All posts by Pat Stone

The Glory of the Garden

By Rudyard Kipling.

OUR England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye. 

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows ;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-” Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.

There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray 
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away !

Sent in by Laurel Beardsley of Titusville, FL—a subscriber since the Fall of 1997! Thanks, Laurel!

The Garden Exists

For the gardener.

By Jim Long, Owner Long Creek Herbs


Does a garden exist simply for the pleasure of the gardener? Why do we grow herbs with the fervor of an evangelist, collecting new varieties like converts to our own patch of earth, if this museum of plants will likely disappear when we die?

Maybe we who garden need a new ritual to give some perspective answer those basic questions for us. The ancient Egyptians used to bury treasured possessions with their owner upon his or her death. Instead of interring the favorite pets, armor, crown or sword with the deceased, we might start a custom that our gardens are buried with us.

Think of it! At the time of passing, all the gardener’s favorite roses would be uprooted, along with the “best of the best” mint and the outstanding blue Salvia. Along with these, the favorite trowel, the garden books, catalogs and the trusty old tiller, would be piled in the hole beside the gardener. The lifetime collection of newspaper and magazine articles that were always too interesting to throw away could go in, too. The seed collection stored in jars, boxes and envelopes gleaned from a lifetime of travels (but never planted) would be added, as would the rake that no one else liked to use, the plastic pots that “might come in handy some day” and the old scissors with the broken point. That kind of ritual would put our gardens in proper perspective for us.

I can’t help but reflect on this notion, as fanciful as it may be, when I walk through my own gardens. There are my pathways where pathways never existed before, rustic stones steps that I’ve wrestled into place and laid with my own hands. There are plants I’ve nurtured for decades, and plants members of my own family have guarded through their own lifetimes. Yet 30 minutes with a developer’s bulldozer could easily wipe away my lifetime’s gardens. A year or two of neglect would erase my passionate pursuit, surrendering to weeds and grasses. Untended, my garden would run wild for a while and then simply cease to be. “The gardens fell into ruin after Jefferson’s death…,” states the guidebook to Monticello. Even Thomas Jefferson was not survived by his garden as he knew it.

How sobering! We feel that our own gardens are such a part of our lives they will surely live on. The pathways we lay off, the beds we spend decades bordering and soil-building, somehow will be perennial like the giant alliums we watch bloom each season. Rare marjorams and thymes that we collected on our travels, brought home in pockets and suitcases, nurtured, treasured, propagated and talked to, feel to us to be important beyond our own years on Earth.

We gardeners, I think, have a feeling of immortality through our gardens, a belief that others will appreciate and therefore preserve the beauty we have created and tended, that future inhabitants of that space will be awed by the beauty and continue our projects. Picnics under our arbors, hours of medications on the garden bench, each of our experiences contributes to our feeling of permanence about it all. But if Jefferson’s attachment to his garden wasn’t enough to sustain it after his life, then what must the future hold for our own bit of soil?

The new garden ritual I’ve jokingly suggested might help us see more clearly that we garden for the pleasure of gardening. The process, not the outcome, is the goal all along. The aching back, the sweating brown, the constant “Will I ever get caught up?” is the reward in itself! Sitting on the bench appraising the progress, dividing clumps of perennials with friends, building the compost, and collecting seeds are the real payoffs. Eating breakfast in the sun room while contemplating the butterflies on the marigolds in the garden below, or sipping cool minted drinks in the gazebo while admiring the day’s progress is priceless. If a photograph survives and some child says someday, “This was so-and-so’s garden,” all the better. The garden exists in our mind for our pleasure and for the pleasure it gives others.

The garden as a whole is like the individual plants that reside in it. The Valeriana officinalis that was last fall in the upper bed, this summer has appeared along the walk, yards away. Seeds scatter, plants change locations and gardens. The garden may just be, “an agreeable place where plants thrive for a while.” Does there really need to be anything more?

I think I’ll choose to see my garden as just space I’ve rented from the Earth for awhile. When I’m gone and the lease is up, someone else can clear the brush, rearrange the collections of rocks, turn the soil and perhaps plan a new garden. I garden for the pleasure of gardening and I plant to enjoy a long lease.

Check out Jim’s website and online store: www.longcreekherbs.com.

Healing Inside

Becky and I backpacking with daughter Jesse and her family in Big Bend National Park
—just before the coronavirus really hit our country

For now, Becky and I are doing very well. Being confined to home, being super careful about restricting possible exposure—these are inconveniences. We are extremely blessed that we don’t have to work outside our home and are not in financial straits. Most importantly, so far the illness has not struck anyone in our family. (My heartfelt sympathies and cares if it has yours.)

The stress of not knowing what the future holds is harder to deal with. All indications seem to say things will get worse, possibly much worse. In addition, it’s hard to reach out and help others who have real needs when you’re self-quarantining (which I take seriously: Becky and I are both 70; she is also diabetic). So I feel helpless to really help.

How to handle all that?

For me:

            —Family: We stay in touch with our kids, families, and friends, by phone and computer (we’re having a family screen reunion on Zoom tomorrow). This is a great time to call folks, especially those who are on their own.

