Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Sissinghurst, in southeast England, is one of the gardens I hope to visit before I am too decrepit. For the moment, reading Adam Nicolson's SISSINGHURST: AN UNFINISHED HISTORY is as close as I can get  to the the cluster of Elizabethan buildings the author's paternal grandmother, poet and gardening writer Vita Sackville-West bought in 1936. The garden she made there is  series of green rooms--spaces defined by green hedges--filled with monochromatic collections of flowering plants. Its white garden has  inspired  many American gardeners, including  Barbara Damrosch whose plan for a moon garden  THEME GARDENS is clearly influence by the the one in Sissinghurst.
There is among my s gardening books a gorgeously illustrated compilation of gardening columns  Vita Sack-West wrote for The Observer.  Few of her recommendations apply to my  humid, bug and deer infested West Virginia garden. I read them with pleasure nevertheless and I dream of buying the available land around my house until I realize that it would take and a huge staff to tidy up the jungly grounds. As it is, mowing,, watering--I use gray water--and perfunctory weeding are all I can manage.   I would not know what to do with an English castle and a formal garden except what Adam Nicolson's father did--he donated it to the National Trust.
Nicolson's book, for which I wrote am uttterly unsatisfactory review--see www.richtexts.blogspot.com-- is  about his effort to return  the Sissinghurst farm to organic gardening. He loves the land, he knows its history and  geology and he obviously cares about it deeply. He tells the story of the place  with grace with which his grandparents gardened. The result is a richly entertaining book in which the author imparts information about history, economics and social change in an eminently readable style.
In my garden, such as it is, it is lily season. The few bulbs the voles  missed during their endless bacchanialia, are in bloom. None of the two collections of daylilies from White Flower farm survived. None of the collections of Oriental bulbs--dozens of them--made it. The dozens of Csablanca lilies planted in flowers beds, perished. But a few daylilies, a  pink trumpet I dislike intensely  and potted Casablanca lilies persist. The deer nibble the blossoms of pink trumpet, but they  avoid a few of the specialty daylilies planted near a clump of lavender.   Perhaps a huge lavender hedge would keep them away from flowers and veggies. I think I will apply to the National Trust. I wonder if they would consider taking over a log house built twenty five years ago.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Hundreds of fireflies float in the pale blue shadow of chestnut tree. A quarter moon lights  the sky--a Chinese lantern dangling from blue velvet. Pale green green rose petals fall silently on a gravel path. The sugary smell of honeysuckle suffuses the evening air. The dew is on grass, the owls are in their nests. The creek sings on its way to meet  the river. In the garden, passion flower vines twine around an old wheelbarrow, a stray gooseberry bush sinks its roots in a whiskey barrel. Basil leaves, punctured here and there by persistent insects, glow green in the twilight.
Life is basic in the cottage garden. The cat kills a baby garter snake. The crows mob baby owls. All the poetry of lily buds exploding into starry flowers cannot obscure the violence that takes place amid the cycle of death and renewal that is the very essence of gardening. I plant arugula, beets,  calendula, cleome, cucumbers, dill and  gourds knowing that the deer will devour most of the seedlings.  Yo garden is to hope that something of use will endure.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Jane Green's Hot Chocolate Banana Cake  is fudgy, semisweet and it tastes like a very superior banana split. As I mentioned earlier, the recipe is in Green's novel, Promises To Keep.


Once  my guy and I  have mowed the grass, we welcome the daily downpour that keeps the rain barrel full. Water is a costly commodity in our community. Prior to the recession, developments mushroomed around the historic village. Improvident administrators refused to take into account the consequences of rampant growth. Among other services a bigger but not necessarily better village needs is  a new water plant. Guess who will be paying for it.
Little Macondo gets plenty of money from hotel taxes. Curiously, whoever decides how to allocate revenues finds it more useful to fund hideous bump-outs that deface Main Street and unnecessary additions to our pocket handkerchief park. Lately there has been a movement afoot to illuminate the phallic symbol some idiot erected in the park back when phallic symbols were more popular. This one commemorates the dubious accomplishments of a local man. Well and good. But now the local Rotary Club which came up with the eco-unfriendly idea of attracting  huge numbers of people to drink beer and listen to loud music at the park is planning to add insult to injury by placing floodlights that will illuminate The Great Penis.
Greenies who usually do not give much thought to depredations committed  locally--depredations in the rain  forest are a somehow sexier--are making noises about this latest example of eco-insensitivity. Me, I have fought my battles. Now I cultivate my garden where at the moment the roses are on the wane and the daylkilies are beginning to bloom. I wish the greenies better luck than I had when I tried to get the mayor and town council to consider revising policies that damage the local ecology. But if I were in the greenies' place I would not hold my breath.

Friday, June 11, 2010

There are two kinds of Oriental poppies in my garden. One earlier variety resembles a   flamenco dancer's skirts with row upon row of ruffled petals; the later is plain enough to please a minimalist. Both are a vibrant orange with dark accents meant, I suppose, to attract bees and other pollinators. I have tried Icelandic and California poppies more than once without little success. The older Oriental varieties do better in my insect infested garden. They bloom briefly, they take up lots of room and they have no scent. all this should make them unwelcome in my flower beds, but such as their extraordinary beauty in their brief season that i plan to add other colors this fall--pink to go with the fairy roses, white next to Sombreuil, red under  the Dublin bay climber.
This has been too busy of time to tend flower beds. I was rather late sowing annuals and transplanting tomatoes and basil. I still hope to get around to fencing the veggie garden. If so, I will seed dill, zucchini and a late crop of snow peas. For now, I need to seed a second crop of basil in the only place the deer avoid--right next to my front door.
While I plot and plan I will be sampling Jane Green's Hot Chocolate Banana Cake. Her novel, Promises to Keep has a number of tempting recipes. I made her version  of the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies to share with the neighbors. My guy liked them so much I probably will bake a double batch very soon. Green's banana cake is a chocolate lover's dream--so rich it dispenses with frosting. I could  post the recipe here but I would rather encourage readers to buy Green's book.