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.
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?
Source: Heuchera Lemon Chiffon
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!
Source: Colesbourne Park: The Best Winter Garden in The Cotswolds
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.
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.”
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.
I am behind in my Saturday Snippets because I have been able to do actual gardening the last two weekends! We have had unseasonably warm weather and the ground is still quite warm, so I went and stocked up on dozens of marked-down spring bulbs. Mostly narcissus of various kinds, but also some winter aconites, grape hyacinths, and Dutch hyacinths for forcing (those are in the fridge, cooling).
One of my favorite bloggers, The Teddington Gardener, posted this “Gardener’s Prayer” with some gorgeous photos of hellebores and snowdrops, so it is my Saturday Snippet:
O Lord, grant that in some way
it may rain every day,
Say from about midnight until three o’clock
in the morning,
But, You see, it must be gentle and warm
so that it can soak in;
Grant that at the same time it would not rain on
campion, alyssum, helianthus, lavendar, and others which
You in Your infinite wisdom know
are drought-loving plants-
I will write their names on a bit of paper
if you like-
And grant that the sun may shine
the whole day long,
But not everywhere (not, for instance, on the
gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron)
and not too much;
That there may be plenty of dew and little wind,
enough worms, no lice and snails, or mildew,
and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano
may fall from heaven.
Credit: The Teddington Gardener.
And the featured image of the Annunciation is one of the Tiffany stained glass windows in my church, with some of the most beautiful lilies you will ever see.
The slender green shoots of Ipheion uniflorum have popped out between the flagstones at the back of our old garden, visible now that most of the leaves have fallen from trees and shrubs. Unlike most spring bulbs, the starflower sends up its leaves in the fall, where they add an unexpected spot of soft green to the autumn tones of red, orange, yellow and brown. In early spring, they will be covered in small, star-shaped blossoms of light blue that give off a soft, pretty fragrance when left alone. If the leaves are bruised, they smell like garlic. Scott Ogden has this to say, in his wonderfully useful book Garden Bulbs for the South:
After the new year, any brief spell of sunny weather will coax these leafy clumps into bloom. The flowers are a cheerful pale blue and resemble six-pointed stars. Once they begin to appear, the blossoms continue steadily into March.
These lovely blue flowers present a perennial mystery for gardeners who discover them in the grass. They seem to have created consternation for botanists as well. The usual questions are “What are they?” and “Where did they come from?
I’m not fussed about what they are or where they came from. In my garden, what they are is lovely and welcome. Where they came from is random, as they spread so quickly and readily by offsets, seeds and runners. I’m always happy to see their harbingers, the tender green shoots of their leaves!
Photo: Wendy Kremer, finegardening.com.