Cultivating One’s Garden

In last Friday’s Perfume Chat Room, I posted this: Perfume Chat Room, March 11. Despite this weekend’s sudden freeze, the flowers that were already blooming have survived nicely, except (of course) the camellia blossoms. I rescued several of the pink “Debutante” blooms yesterday to bring indoors before the frost got them.

My garden is about to enter its most glorious season, when the Coral Bells azaleas burst forth, the hellebores are still in bloom, and the dogwoods begin to flower. It is also before the weeds get going, and I can still imagine myself as having some control over them!

Winter Vegetable Garden

My replanted winter vegetable garden! Some of you may recall that I had high ambitions, last summer, of posting regular snapshots of my summer vegetable garden in the new raised beds I had built for my garden last spring. Alas! Between summer trips to see family, and a long, hot, wet summer, plus planting too many bean vines, my summer vegetable garden turned into a veritable jungle, complete with aggressive mosquitoes.

So this fall, we cleared the whole thing out, pulled hyacinth bean vines off everything (seriously, they went everywhere!), and started over with cool season vegetables and flowers. I have beets with gorgeous maroon leaves; Swiss chard with brightly colored stems; red mustard; curly kale; broccoli; cauliflower; parsley; and, of course, pansies. 

Among my containers, I still have lots of herbs that are flourishing; and several roses that have decided to embark on a third or even fourth flush of bloom. Yes, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather; and on Boxing Day, yesterday, it was in the mid-70s! No wonder my poor roses are confused. But the warm weather will help my vegetables get a good start rooting, I think, before it turns cold as expected in January and February.

Are you able to garden at this time of year? What will you grow? Happy New Year to all, and may 2022 bring us increases in health and happiness.

My renovated winter vegetable garden

Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

I haven’t posted here in too long — I spent the month of May posting daily on my other blog, “Serenity Now”, in a “Roses de Mai Marathon” of rose-centered fragrances. It was great fun, and it took my mind off the ongoing pandemic, social isolation, etc. I am privileged to be able to work from home, so my employment has not been interrupted; and my family are all safe and well, which is such a blessing.

The events of the last ten days here in America have been astounding, and it is taking me a while to process them. Meanwhile, we have had a beautiful spring; my own roses have been spectacular (and are now starting a second flush of bloom), and I’ve planted what I call my “virus victory vegetable garden”, which is flourishing. We’ve already harvested our first purple cauliflower, which got much bigger than the photo below, and it was delicious!

The peace and beauty of my city garden, and the weather, contrast so much with the conflict just outside my neighborhood. It is quite jarring, and my husband and I comment on that dissonance often on our regular walks. I’ve been thinking a lot about Voltaire’s famous ending phrase from his novel Candide, “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.” What does it mean?

Literally, in English, it means “We must cultivate our garden.” Sometimes that is taken to mean that it is useless to try to understand or counter the wider world’s troubles, and that all one can do is retreat to one’s own garden.

Tempting as that is, for an introverted gardener like myself, I don’t think that’s it. Or maybe, I prefer to think that’s not it. Adam Gopnik wrote in “The New Yorker” magazine, some years ago, in response to a translator who translated it as “We need to work our fields” (which implies something very different):

By “garden” Voltaire meant a garden, not a field—not the land and task to which we are chained by nature but the better place we build by love. The force of that last great injunction, “We must cultivate our garden,” is that our responsibility is local, and concentrated on immediate action.

Whether or not that is what Voltaire intended over 250 years ago, that resonates with me. So I will cultivate both roses and vegetables in my actual garden, and I will do my best to fulfill my immediate and local responsibilities to advance justice and peace, and build a better place by love. Right here, right now, where I live. After all, bees love flowers, but they are also symbols of peaceful, industrious activity, and community.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you and your family, and your garden, are staying safe and well.

More Signs of Spring

Blooms of lily of the valley or muguet

The first lily of the valley blooms have emerged in my garden, in the last days of March. I love lilies of the valley but they can be hard to grow here in Zone 7, so I’m delighted that these have decided to return. They emit one of my favorite fragrances, the inimitable “muguet“.  Do you grow lilies of the valley? When do they emerge in your garden?

Ghost Gardens

Gardens at Chatsworth revealed by drought; image by OLIVER JESSOP/CHATSWORTH HOUSE.

This past summer’s drought in the British Isles and Ireland have revealed many subterranean secrets, from ancient prehistoric sites to hidden garden structures and outlines. Here is a wonderful article about one such revelation: How a Heat Wave Revealed the Outlines of a Hidden Garden and Ghost Village.  I have never visited Chatsworth, although it is on my list to see, especially as it hosts one of the Royal Horticultural Society’s famous flower shows, the “RHS Chatsworth Flower Show.”

I did visit England this past May, and attend the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, before the summer of drought. On a later summer visit to Ireland, in August, the gardeners at Powerscourt were bemoaning the drought and its effect on their beautiful gardens. I must say, the gardens were still spectacular and I can’t wait to visit them again!

Gardener’s Glove

I’ve just discovered a fragrance that is perfect for any gardener! It is called Gardener’s Glove and it is made by an artisanal dairy farmer called Diane St. Clair, who makes some of the finest butter in the world at her farm in Vermont. If you’re not already charmed by now, I don’t know what to tell you. Her fragrance company is called St. Clair Scents.

Gardeners Glove St Clair Scents

Here is my review over at Serenity Now: Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove. Enjoy! What scents remind you of childhood gardens?

vegetable-garden-illustration

 

Rethinking “Pretty”

Wildflower planting with native cosmos by Georgia highway

Blogger Allen Bush has just published a fascinating exchange (“Time to ‘Rethink Pretty’ in the Garden”) he had with Benjamin Vogt, prairie garden designer, activist, and author of the book “A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future.” That book is now on my reading list!

I have been shrinking the size of my already small front and back lawns steadily over the years, although I’ve been doing that by expanding traditional flowerbeds, adding wildflowers, and creating small groves of understory trees that include native dogwoods. I do still love and plant non-natives, but I try also to plant consciously to attract and support birds, pollinators, butterflies. I inherited a garden full of old, well-established azaleas and have left them, but have started underplanting them with plants like pink evening primrose and native ferns, and adding native azaleas to their numbers. I am fortunate in that I live in an historic neighborhood where every house and garden looks different, and creative gardens are prized. I can think of more than one home where Benjamin’s prairie garden would fit right in!

I live in a Southeastern state that is not particularly progressive, but one thing it does very well is to use roadside plantings to cultivate meadow-like swathes of native wildflowers. I appreciate both the beauty and the effort.

 

 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show!

Though I’ll not be able to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, my thoughts always swing back to it at this time of year. This is a glimpse into one of my favourite gardens from a few years ago: The Arthritis Research UK Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw and Keith Chapman Landscapes. I […]

via It’s Chelsea Flower Show Time Again! — Susan Rushton

Susan Rushton reminds us that the Chelsea Flower Shows begins this week! I went for the first and only (so far …) time in 2014. It was such a highlight of all my travels!  I would dearly love to go again. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with this beautiful gallery of photos from the Telegraph. Enjoy!