Thursday, April 9, 2009

No time for blogging!

The garden is busting out, and there is no time at all for blogging! I wish I had time to post pictures of what is happening here -- the daffodils are all out together -- early, mid and late season, because our spring has been so strange. The dogwoods are showing little green bracts, which will become big white bracts in a week or so. The famous cherry trees have come and gone, leaving us with opening redbuds and crabapples. Azaleas are just a rumour right now, but in a week or so we will begin to see some colour from them. Tulips are opening too, and the pale orange ones in the front garden are singing harmony with the "pink" daffodils next to them -- they are NOT pink at all, but their trumpets are a wonderful soft peach, and alongside the tulips they are fantastic.

All of which brings me to what I wanted to talk about -- "The Essential Earthman", Henry Mitchell -- garden writer extraordinaire of the Washington Post. He died a few years ago in exactly the way many gardeners would like to go (assuming we HAVE to go and can't just continue to putter forever) -- a heart attack in his garden. Just gone, among his wonderful and beloved plants -- no lingering, no family conclaves of "what shall we do about Pa?" -- just gone. Here is a quote from his book, one of many many wonderful quotes:

"I have a shocking patch of azaleas, fortunately not very large, of pink, three shades of pink, and a couple of whites. I like them, but they are dangerously close to grossness, and some of my neighbours do better, I think, with their clumps of fewer colours. I knew it was wrong to add two or three yellow-orange-salmon-tawny deciduous azaleas across the walk from the reds and pinks. But even this sort of garishness is not the flaw that most annoys me when I speak of grossness in "improving" flowers. Instead, I mean things like turning the delicate single cherry blossoms into powder puffs. All of which brings us back to the "improved" and garden varieties of the common dogwood. Here is the end of the matter. It is not evil of gardeners to like double dogwoods or dogwoods with too many flowers on the branches, or to like them with a stew of mottled leaves instead of God's sweet green. ...........

We should keep asking ourselves , when we are tempted by colour and display and show, whether it is beautiful as well. The world should not be a nice drab universal grey. But nothing is gained by painting sidewalks orange, either. We will all hit on different balances in our gardens, large or small, and that is what makes them endlessly different........"

There's more, but I have run out of time. Next time, the saga of the renovation of the garden shed, trying to keep in mind Henry's principles "Is it beautiful? That is a great question and the ultimate one".


Anonymous said...

Hi Rosella~~ Didn't Henry Mitchell write that he loved his azaleas but if they bloomed one day longer they'd be garish...? Or something to that effect? Meaning that the bloom time was just perfect for ephemeral enjoyment.

One of the great joys of gardening is being able to recognize and materialize our own beautiful, personal tableau. For instance, my neighbor likes the tomato red geum flower. I think it's hideous. I'm sure she feels the same way about some of my plants, although she's much too polite to say so.

Anyway, glad you're back and glad your weather has been conducive to good gardening--always a plus.

Rosella said...

Hi, Grace! Yes, I think HM did say something like that -- he was a very opinionated gardener, wasn't he? But to me that was his value and it made me look at the garden in a different way. Instead of just accepting the usual, I tried for something more, although I'm not sure I have succeeded.

And I hate most tomato red flowers -- it is not a subtle colour at all.

I envy you your wonderful gardening climate--I was stunned by the wonderfulness of the plants in the PNW.

Tatyana said...

Hi Rosella! You do not spoil us with your posts, do you?! When was the last one, a month or two months ago? But what a pleasure to read this one! I'm not familiar with Henry Mitchell. Your post makes me want to find his books. Thank you!

Rosella said...

Sdraztvitya, Tatiana! (sorry for the horrible transliteration!) I've been out in the garden! Supervising the digging of the veggie bed, planting seeds, cleaning up the leaves, although I thought I had finished that last fall -- where do they come from anyway? And reworking and replanting the area around the famous shed. Hope I can be here more in future!

And Henry Mitchell is worth a read -- "The Essential Earthman" is a compilation of his gardening columns from the Post over a period of years. All of us local gardeners still miss him!