            —Faith: It’s a good time to focus on one’s spiritual walk, a very good time. My oldest daughter’s father-in-law reads the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd . . . “) every night and every morning. Wise man.

            —Getting Outside: I am super blessed to live near woods. I go out and watch this beautiful Spring birth every day. Of course, a garden is a perfect place for this. What a blessing to have one now.

            —Work on controlling my political feelings. I have opinions about how elected officials are handling this: we all do. I need to remind myself that getting angry over that helps nothing. It only hurts myself.

            —Work on GreenPrints: I am so, so blessed that my job is sharing heart, joy, comfort, humor, and love. Making the mag—my real garden—is a great comfort in my life.

Bless you. I pray for you. I pray you are finding comfort, in your garden and in your life.

            Pat

Ask A Nurseryman

As long as he doesn’t ask you anything back!
By Gary Carter. Art by Russell Thornton

Being the only fairly knowledgeable nurseryman in our small Oregon town does have its minuses. Take a social gathering I was invited to a while back. I ran into my family physician:
“Hello, Gary, how are you?”
“Just fine, Doc. How’s yourself?”
“Doing OK. I have a question. That hailstorm we had a while back, it knocked most of the flowers off my apple, pear, and plum trees. Should I go ahead and prune them back?”
“Well, you can, but if you do that now, you could destroy any flowers left that are trying to form.” I went on and explained the best times to prune, etc. Then I had a question.
“While I’ve got you, Doc, I’ve got this red lump on my leg, and I was wondering—”
“Make an appointment and I’ll take a look at it,” my doctor said. He smiled, nodded his head, and walked away.
Later I ran into my dentist.
“Hi, Gary. Good to see you. How are things?”
“OK. Thanks for asking.”
“I have a question.”
“Oh?”
“The leaves on my cauliflower, chard, and some of my wife’s other vegetables have holes in them. What would cause that?”
“Without seeing the plants I’d have to say probably snails or slugs. Maybe both.”
“Can you come over and take a look this week, talk to Sandy?”
“Well, I . . .”
“We bought the plants from you.”
“Well, OK. Listen, a couple of my back teeth have been hurting and I was wondering if—”
“Make an appointment and I’ll take a look,” my dentist said. He smiled, nodded and walked away. “See you later!”
Later on that week, after checking out the dentist’s garden, I ran into my lawyer, Ms. Marple, at the local grocery store.
“Well, hello, Gary!” she exclaimed, walking over and giving me a quick hug. “How have you been? Long time no see!”
“I’m OK. How’s the law business?” I asked as she let go.
“Good! Listen, while I’ve got you, something’s eating the plants in my vegetable garden. Chewed my darn lettuce and other crops right down to the ground. What could cause that?”
“Well, there are a number of things. It could be deer, or rabbits, or . . .” I went on for several minutes.
“Listen, have you got a minute?” I asked after I had finished my spiel. “My daughter and her husband are talking about getting a divorce and, well, I was wondering . . .”
“Oh, hey, we’re open nine to five. Sorry, but I’m in a hurry.” She smiled, gave me another hug, and hurried away.
Well, what can a nursery guy do? Set up an office and charge people to ask questions? Would anyone come? Probably not, because anyone can grow plants, to hear people tell about it.
But, hey, if that’s true, why do they keep asking me?

My Flower Friend

At last! Someone who loves my flowers as much as I do.

By Kim Rothrock-Mack. Art by P. Savage

I think it’s the way I came to flowers that makes them so important to me. I was looking for something joyous to balance the dread I felt within after 20 years in nursing, 20 years of watching people in pain and dying. Towards the end, I kept noticing how I remembered the names of flowers I saw. I don’t remember much these days and have begun to think memory highly overrated, but the flower names seemed a clue, a clue to something that might help me shake my depression.

So I planted a flower garden. That was two years ago. Now I have six flowerbeds and two herb beds. I compete with my husband and his vegetables for each new bed we establish. I am heavily addicted to flowers now, especially those with sweet scents. I think I’ve always appreciated scents because of my mother, who’s lived her entire life without the ability to smell. Somehow the flower smells help balance out the awful smells of my nursing past. The flowers flaunt life, filling the air with their flirty, sweet scents. I make daily rounds to examine every little change—finding a reason to get out of bed, to hope. In the solitude of the garden, everything is as it should be.

Except for one thing: my occasional desire to share it all with a friend. When I absolutely can’t stand admiring some exquisite new bloom alone, I’ll demand that my husband come look at it. He always thanks me for the opportunity, but after one or two flowers, he has wandered to the bean trellis to check how long the Romanos are today. I corral our rare visitors into looking at the flowers, but they, too, fail to give detailed, caring attention.

I was just about ready to give up on sharing my new powerful joy with another as crazy as me—when I saw her down in the lily beds. She was clearly on a lily tour, heading straight from one patch to the next. She knew right where they were without even looking for them. Clearly she had the garden memorized. My own heart fluttered in beat with her rapid wings as my desire was realized. She knows my garden as well as me, maybe better, and the flowers feed her life like they do mine.

