is not through a feather bed. Planting roses is my bliss and my way of remebering Ira.

Monday, June 22, 2009

REMEMBERING IRA

Family Group, by William Glackens. The little boy in blue is Ira.
























STARTING AN HEIRLOOM ROSE GARDEN




He was invariably generous, charming some of the time, courtly when it suited him and always a bit of a snob. He landed in my little village at a point in his long life where he felt that had earned the right to choose his moods. Local folks indulged him and why not? He knew more about art than most of us will ever learn and well he should. His father, William Glackens, was one of the most influential early Twentieth Century painters. Maurice Prendergast, whom he called Prendy, designed his birth announcement. Robert Henri painted a portrait of his mother, silk heiress and painter Edith Dimock. His father, whose work has been compared favorably with Matisse and Renoir's, paintings of could be seen at the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC.
He was the product of conflicting influences, having spent much of his life shuttling between Europe, New England and New York. He was thin as a rail, pale as a wax candle and an rather proud of his delicate hands.
"Glackens means small hands in Gaelic, I am told," he said once, presenting his own his own as evidence. The watches he wore on each wrist ticked away the West Virginia afternoon.
We did not talk about painting much. For one thing, I was young and untitored and people like Ira intimidated the hell out of me. It was not that his wealth made him seem superior. It was all that living, all that experience, all that daily contact with art work that would end up in the best American museums.
For all my mouse-like timidity Ira the things he managed to teach me while we lived across the street from each other, the most important was to say" c'est pas mon habitude" with conviction whenever asked to do something I did not like. The second most important was that if you are going to make a garden, you must plant heirloom roses.

TO BE CONTINUED

Saturday, June 20, 2009

MAIZY DOATS



Celestial Girl is a star spangled goat.














Mini-Nubian Pluto looks positively angelic.

Being part of a herd does not mean giving up your individuality. Banjo likes to nibble visitors' fingers.


The way to Awee Farm is a rugged road whose potholes are large enough to swallow a small hippopotamus. There are no hippopotamuses on Cherry Run Road, West Virginia. There are, however, bluebirds, cardinals, zebra butterflies, whistle pigs and the ever present deer. The flora is that of neighboring areas of the Blue Ridge--maples, oaks, sycamores, wild cherry, sumac, Virginia creeper, wineberries. Houses are few and one could easily miss the eleven acre Awee Farm were it not for the road sign alerting one to its presence. There is where Sally Rivenburg raises Nubian and mini-Nubian goats. That is where my daughter travelled recently.
Sally is a Michigan native and a former school teacher who moved to West Virginia nine years ago. Raising goats was not one her goals until when her daughter gave her a Nubian kid as a housewarming present.
"Goats don't like being alone," she says. "They pine away unless they have company. I had to get him a companion."
This summer, Sally's herd totals twenty five gregarious goats who come running when she calls them by name. She interacts with each one of them at least twice a day, touching them and talking to them.
"This results in friendly, easy to manage animals," she says in the website designed to provide information for prospective buyers "who are interested in providing a loving safe home to these wonderful creatures."
This year, Awee Farm welcomed twelve Community Supported Agriculture shareholders. Produce from their gardens and Sally's mouthwatering chevre and yogurt make a great start point for the revival of West Virginia's slow food movement. Could quilting bees and ice cream socials be far behind?

NOTE-- It has come to my attention, thanks to the erudite main character in Chandler Burr's YOU OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU, that the correct plural of the word hippopotamus is hippopotamuses, not hippopotami. We stand corrected.

Friday, June 19, 2009

RETHINKING A TROUBLESOME GARDEN SPOT










Rose Grootendorst Pink is one of the sad remnants of my recalcitrant border.


