Monday, January 26, 2009

Snowdrops in Scotland

Here's a favorite Henry Mitchell quotation on snowdrops:

[F]loribunda roses can become boring after a while; so can marigolds. They are nice enough; it's just that after a few months you wish they would look different. It is otherwise when the snowdrop blooms. Wow. Look at that. Right through the snow. Nobody ever gets bored with snowdrops or crocuses.

from Timing Is the Key, One Man's Garden  

We have no snowdrops yet in Northern California. There is a lovely story about the Scottish Snowdrop Festival; the photos of drifts of blooms by winding streams are enough to make one add that festival to the Life List of gardens to see.

Any snowdrop watchers out there?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

'Mr. Lincoln' rose for Inauguration Day

Photo credit: Bob Bauer,

My jokes are on hiatus for a bit.

I bring you Rosa  'Mr. Lincoln' to honor our former President and celebrate an historic day in the United States of America. 

'Mr. Lincoln' was part of my childhood. My family has had great rose gardens all my life and this rose is a fragrant, velvety memory from my early years, along with one of his parents, 'Chrysler Imperial'. Garden fancies change, but I am imprinted with the form and beauty of those hybrid teas.

Abraham Lincoln had words for farmers, which apply to gardeners as well: Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bush and Obama in White House Vegetable Garden Crisis

WASHINGTON (DP) Rumors of an open clash between President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama were confirmed this morning. The nation learned for the first time that both are experienced gardeners, with conflicting views.

The two men had planned a joint announcement today at 11 a.m. EST regarding the new organic vegetable garden on the White House grounds. As journalists approached the section of the South Lawn designated for the announcement, they heard raised voices from Bush and Obama, and could make out a few words.

"Double-digging? Man, this is the 21st century!"

"That's how I do it on my ranch and I won a blue ribbon for pole beans!"

The press conference was abruptly cancelled. Although photographers were rushed away before they could take pictures, they did see the two men struggling over a shovel.

The transition between the administrations had gone smoothly, beginning with the cordial reception the Obamas received on their first visit to the White House, but has now hit an ugly patch.

Reliable sources from the West Wing and the Obama team say they are working toward a reconciliation in time for the inauguration ceremony on January 20, and are considering various intermediaries. Jimmy Carter may be brought in, and it is expected that internationally known gardening expert Penelope Hobhouse will arrive from England within a few hours.

On Inauguration Day the President-elect and Mrs. Obama will have coffee at the White House before they are driven to the Capitol with the President and First Lady. Conversation is sure to be strained and there are hopes that sensitive subjects, such as the probable date of the last frost in Washington, D.C., can be avoided.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

To seed or not to seed?

There is no annual tradition of annuals in my family. My mother is a great rosarian and can talk hybrid teas and aged steer manure till the cows come home, but springtime seed trays were not a regular feature of my upbringing.

Should I be starting from seeds or not? I cannot rely on adopted lineage for guidance, as two of my favorite garden experts go opposite ways. Henry Mitchell waxed poetic about sowing seeds indoors (but this was a man who could make painting garden stakes in the basement sound like a numinous experience). 

The alternate point of view is from Dianne Benson, who draws a line in the sandy loam and refuses to cross over into propagation land. And she has a point--the trays, the lights, the schedules, the hassle. It's enough to make you wait until May and pay $10.95 for a moonflower in a one-gallon pot.

Also, there's the whole process of thinning that is so blithely discussed. Call me a wimp, but I think it's rather unkind to pull up a lot of plants just because they're smaller than their peers. A few weeks earlier one had prepared new abodes for them, invited them in, encouraged their growth with light and water--now if they lag behind a bit, YANK, they're dead. 

Seems a bit harsh.

But that is, in fact, how all those one-gallon moonflowers at the nursery were raised. And complaining about thinning them myself is like the time my 6 year-old granddaughter saw a fisherman with a live fish on his line and cried out, That's so mean! Why doesn't he just buy fish at the grocery store?

You can see the end of the story, can't you? I'll space the moonflower seeds far apart so I don't have to thin them, get them all safely into pots on the deck, enjoy them as they flourish in their viney way, and then knock them off because I'll forget to water them during a heat wave in August.

There's more than one way to be harsh to a plant. I'd better stay busy with the watering can this summer.