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.

Saturday Snippet: Daffodils in American Gardens

Woodland daffodils and forsythia at Gibbs Gardens

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.

 

Saturday Snippet: A poem

This week’s Saturday Snippet is from a poem called “For and Against the Environment”, by D. M. Black, from a favorite anthology, “The Oxford Book of Garden Verse.”

I have come out to smell the hyacinths which again in this

North London garden

Have performed a wonderful feat of chemistry and hauled

that delectable perfume

out of the blackish confection of clay and potsherds which

feebly responds when I name it flower-bed;

and so wet was the Spring that I clipped the grass with

shears, to prevent the mower sliding in mud,

and my attempt to dig the beds to enhance their fertility

foundered caked with clods.

 

Saturday Snippet: The Scented Garden

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.

Photo: www.shootgardening.co.uk

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.

Heuchera Lemon Chiffon

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?

Source: Heuchera Lemon Chiffon

Saturday Snippet: Winter Gardens and Conservatories

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.

Photo: RBG Kew.

Saturday Snippet: Bulb

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.”

Photo: www.chicagonow.com

Saturday Snippet: Spring in Winter

It has been so unseasonably warm here that temperatures have regularly reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit all December. As the New York Times points out, gardens and gardeners are confused: December Heat Tricks Flowers Into Putting On Spring Display. Today’s Saturday Snippet is from Rosemary Verey’s classic, The Garden in Winter.

To teach yourself to ‘see’ your own garden in winter, look first at the trees and shrubs planted for their spring or summer flowers, their handsome leaves, their autumn colours. In their winter guise they will have a different allure. Each has its own winter character, with buds of varying shape, size and texture… The one thing they all have in common is that they are waiting for spring’s warmer days.

This year, those warmer days arrived in December. Blooming in my garden right now are: mahonia, camellias, roses   (David Austin’s lovely yellow Teasing Georgia), hellebores, chrysanthemum, winter daphne and Japanese apricot. Dozens of confused narcissus have sent up green shoots. My containers are still blooming with pansies, snapdragons, begonias and oxalis triangularis. The brilliant red twigs of the coral bark Japanese maple, whose lower branches I twined with Christmas fairy lights, shine in today’s sunlight against the dark evergreen leaves of the southern magnolias. It is as if summer and fall never really ended, except for the autumn leaves, but winter and early spring have joined them.

Photo: The New York Times.