While I wait for real spring to arrive in my garden (as distinct from the false spring we had in December!), this post is a lovely reminder of January’s own beauty. Thank you, Susan Rushton, for more gorgeous photographs!
In honor of this January weekend’s blizzards and storms, and feet of snow in much of the Northeastern United States, as well as the new season of Downton Abbey airing this month, this week’s Saturday Snippet is from “The Head Gardeners; Forgotten Heroes of Agriculture”, by Toby Musgrave.
Ornate conservatories or winter gardens were an adjunct of any garden that claimed to be of note. They were sometimes attached to the house or detached and set in the pleasure grounds. These great glass structures were home to many exotic and tender new arrivals brought from jungles and tropical regions across the world. Indeed, be they tendder, half-hardy or hardy, the wealth of new plants brought to Britain by the plant hunters excited botanists and garden-owners, and provided head gardeners with a constant onslaught of challenges. These expensive treasures required careful and skilled nurturing to survive. Often in the vanguard of those attempting to cultivate such tricksy rarities, the head gardener had to rely on his experience, a modicum of experimentation and an ability to learn fast.
I’ve changed my header image to reflect the current season, which seems appropriate for a blog focused on gardening and plants! What do you think? This lovely photo is an autumn view from the rose garden at Dumbarton Oaks.
One of the blogs I follow is Walter Pall’s Bonsai Adventures. Walter Pall is one of the world’s greatest bonsai masters. I particularly admire his work because he works with so many deciduous trees, including my favorites, Japanese maples, but he also works with many European trees, such as European beech.
Today’s Snippet is a reblog of the latest correspondence between Walter Pall and Arthur Jura of the North Carolina Arboretum, home to a magnificent bonsai collection and the annual Carolina Bonsai Expo, where Mr. Pall was recently the featured bonsai artist and lecturer. The letters are a tour de force of bonsai explication.
I love Barbara Damrosch’s book The Garden Primer. It may have been the very first gardening book I got as an adult, with my own small patch of earth to cultivate, trying to remember the lessons my parents had taught me when I helped out with their gardening tasks. One of my favorite quotes: “Good gardening is very simple, really. You just have to learn to think like a plant.” Given that fall is the best planting season for most plants here in Zone 7, this week’s Saturday Snippet is about giving plants a good start:
If you are a Freudian you believe that birth traumas and subsequent experiences in people’s early lives can mark them for life. If you are a non-Freudian you consider this hogwash, holding that everyone is born with a certain personality, and beyond that your life is what you make of it.
I’m not entirely sure which theory is true where humans are concerned, but with plants I’m a Freudian all the way. Yes, a rhododendron is born a rhododendron and will always curl up its leaves self-protectively on cold winter days, only to become an extroverted mound of bright-flowered joy when it gets sufficiently warm in spring. But how large that mound is, and how glorious its display, depends on you, its parent, who can start it off by cramming its little roots into a stingy hole filled with meager soil, or give it a wonderful environment rich in love, care and compost.
Though I do not myself have a Japanese garden, I love them and I have a newly planted grove of Japanese maples. In anticipation of their fall foliage soon, here is an excerpt from The Art of Japanese Gardens: Designing and Making Your Own Peaceful Space, by Herb Gustafson.
The traditional Japanese garden brings to the viewer a vast array of symbolic representations…. The Japanese “niwa” is special because of its double meaning as both “garden” and “place.” It is not merely an artistic arrangement of rocks, trees and water. The very shape of these elements cries out for recognition on a higher plane. We see the combinings of the primitive earthly elements: the air above and the water below. The earth is represented by the skeletal structure of stones protected by the integument of topsoil. Our origin in fire is seen as beacons to our future placed in the stone lanterns to guide us among the “rati”, or path. Our gardens can become a profound representation of the universe as a whole.
A child’s garden should be a place where children are allowed to run, play, climb, and freely experience natural materials and bodily sensations. Flowers and berries for picking can be planted in exuberant swaths, with paths made perhaps of yellow bricks winding through their beds. Climbing trees and hiding bushes should camouflage every corner. Miniature forests and meadows can be planted, miniature hills mounded, places for digging and constructing set aside. Rabbit hutches and doghouses should be designed with whimsical flair instead of utilitarian drudge. And water is essential — it is children’s (not to mention adults’) favorite outdoor feature.
From A Child’s Garden: Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents, by Molly Dannenmaier.
On my bucket list to visit: Gibbs Gardens in northeast Georgia. Gibbs Gardens was built by Jim Gibbs, the now-retired founder and head of a major Atlanta landscaping company. Now open to the public, the Gardens cover 220 acres of his 292-acre property in Cherokee county. By the numbers: 3 feature gardens, 16 separate gardens, 19 waterfalls, 24 ponds, 32 bridges. Among many notable features are a Japanese Garden and the annual spring display of daffodils, said to be one of the most spectacular outside Holland.
Until I get there in person, I can follow what’s happening and get some gardening advice from the Gibbs Gardens blog, co-written by Jim Gibbs and Erica Glasener, who hosts the HGTV show “A Gardener’s Diary” and has written several gardening books as well as articles about Southern gardening and gardening in Georgia. Here is her latest post, about white flowers in the summer garden: Summer Whites.
As I have a love affair with Japanese maples, I think I’ll time my visit to see their color in the fall at the Japanese Garden. Can’t wait!
Going back into some older garden photos, I came across this favorite: the “Earth Goddess” mosaiculture installation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It was part of the Imaginary Worlds exhibit last year; and ABG was able to keep it. What is mosaiculture? “Each sculpture is a living work of art. Thousands of annuals are planted in colorful, ornate patterns on steel forms covered with netting and soil. A combination of internal irrigation systems and hand watering help the plants to flourish. Each sculpture is meticulously groomed on a weekly schedule to maintain the artistic lines as the plants grow.”
“Earth Goddess” is 25 feet tall and covered with 40,000 annuals. She is integrated into ABG’s Cascades Garden, with some of the water flowing over her outstretched hand. In the winter, during the annual “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights”, she is covered with thousands of shimmering lights. Magic!