Twice now she’s visited while I was watering. She dances tentatively at the outer edges of the spray, asking me to hold the hose still, which I do. The sun on the spray creates rainbows that she darts and dances through. Her own pastels milk in the watery arches of color. Other birds take baths, but my speedy hummingbird prefers rainbow showers. Other people and birds like flowers, too, but my flower friend and I live on them.

My Crop of Young Gardeners

I live several doors down from a guy named Larry. He and I have never exchanged more than a couple of sentences. His grandchildren, though—that’s a different story.

Three of them came up to the fence one day as I was weeding. The girl, who appeared to be the ringleader, said, “Hi, I am Dejah. This is my brother, DJ, and my cousin, Quan.” Then she got down to business: “Can we have one of those flowers?”

She pointed to my abundant supply of double-pink peonies. “Sure,” I said. They came around to my side of the fence and supervised as I clipped an enormous bloom for each of them. Flower in hand, Dejah asked the next logical question. “Why do you got all these plants?”

My answer led to a tour through the garden, with me pointing out things here and there. They showed polite interest until we reach the apple tree. Then their faces lit up like they had hit the mother lode.

I had to explain that the tiny green apples would need all summer to ripen. Still, Dejah  dragged Quan over next week to ask, “Are the apples ready to eat?” I shook my head. Unwilling to lose this rare appreciative audience, I cast around for other plants that do something.

We stroked fuzzy leaves of bachelor’s buttons and sampled the serviceberries. Then I realized that chocolate mint was a perfect offering:  It smelled like chewing gum, and they could eat the leaves. It went over so well (“Can we take some back to Grandpa?”) that I then showed them some lemon thyme for contrast. Then we went a few plants away to lavender, which we smelled more than tasted, then onto another bed, where we grazed on thyme and two kinds of oregano, thus completing a circuit of my herbs.

The apples didn’t ripen until October, and by then Larry’s grandkids were busy with school. But they came back the next spring to visit my garden, and the spring after that, as well. It became a pleasurable tradition to tour the garden with them.

Whenever I came across a new herb in a catalog or nursery, I’d catch myself thinking, “Larry’s grandkids will appreciate this one.” Over the years I added lemon balm, sage, peppermint, sweet woodruff, and my personal favorite, anise hyssop. I scattered them through the garden to create tasting opportunities at intervals along the main circuit. I practiced my urban tour on other visitors.

This past fall, for the first time, Dejah, Quan, and DJ happened to stop by during apple season. My tree had produced a bumper crop, but my live-and-let-live approach to backyard bugs resulted in the fruits being somewhat wormy and misshapen. That doesn’t bother me—I’m used to eating around the rough spots—but I was kind of embarrassed to bring the apples to kids who’d probably only seen perfect supermarket produce.

I stilled myself against their disappointment, but they just shrugged. “That’s OK,” said DJ. And Quan said, “Can we see the chocolate mint?”

They scampered ahead to the mint patch, where we chewed our leaves and smiled at each other. I congratulated myself that, while my apples might be sub-par, my crop of young gardeners was coming along splendidly.

—By Evelyn J. Hadden. Art by Linda Cook Devona

Talking Trees

 

Kay Olsen, former editor Flower & Garden magazine, once posed a risky question in her opening editorial: “What is my favorite kind of plant?” Ah ha, I thought, smelling instant controversy. Who will she offend most? The daylily defenders? The tomato supporters? The marigold mob? Even—gasp!—the rabid rosarians?

Then out from her horticultural hat, Kay picked an answer both surprising and superb:

Trees.

I agree. I think that I shall never see a herbaceous perennial as lovely as a tree. Trees which in beauty herald the start and trumpet the end of the growing season. Trees which point from earth to heaven as surely as any church steeple. Trees, the patriarchs of plants.

You can feel the power and presence of trees. Enter any old-growth virgin forest. Visit trees at night, when their looming silhouettes exude stillness and strength. Hug a tree. I know that sounds hippie-dippy. The hunting lobby probably has a bumper sticker somewhere that says, “Have you teased a tree hugger today?” In truth, though, tree hugging is not just for New Age pantheists. After all, hunters falling out of deer blinds are quick to hug trees.

All right, all right, then how about this? Otto von Bismarck formed the German Empire in the 19th century through his military might and ruthless cunning. Bismarck was a serious tree hugger.

Sometime, pull an Otto yourself. Spend an hour—not five minutes—hugging trees. You’ll make some surprising discoveries, particularly if you hug both hardwood (deciduous) and softwood (evergreen) trees. (I won’t tell the difference you’ll find.)

In olden days, when trees were sacred, people honored them in pagan festivals. This time of year, we have our 21st-century substitute. Scallions of leaf-peeping tourist leave their concrete cities and drive into the mountains to gaze at the glorious colors of fall. Since I live where they come to, I sometimes resent their traffic-blocking, leaf-gawking ways.

But aren’t those metro migrants really pilgrims, travelers giving their respect and appreciation to the quiet, stalwart keepers of the earth: trees?

I just hope they take the time to get out of their cars, walk up to some trees, and let them know how they feel.

—By Pat Stone. Art by Linda Cook Devona