Saturday Snippet: Le Petit Prince

Illustration and quotation from Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is a tardy Saturday Snippet, posted on a Sunday because I spent most of yesterday actually planting things in my garden! But I have the perfect reason to post this weekend, complete with literary tie-in: my new rosebush, Le Petit Prince.

Also known as La Rose du Petit Prince, this beautiful rose is named for the classic novella Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which features a Rose who is the Little Prince’s responsibility and love, in spite of her flaws.

Illustration from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

But here’s some additional, wonderful information about the actual rose, from the blog www.thelittleprince.com:

“For over 50 years the Pépinières et Roseraies Georges Delbard nursery gardeners have been creating exceptional roses. Very possibly you have a Claude Monet or Comtesse de Ségur rose bush growing in your garden … It was back in 2008 that they first thought of creating the Little Prince rose in partnership with the Petits Princes Association! It was altogether fitting that the celebrated little fair-haired Prince who was so attached to his flower should have a rose named after him. With its beautiful mauve petals with hints of violet, the Little Prince Rose reminds us of both the sweetness and the power of children’s dreams. This admirable partnership hoped by means of this initiative to send a message of hope to all sick children. For each rose bush sold, 2 euros are paid to the association, in order to perpetuate their action.

This very beautiful rose has also won several awards in the context of the Grand Prix de la Rose. This year it won the 1st prize, thanks above all to its original scent!”

When I saw this rose at the local garden center, with flowers that read more of a pale pink to my eyes than mauve, then read its name, and smelled its heavenly, lemony-rose fragrance, I knew this little prince had to come home with me.

Pépinières et Roseraies Georges Delbard's rose hybrid Le Petit Prince, or La Rose du Petit Prince
Rose Le Petit Prince; or La Rose du Petit Prince.

One of the most famous passages in Le Petit Prince describes the little prince’s leave-taking from the fox he has tamed, at the fox’s own request:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

Welcome to my garden, Little Prince!

Featured illustrations: from Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; in public domain in the U.S., still copyrighted in France.

Saturday Snippet: “Transplanting”

Assortment of dry flower bulbs.

I don’t post nearly as many Saturday Snippets as I used to; that was something I started when I was housebound, healing from a broken shoulder and unable to garden. But I have just discovered a poem, “Transplanting”, by Lee Ann Roripaugh, and it took my breath away, especially the fourth section:

4. Dalmatian
There is an art to this. To shish
kebab the varnished pit of avocado
on three toothpicks above a pickle jar
of cool water, tease down the pale
thirsty hairs of root until one sinewy
arm punches up and unclenches its green
fisted hand, palm open, to the sun.
To discern the oniony star-struck
subterfuge of bulbs, their perverse
desires, death-like sleeps, and conspire
behind the scenes to embroider
the Elizabethan ruffles and festoons
of their flamboyant resurrections.
To trick the tomatoes into letting down
their swelling, tumescent orbs
in the cottony baked heat of the attic
until their sunburnt faces glow
like round orange lanterns under
the crepuscular twilight of the eaves.
Unwrapping the cuttings of succulents
from their moist, paper-towel bandages,
and snugging them down into firm
dimples of dirt and peat, coaxing up
the apple-green serpentine coils of sweet
pea with a snake charmer’s song to wind
around the trellis and flicker their quick
pink-petaled tongues. The tender slips
of mint, sueded upturned bells of petunia,
and slim fingers of pine that pluck
the metal window screen like a tin harp
by the breakfast nook where my father
stirs his morning coffee and waits
for the neighbors’ Dalmatian to hurl
itself over the back fence and hang,
limply twisting and gasping on the end
of its chain and collar like a polka-dotted
petticoat, until my father goes outside
and takes its baleful kicking weight
in his arms and gently tosses it back
over the fence into the neighbors’ yard.
Year after year, the dandelions
and clover are weeded out, summers
come and go, and roots stubbornly inch
down around the foundation of the house—
labyrinthine, powerful and deep.
Wow. If I could write one line like this:

“To discern the oniony star-struck
subterfuge of bulbs, their perverse
desires, death-like sleeps, and conspire
behind the scenes to embroider
the Elizabethan ruffles and festoons
of their flamboyant resurrections,”
I would consider retiring my pen, content that I had done my best.
Assortment of different Dutch flower bulbs
Dutch flower bulbs
Featured image from http://www.dutchgrown.com.