What do you do when a border insists on going to the dogs?I have dithered with such a problem for over twenty years. My plan is to move the remaining healthy plants, till the soil, grass it in and add a couple of large shrubs or trees and call it a day. The alternative is continue to pull up mulberry and trees of heaven trees whose roots go all the way to China. Is that masochism or is it an admirable devotion gardening ? Perhaps it is a mixture of both. Having laboured to amend the soil, to free it from weeds and rocks, having planted it carefully with plants procured at a steep cost, it is natural to expect some return for one's work.
I got return all right. First, it came in the form of a plague of artemisia that grows to nearly a meter high, suppressing smaller, less vigorous plants. Artemisia was part a horticultural Trojan horse, a Meadow in a Can mix the previous owner of the lot where I built my house unleashed on the neighborhood. The second nasty return, creeping Charlie came with the riverbottom dirt I added to the border, to make up for the brutal scraping it had suffered during construction when topsoil was removed and mounded against the foundation of the house. Later airborn seeds of maple and wild cherry trees, all lovely, in the right place, landed on the border and clung to it tenaciously. Vigilance kept them from growing into giants, but during my vacations they seemed to double their imperialistic efforts. Blackberry brambles and trees of heaven followed. The latter secrets a substance that kills whatever is planted near its roots. Deuil de Paul Fontaine, Variegata di Bologna, Mr. Lincoln, Little darling and Frau Karl Drushki roses gave up the ghost. So did a gorgeous clump of baby's breath. Voles devoured dozens of lilies, deer ate daylilies, an unknown plague destroyed the perennial bachelor buttons.
Did I give up? No, Siree Bob. I chose tougher roses, such as the shrub Cornelia, the polyantha The Fairy, the rugosa Grootendorst pink, the landscaping Meidiland white and red. They struggled along with peonies and aconitum. A change in circumstance made it difficult for difficult for me to keep up with the border. In a year, it revert to wilderness and thus it remains. The question is whether to neglect more successful garden projects and try to reclaim the area taken up by invasive trees and bramble, or level the lot and start over. Either has its advantages. Originally, the border was meant to be part of a semicircle to frame the lily pool with heirloom roses within a wider semicircle of evergreens. In time. however, white pine and a volunteer cedar grew so larger they shaded three quarters of the semicircle for most of the day. Few roses would thrive under such conditions. I have been replanting that area with trillium, bluebells, phlox, ferns, and Hakonechloa. As for the sunny, tree and bramble ridden part of the border, I could clean it once again, replant it with roses and see what happens. The alternative is to replace the roses and peonies with budleia, hardy camelias and gardenias, leptodermis, mock orange, ornamental quince, viburnum, weigela. Again, I could try adding the unkillable roses Russelliana, May Queen, Dorothy Perkins to the the struggling Cornelia and The Fairy or forget about flowers and plant a single spectacularly beautiful tree--weeping pear, for example.
Whatever I decide, I must follow read and reread Celia Thatcher,
"What is your secret? And I answer, 'Love.' For that includes all--the patience that endures continual trial, the constancy that makes perseverance possible, the power of foregoing ease of mind and body to minister to the necessities of the thing beloved, and the subtle bond of sympathy which is as important, if not more so, than all the rest." All this I have offered, but obviously not as generously as a nearly wild garden requires.

MID-JUNE REPORT

Peas interplanted with green onions. Passion fruit Maypop at the end of the row, on right.


The spice barrel also houses tomatoes.
Our first radishes of the season.






Ornamental quince O Yashima from Bluestone Perennials.
Rose of Spain, aka Russeliana in my garden.

Red Meidilland roses are blooming. Calendulas, pansies, catmint and lavendar continue their lavish show. Dorothy Perkins explodes into hundreds oddelicate blossoms and Seafoam sends out buds to partner Clair de Lune clematis. I have plopped chaenomelis O Yashima and the roses Amelia, Belle Amour, Dublin Bay, Jacques Cartier, Cecile Brunner, Geant de Batailles, Gloire de Dijon, Maiden's Blush, Konigin von Danemark, Madame Plantier, Rosa Mundi, Russelliana, and Tuscany Superb into the rose borders. I have added hakonechloa and ferns to the shady border by the lily pond and began transplanting roses and perennials my poor planning consigned to places that have become too shaded by trees and shrubs. Blanc Double de Coubert, a nice white rugosa rose was the first for which I found new quarters. My old Konigin von Danemark also made the transition from shady border to a sunnier home. Peonies and irises will follow.
The deer continue to assault the vegetable garden, but so far there seems to be a chance that we will get some snow peas. We harvested radishes for the first time--those I plant as markers for carrots that are so slow to germinate I tend to forget where they have been sown. Okra, pumpkin and summer squash look promising. I think that the deer are waiting for them to get to the stage when their destruction will cause me the greatest heartbreak. They waited until the Casablanca lilies were in bud before they nipped them in half. That is how I became aware of their infernal cunning. Any kosher butchers out there? Any purvoyors of teeny quantities of Semtex--just enough to startle Bambi?