GRACE KELLY, PARIS IN THE SPRING TIME AND THE “WORST OF ALL DELICIOUS” WEEDS
Convallaria majalis var. rosea after the rain
On the wooden table outside our kitchen door I have a terracotta pot of the most elegant pink lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis var. rosea. The pot was given to me as a precious container of newly planted bulbs by my friend the painter, Charlotte Verity . The gift was important as it was a memento of an extraordinary year Charlotte spent as Artist in Residence at The Garden Museum in London in 2010. Here in the shadow of the ruddy castellated walls of neighbouring Lambeth Palace, Charlotte spent a year painting in Tradescant’s Garden – the knot garden created in 1981 by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury around the important tomb of the Seventeenth Century plant hunters.
I haven’t posted Saturday Snippets in a while because of the onslaught of spring gardening “opportunities”! Here’s a short, partial rundown: dozens of Ajuga “Chocolate Chip” planted as groundcovers on a new berm alongside the patio/drainage area we had built last fall, with stones interplanted with Ajuga Metallica Crispa. At least fifteen heucherellas planted under the young Japanese maples we planted last fall in a new “grove” to replace the messy undergrowth in a small sideyard under a huge old water oak. New statue and birdbath also in place. Major pruning back of magnolia hedge in back garden, to edge of mixed shrub and perennial border. New deciduous azalea “Fragrant Star” planted and protected from curious, digging dog. Experimental planting of anemone sylvestris under old azaleas; also protected from curious, digging dog. New heucheras still in process of being planted, including two lovely Heuchera “Purple Mountain Majesty”. To be planted: “Berry Supreme” and “Frosted Violet.”
Today’s chores, in addition to the usual weeding, spraying, watering: plant in containers two new Itoh peonies, bought for half-price from local nursery: “Takara” and “Julia Rose.” Plant nine new Hosta “Blue Mouse Ears” and Japanese painted ferns (they are gorgeous together — try it!). Plant nine new Phlox “David” in sunny border. Plant second “Black Diamond” crape myrtle into pot that matches the first one’s new home. Deadhead David Austin rose “Teasing Georgia”. Spread organic tree fertilizer under recently pruned oak tree. Plant more ceratostigma plumbaginoides under established Japanese maple “Filigree”, the idea being that the leadwort’s red autumn leaves and blue flowers will complement the fall colors of the maple. Finish replanting doorstep containers with summer plants.
However, if I really get a lot done, I will likely treat myself to a field trip to see the new Chihuly exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and that will be worth all the effort!
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.
Last weekend, I fulfilled my ambition of visiting Gibbs Gardens during daffodil season, when almost 30 million daffodils come into bloom on its hillsides. It was, as hoped, spectacular! And now I am the happy owner of a lovely book by Sara L. Van Beck, called Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940. So today’s Saturday Snippet is taken from that book, quoting a nursery catalog and letter to customers from the now-gone Hastings Nursery:
We just wish you could see these Giants growing on the Hastings Plantation. We are growing hundreds of thousands and experimenting with about 100 different varieties. They bloom every spring and do fine in pots, boxes and bowls of water in the house during the winter and outdoors for the early spring beds, borders and lawn or garden plots. They make beautiful cut flowers. Daffodils just naturally do well in the South, whether you care for them attentively or whether you only set them out in the lawn. They are graceful and beautiful, rich in color and delightful for all flower purposes. Many friends plant our Daffodils by the thousands and come back for more and other varieties to add to the charm of their permanent home collections.
If any of you also read my blog Serenity Now, you know that I enjoy fragrance and perfume, and I post about scents on most Fridays: Fragrance Fridays. Today, Saturday Snippets and Fragrance Fridays come together, with an excerpt from Rosemary Verey’s The Scented Garden.
My ideal scented garden is surrounded by a wall or hedge, for scent is never still, indeed it is best when carried on the breeze, and a wall will help to contain it. If you have no wall then put the fragrant plants close to the house, so that when you walk outside you will easily catch their scent. Plant narrow beds and make many paths, to allow you to walk close to the scented leaves and brush against and squeeze them. Make low hedges of lavender and southern-wood. Have some raised beds for flowers which are fast with their scent so they may be enjoyed without bending low. Plants that release their perfume easily should be planted so the prevailing wind will bring the scent to you.
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,
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.
Illustration and poem: Copyright Estate of Cicely Mary Barker.
This post has inspired me! Last year we planted a small grove of different Japanese maples, in a front side yard under a very large, old oak, in high shade. It is bordered by a curving pathway that leads from the sidewalk to our front steps, across the front of our old house, and that pathway is lined by pink azaleas on both side. I have been wracking my brains to figure out what, if anything, to plant under the small Japanese maples.
Aha! Heucheras! I have become fascinated by the many pretty varieties at the garden centers and in the catalogs, but I’ve held off on buying many of them until I could decide where I might place them. I think their many colors will work nicely with the foliage of the Japanese maples, and this site is on a slight slope which will help them with drainage. They will be close enough to a pathway so their details can be seen. Like the Japanese maples, their foliage colors change over the seasons, so I think it will be a dynamic display. Thank you, Tamara at My Botanical Garden!
Does anyone have any experience with heucheras as an underplanting that you’d like to share?
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.
This week, I am quoting an author whose book I do not yet own: Anna Pavord, author of “Tulip” and “Bulb.” I need to own the latter. In middle age, I have realized that I have a few consistent passions toward specific kinds of plants. One of them is the family of bulbs and corms. I think what I love is the gift-like nature of bulbs: they are like little papery packages, hiding wonderful flowers within. I love the surprise aspect of not knowing exactly when their shoots will suddenly appear; and many of my favorite flowers come from bulbs: narcissus, crocus, amaryllis, lilies, etc. Bulbs work on their own timetables.
“At the heart of the whole business is the feeling that when we garden we abandon a timetable constructed around dentists’ appointments, car services and the possible arrival of trains, to plunge headlong into a completely different timetable, an immense and inexorable one entirely outside our control, ruled by the sun, the moon, the seasons.”