Happy Birthday, Penelope Hobhouse! "Even the most irresistible flowering plant, one I call a 'key' performer, is part of a whole cast; it has to be considered as a component in an overall look as well as for its individual charms." -P.H.
"And the stately lilies stand/ Fair in the silvery light/ Like saintly vestals, pale in prayer;/ Their pure breath sanctifieth the air/ As its fragrance does the night." - Julia C. R. Dorr
And if I
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me
-excerpt from I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies, June Jordan
Yes, the mimosa is an invasive weed tree but oh so magical when in bloom.
Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.
Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,
Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We
Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!
We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
Sylvia Plath, Colossus and Other Poems
If it was up to me, ranunculus would be the birthday flower for February 14. It's my favorite for Valentine's Day, a delightful, locally grown alternative to roses. Instead, here we are in the thick of autumn, surrounded by mums, kale, & pumpkins and this beauty appears. My source be damned, I might start making these up myself.
"Well she sure knows how to use me/ pretty little black-eyed Susie/ playing hooky with my heart all the time." - Elton John, Susie (Dramas), Honky Chateau
Happy Birthday, Maya Lin!
"I was raised almost entirely on turnips and potatoes, but I think that the turnips had more to do with the effect than that of the potatoes." - Marlene Dietrich
Think I'll leave it at that.
"In the Middle Ages, Ivy (Hedera helix) formed part of the 'soporific sponge,' a foul mixture of hemlock, mandrake, poppy, lettuce and other herbs, poured onto a sponge and held under the patient's nose as an anesthetic. The victim could not have failed to pass out after sniffing such a combination of evil smells." -Francesco Bianchini, Health Plants of the World: Atlas of Medicinal Plants
Ivy is fine until it has to be eradicated, and don't get me started about poison ivy. Fortunately, my work with ivy these days is limited to pots or floral arrangements - no tugging, no tears.
"I get no pleasure from seeing the flowers peering at me through a tangle of dead leaves, like an old man's blue eyes twinkling through eyebrows as thick as thatch." - Margery Fish, (on Iris stylosa) We Made a Garden
Now that summer is coming to an end, it's time to clear some space - deadhead, shear, make room for fall. Must we always rush ahead of the seasons? Can we leave spent blooms just a little longer? Rain today, ruthlessly wielding pruners tomorrow.
Lots of red in the garden this year including scarlet flax. Grown from seed, it established in tidy clumps and held its own against towering sunflower 'Moulin Rouge,' cockscomb, and carmine cosmos.
"A flower with narcotic properties, hence deceitful hope." -source withheld
Cooler days, final tomato harvest, and a push to get late season vegetables (radishes, Swiss chard, bok choy, and turnips) planted - that's what's happening here. Perhaps some shrewd gardeners are perparing their orders for spring-flowering bulbs. That comes after mums and pumpkins for me. My daffodils rarely make it in the ground before Thanksgiving, but the task is certainly one of my favorites, a gardening ritual of hope.
Tip the buttercup and sound the bellflower, happy birthday, little miss, gardener and friend.
Basil (Ocynum basilicum) "For those who have a tendency to separate the experience of spirituality from that of sexuality. They may be secretive about sex, regarding it as sinful while finding illicit sexual practices attractive and compelling, typically leading to clandestine behavior, bifurcated relationships or sexual addiction. Integrates sexuality and spirituality into a sacred wholeness." -Clare G. Harvey, The New Encyclopedia of Flower Remedies
Something to consider while you enjoy your Caprese salad...
"It follows that blue and white are the choices of the discriminating, and your real garden snob will go so far as to cast whole gardens in one or the other. White has perhaps the higher status. White flowers have always had an aura of luxury and expense, partly because so many of them are imported from warmer climates and must be grown under glass. In the eighteenth century, which put a much higher value on scent than we do, the fact that they were also heavily perfumed made white flowers such as the gardenia and the tuberose favorites with collectors. But white is also a distinctively modern color, or un-color, because of its cool neutrality." -Eleanor Perenyi, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden
Scabiosa 'Black Knight' adds drama to the cutting bed with its ruffled, deep maroon blooms. Perfect for low maintenance gardens (and absentee gardeners), seeds sown in my Kentucky plot produced loose mounds with abundant long stem, long-lasting flowers well into fall. Plant with other dark beauties such as hollyhock 'The Watchman,' bachelor's button 'Black Magic' or the ornamental pepper, 'Black Pearl' for stunning results.
It always seemed to me that the herbaceous peony is the very epitome of June. Larger than any rose, it has something of the cabbage rose's voluminous quality; and when it finally drops from the vase, it sheds its petticoats with a bump on the table, all in an intact heap, much as a rose will suddenly fall, making us look up from our book or conversation, to notice for one moment the death of what had still appeared to be a living beauty. - Vita Sackville-West
Paeonia 'Festiva Maxima' (pictured) was one of a several peonies that found a home in my mom's backyard thanks to a fellow intern at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Construction of the current Herb Garden began the year we were there (2008) and included clearing these herbaceous plants from the site. My colleague rescued a fair sample of white, pink, and red varieties. Every spring, when they bloom in late May, I think of George and appreciate this enduring gift.