Finally December! Or should I really say, sigh, December and now there will be no more? I am caught somewhere between the two. I have really enjoyed Anna Pavord's The Curious Gardener while at the same time had moments of frustration when it all felt the tiniest bit over my head. But I am sad to be done and not have more to read now (though looking forward to my-as yet undecided-new serial read for 2015). She has such a delightfully chatty and engaging manner of writing as if she was sitting across the table from you, hot chocolate in hand telling you about her garden and giving you bits of advice. I'm a hopeless gardener, but I do love the idea of gardens. Who knows, maybe someday I will have a proper one of my own (or my own version of proper anyway).
Since it is the December chapter you won't be surprised that she talks about Christmas (and so I am happy to be reading this and finishing the book before my own Christmas holiday). I do love this:
"There has to be an orange, an apple and some nuts in the stocking, not because anyone is panting for them, but because there always was in my stocking at home. I used to crack the nuts by putting them under the leg of the bed and bouncing on the corner."
Hah. Can't you just picture a child doing that? Pavord grew up in Wales and she talks about the various traditions of her own family, which when she was a child meant spending lots of time outdoors on Christmas--building up an appetite. Her family, and a tradition she carries on with her own children, would hang stockings on bedroom doors as the official beginning of Christmas. My own family doesn't have much in the way of yearly traditions. We had stockings as children but they sort of faded away over time.
For Pavord, and more childish innocence (chuckling on my part continues) she goes on:
"There was a perfectly good pair of nutcrackers in the dining room. But to get there you had to jump from the bottom stair to the mat in the hall. If your foot touched the wood in between you would be pulled for ever into its whorls and seams. That was a nasty prospect to face at half past four in the morning."
Half past four being the hour she would find her stocking. It's a little weird? Sad? that I sort of understand her reasoning. Even now as an adult I have my own unusual idiosyncrasies and habits about doing certain things.
She wraps up the year with several items of interest to me. One is her discussion of trees and how to choose one for your garden keeping in mind where you are planting it and what you want it to do. There is lots of suggestions on how to look for the best tree to plant and just how to plant it. Did you know that "in its natural state a tree has a root system as big as its top canopy of branches"? I have two really big trees in my backyard and all of a sudden am envisioning just where all those roots are growing beneath my yard!
Based on her suggestions I think I would find a crab apple tree in my yard most pleasing--"a neat small tree with stiff, markedly upright branches. Scented flowers grow in great abundance, pink in bud, open white in spring and are followed by yellow fruit flushed with red." It reaches a height of 16 feet and does well in full sun, which sounds very suitable for my front lawn. If it is the same tree I am thinking of, there is one on the university campus (well, one I pass by daily) and it is indeed a beautiful tree. Maybe that will be one of the things I take away from my reading. What a nice legacy, don't you think? Every time I would look at my crab apple tree I would think of the Pavord book.
She also offers practical advice (and this I find very helpful) on the "principles of planting". She talks about soils and how big a hole to dig, what to do with the root system and how to secure them in the ground for best growing conditions. While this wouldn't work here in the midwest with our cold, snowy winters she says she prefers to plant in fall and winter as plants have so much other work to do in the spring--all those leaves and new buds. So much to think about. I had no idea before reading this book.
And she talks about nuts and the trees they grow on. Personally I like nuts all the time, all year round and happily partake of them on an almost daily basis, but I know they are especially popular at holidaytime. Like Pavord I think it's silly to wait until Christmas. "Nuts have acquired a faintly Fabian air (she says): wholesome, of course, but not appealing to gourmands". Well, a gourmand, I am not. Did you know this:
"Choose young walnut trees for planting as they resent being moved when they are older. Do not cut or prune them unless it is absolutely unavoidable. They bleed horribly when they are wounded. If it must be done, late summer is the best time."
I had no idea and wonder just what the "bleeding" is like. Walnuts grow in a husk, which I also did not know. (Walbuts go into my cereal or oatmeal every morning--and now I will imagine the tree they grew on bleeding. What a thought!).
So many interesting things Pavord has shared. I will never remember it all, but somewhere along the line in my later reading I can imagine making all sorts of interesting connections.
Maybe I will end on this note--advice that another gardener gave Pavord: "A garden is a process, not a product". Now that is something I can take with me in many aspects of my life!