Saturday Snippet: Garden Travel

Book about Garden Tourism by Richard W. Benfield

I don’t own the book pictured but I plan to engage in a lot of “garden tourism” soon. We will be traveling to Devon, Cornwall and Ireland this summer! I am so excited to see these beautiful parts of the world for the first time.  We will actually start in Glastonbury then work our way down the coast counterclockwise, ending up near Torquay for a family wedding. What gardens in the Southwest of England are not to be missed, in your opinion?

After the wedding, we will go to Northern Ireland and Dublin for a few days. I am excited to see the Giants’ Causeway and Trinity College, which my grandmother attended briefly many years ago. I know there will be many beautiful gardens to see in Ireland — which would you recommend? Thanks!

Saturday Snippet: Easter

Statue of Jesus Christ in memorial garden with white azaleas

I think Easter is my favorite holiday. It hasn’t been swamped by materialism, as Christmas often is, and it doesn’t take months or even weeks of preparation. AND it includes flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Many of my favorite flowers, including spring bulbs, lilies of the valley, white dogwoods, pink azaleas. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer has a beautiful blessing for gardens, recalling the special place of gardens during Holy Week:

Almighty and everliving God, whose Son Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in a garden and called her to be the first witness of his Resurrection:  we beseech thee to bless this humble garden wherein we have a remembrance of the mighty acts by which we have been saved; grant that all those who see it may ponder and adore the glory of the Cross and the mystery of his Resurrection and may sing with joy the victory hymn; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

But on Easter Saturday, the time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, we should also remember that Jesus’ Passion began in a garden too, the Garden of Gethsemane. Gardens contain death and life, endings and beginnings, whatever the gardener’s or visitor’s beliefs. So whether you celebrate Easter or not, I wish you a peaceful day in a garden, wherever you may be.

Statue of Jesus Christ in a memorial garden with white azaleas.
Jesus in the garden.

Owl Moon

We have lived in our house for 23 years. It is in the middle of a city, though our neighborhood is park-like, and over 100 years old. We have tall trees and small lots, but my garden and those of my neighbors are a decent size, ranging from one quarter of an acre to a full acre.

Tonight, for the first time in those 23 years, we distinctly heard an owl calling. More than once — in fact, for several minutes. I think it was a barred owl; it had the distinctive rhythm sometimes described as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?”. And it sounded just like my father.

My father was a bird lover and bird-watcher. During my childhood, he developed a fascination with owls of all kinds, and he learned how to call them from the elevated deck on the back of our house, which faced several acres of New England woods. Hoo hoo hoo-hoo, he would call; and the owls would call back to him.

I taught my youngest child this trick some years ago, when we spent a week in Yorkshire at a wonderful, isolated location surrounded by woods on two sides and looking out over the moors on another. I cherish the memories of playing on a swingset with my little boy, stopping to listen to owls calling to each other in the woods, and teaching him to call back to them from the old walled garden, across an ancient ha-ha.

Although my father never took me out into the woods at night to call owls, I used to read the book “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen to my children. So in honor of tonight’s owl, here is a video snippet from that lovely book: Owl Moon.

Illustrations by John Schoenherr.

Saturday Snippet: The Lily of the Valley Fairy

I planted twenty lily of the valley pips today, so this weekend’s Saturday Snippet is from a favorite book series: Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies. Lilies of the valley are some of my favorite flowers, and I love their fragrance too.

Gentle fairies, hush your singing;
Can you hear my white bells ringing,
Ringing as from far away?
Who can tell me what they say?

Little snowy bells out-springing
From the stem and softly ringing—
Tell they of a country where
Everything is good and fair?

Lovely, lovely things for L?
Lilac, Lavender as well;
And, more sweet than rhyming tells,
Lily-of-the-Valley’s bells.

And this was one of my favorite songs to sing as a round with my children when they were little:

White coral bells upon a slender stalk
Lilies of the valley line my garden walk.
Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when the fairies sing.

Cicely Mary Barker Lily of the Valley Fairy

Illustration and poem: Copyright Estate of Cicely Mary Barker.