Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eleanor Perenyi on mint

Photo credit: Gogo

Eleanor Perenyi wrote about her gardens in a way that commanded respect. Many of us worship at the shrine of her collected garden essays, Green Thoughts (1981), and I felt a personal pang at the passing of the author in May.

Margalit Fox captured her well in a delicate New York Times obituary. My own memorial to Baroness Perenyi will be a series of excerpts from Green Thoughts.

Here she speaks about her mint bed:

Every garden should have an area that can safely be neglected, and a mint bed is the ideal choice. My unknown mints, fenced in with old boards, get no attention beyond a shovelful of compost now and then. They never have a shadow of a pest or a blight. Once a summer I get down on my knees and trace the stolons that have escaped the fence, ripping them from their moorings and throwing them on the compost heap. As gardening jobs go, this one is a delight. The heavenly smell invades every pore, and if I were the size of a cat I would roll luxuriously in the pile of discards.


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24 comments:

Laura Livengood Schaub said...

Oh, DP let me join you at the shrine! I was just thinking of this exact paragraph as I composed a question about herbs to JeanAnnVK...'which herbs get on well together, and which have 'special needs'... like MINT' I'm delighted that you are spreading the word about my favorite garden writer; can't wait to see what will be next...so many gems to choose from! Thank you...

Janet said...

Oh to be a cat and roll on a bed of mint!!

Frances said...

A great loss to us all. I applaud your series and await the next. Shadow of pest of blight....brilliant! :-)
Frances

Jenny Bennett said...

This has inspired me to go find Eleanor Perenyi's works, which I am so ignorant as to have missed out on so far. Thanks for giving us some good tidbits to go on. As far as mint is concerned, it is definitely one of my favorite families of plants. My garden is full of mint-cousin bee-balm, which has its own Earl Grey fragrance. My mother grew lots of mint for iced tea at our house in Arlington, Virginia.

Daffodil Planter said...

Laura and Frances, She was a treasure, and I'm glad to know that you admire her too.

Janet, Such a great image, isn't it? Reason alone to plant some mint.

Daffodil Planter said...

Jenny, Green Thoughts is in a number of editions, and the original has a great photo of the author in her garden, with cocktail and cigarette in hand. Not the rafinee character I had expected, much sturdier.

Daffodil Planter said...

Typo again--I meant raffinee.

Christine said...

I just came across this writer in another blog (wish I could remembe which one) last night and immediately requested the title from our local library. I am restraining from reading your excerpt beacause I want to savor this book when it arrives. Another book the blogger recommended was Anne Raver's Deep in the Green, which is now also on my to-read list. Two of may favorite garden books have been Amy Stewart's From the Ground Up and The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. Any others you would recommend?

Daffodil Planter said...

Christine, If you like Green Thoughts you'd better buy it--you won't be able to finish by the time the library book is due! Thank you for the tip on Deep in the Green, which is new to me.

My favorite garden books are listed in the sidebar of the blog, breaking up the world's longest blog roll. Tops for me is Henry Mitchell, even though he writes about a different climate. Dianne Benson is a kick.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Let me join the love-fest for the late Perenyi...her writings were delightful and an inspiration for many gardeners.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I loved her book, and I love mint. I have some in my garden, although we're cautioned not to. It sweetens my tea and would make a great mojito if only I drank. :) ~~Dee

Pomona Belvedere said...

It's been a long time since I read Eleanor Perenyi: I must go down to that sea again. Thanks for this useful and fitting tribute.

I'm also a big fan of $64 Tomato; Fukuoka (One-Straw Revolution, and more) is another classic, honest, informative and amusingly self-deprecating garden writer in the oldie but goodie category.

Laura Livengood Schaub said...

Christine,

That was my blog you read...my very first post, as a matter of fact...honoring the masters, upon whose shoulders I stand as a gardener AND a writer...

http://interleafings.blogspot.com/

Amy Stewart's 'From the Ground Up' would make my top five, as she and I were both gardening in the Santa Cruz area at around the same time (same nursery, same weeds: her story and her voice were very true to me.)

Other suggestions? I think I feel a blog post coming on...check back later! SO glad DP started this, can't wait to see which of EP's gems is next...

Grace Peterson said...

Hi DP~~ I hadn't heard of her passing. I'll have to dust off my copy of Green Thoughts in her memory.

EB said...

Thank you for this, I had never heard of her and have now added Green Thoughts to my wish-list.

Darla said...

I actually have a mint bed....this is interesting here, will have to check into the book.

Daffodil Planter said...

Jodi, Yes, she is inspiring. In the midst of the wonderful writing is a calm, practical approach to gardening.

Daffodil Planter said...

Dee, I guess we could make "virgin" mojitos, but I think they would just be sugar water with mint! Maybe someday you and I can have a tiny sip of someone else's real mojito.

Daffodil Planter said...

Pomona, Thank you for the additional book suggestions!

Daffodil Planter said...

Grace, A gardening friend in NYC alerted me to the sad news. I had postponed writing a fan letter, and now I am too late.

Daffodil Planter said...

Emily, I would say that I envy you, reading Green Thoughts for the first time, but it is a book that is equally interesting on each re-read.

Daffodil Planter said...

Darla, Now when you look at your mint bed this summer you'll have to resist rolling in it!

Bill Bird said...

And here I thought my mint bed was unique. It's located at a home that is now a "rental." At the urging of my wife, in 2003, I created a raised "herb" bed. And we set about planting as many herb starter plants as we could, including mint.

What a HUGE mistake that was.

The mint took over and swallowed everything. It now grows outside the bed. When I'm ripping it back, the stones that make up the raised bed planter get moved and jostled about.

Fortunately, I know a lady who can't get enough mint for herself and her Vietnamese family. She's amazed about how productive it is, and how I do absolutely nothing to care for it.

Ladybug said...

Bill I have the same problem. Our mint grows like a weed in the grass and in total random places. It is so lush and smells so fresh that I try not to pull up too much of it. But what do you do with all that mint?