I'm getting in my gardening reading/post just under the gun, aren't I? Yet another month flying by, but in terms of gardening things are only now beginning to get interesting. Actually Anna Pavord's The Curious Gardener: A Year in the Garden seems to have interesting things to say even when you think not much at all is happening in your garden. Spring seems to finally have arrived in Omaha and green is beginning to appear. My bushes have blooms, green blades of grass are poking their heads up in the lawn and the weeds are simply thriving. No, its freedom lawn, right? Interspersed with cool, rainy days (which I am not going to complain about anymore--cool in April is nothing like cold in January) have been some blissfully sunny and warm days.
Once again there's a bit of a hodgepodge of subject matter in the Pavord book. It's almost all plants and flowers, but an occasional 'something else' thrown in. I do like the focus on the garden, but this is a very different sort of nature book than Roger Deakin's Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, which I really adored (and could happily reread right now as a matter of fact). I feel a little bit like an outsider looking in with Pavord, but with Deakin I felt like I could use his diary entries as inspiration for my own life and ways to look at nature. Not just look at nature but really see it. In its way the Pavord is more practical almost, at least what she writes about could be put to very practical use. And who knows, I might just be able to put some of it to use this summer. (See photo above!).
Let's see. She begins (remember each month/chapter is made up of short essay-like pieces about different topics all neatly linked together) with 'Spring in New York' and a visit to a elegant store called Takashimaya, a designer store (now closed it appears) formerly located on 54th Street and Fifth Avenue. Isn't it funny how it's all in a name? If Takashimaya says pale pink quince blossoms are the thing, then people will pay $40 for a branch of them. Oh, but they are pretty, though, don't you think? When Pavord inquired about the price the shop assistant coolly assessed her and gave her a look that said--these aren't for you.
"No, they are not, because I have plenty of quince in the garden. I was rather staggered, given that the blossom was fracturing and falling with each customer that jiggled against it, that there were people who would actually shell out such fortunes for this stuff. You'd need at least eight branches to make a decent show."
I need to bring my camera with me on my walks and snap a few photos of the trees I pass by each day that are finally in bloom, or at least beginning to bud. Some of them are so lovely that I watch each year for them to open up and send forth their delicious smell. I almost think I would rather have an orchard than a vegetable garden, if I were going to attempt a garden at all. But I like, too, the idea of a garden--vegetable or flower--that blooms in succession. She writes about 'successional sowing' in order to have "full salad bowls, an endless conveyor belt of salad vegetables, seamlessly presenting themselves in perfect condition, each crop neatly dovetailing with the next." It sounds nice but in reality there are so many variables that would throw the harvest off. So many variables to get them all to grow even. But doesn't this sound good?
"'Babyleaf' salads may include amaranth, chop suey and choy sum, spinach, the black cabbage called 'Nero de Toscana', bull's blood beet, rhubarb chard, land cress and Greek cress, red perilla, purslane and texsel greens. Italian mixtures often use rocket with various lettuce's, chicory and black kale. Provence salads may have a slower-growing blend of sorrel, corn salad, lettuce and chervil. With baby leaves, you can eat your way round the whole world."
As a salad connoisseur, I like that idea! It's reading books like this that I realize what I am missing. There is just not much variety in local chain supermarkets. I guess when you have your own garden the world is at your fingers (as long as the plant in question can flourish in your soil and climate). She goes on to write about Magnolia trees (after several tries she manages to grow seven species--"lustily"), what a modern "Renaissance man" really needs in order to survive (not just be able to slaughter a pig but "cure the flitches, make brawn and prepare the intestines for sausage skins--I wonder if she has a non-meat eater's list of survival skills?).
But I am most impressed by the fact that she managed to grow church full of flowers for her daughter's wedding. Not just grow them but get the timing just right--even with warmer than normal weather prompting them to open sooner than needed. In the biographical blurb Pavord has been described as someone who has lived and gardened in Dorset for more than forty years. Now that is experience. Somehow that makes my own simple plans sound a little feeble. (See again photo at the top of the post).
Stefanie, who's own gardening adventures I enjoy following, has inspired me to do a little container gardening. She suggested growing herbs, which is something I had never thought of doing. I am probably going at this the wrong way, but I have bought a few packets of seeds and now need to do a little investigating and planning. Am I too late to start growing from seed? I know they are all plants that can be grow in containers and on a sunny, south facing porch. I bought common chives, sweet basil, cilantro, lavender and convolvulus. I'm hoping I will have better luck with herbs than with my normal pest-prone petunias that the insects delight in devouring around mid-summer. And I couldn't pass up Country Gardens Container Gardens or Porches & Gardens for a little visual stimulation. If you have ever flipped through either magazine you'll know the potential small container gardens have. I am starting very, very small, but it's always nice to see what's possible (with time and experience).
Of course, any helpful hints and advice for simple container gardening is most welcome. This little project will hopefully kick off when I come back from Texas the first week of May.