Our Life in Gardens ****
by Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd
An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.
“Plants, like words in poetry, observe Eck and Winterrowd, are both beautiful in themselves and also for the associations they trail behind, the histories they have in the world and in one’s own life.”
Cofounders of the garden design firm North Hill, the authors, Eck and Winterrowd share the history of their Vermont garden, writing about “the plants they have lived with, nurtured and nourished, in a sort of inverse family memoir, where the parent remembers the children—the trouble-free, the troubling and the troubled.”
Each chapter begins with a pen & ink drawing by Bobbi Angell, botanical illustrator and artist. Her work continues to win awards, including the prestigious Jill Smythies Award from The Linnean Society of London, The American Society of Botanical Artists’ Award for Excellence in the Service of Science, and Center for Plant Conservation’s Star Award.
My life in gardens is limited to the table~ I wish I had one to rival North Hill or my Portmeirion Botanic Garden~
Instead, I’m gardening vicariously with dishes . . . enjoying the buzzing of the bees and fluttering of butterflies among the flowers.
I can dream about flowers as I mentally traipse through the authors’ Vermont garden and enjoy their bits of wisdom as they share their passion. . .
. . .and gather bits of knowledge, nostalgia & new plants to cultivate while enjoying essays that range alphabetically from ~
Agapanthus: “we fear you must resort to shoving and hauling, smashing and splintering, to a cold bedroom full of nasty, yellowing foliage, always anticipating the pure bliss that will come,”
Xanthorrhoea Quadrangulata: “it is painful to say that plants are very scarce and that ours is not likely to produce any progeny we can share.”
“From a chance encounter, gardeners, like lovers, often form lifelong relationships of great intensity. You see a plant, your eyes widen, your pulse accelerates, and huskily you ask even complete strangers its name, importunately tugging at coat sleeves.”
Much like what happens to me when I spy a new botanical image or design of Portmeirion at Home Goods or wherever I stumble on it :-)
Since its creation in 1972, over 70 botanical images have been added to this collection. To see this exuberant botanic garden with all the blooming motifs, look here.
“Buried in every gardener’s memory are plants he has seen or read about and vows to grow, or wishes he could grow, if only he had the right conditions.”
“Dame’s Rocket can make its gentle way at the edges of woods or in partly shaded ditches, competing with weeds and making them glorious in mid-June, with three-foot-tall branched candelabra of little four-petaled flowers in beautiful shades of purple, pink, and white, blended together like the colors of an old, much-bleached housedress. The smell is that of fresh laundry, a rich, spicy, powders sweetness elusive to Chanel or any other parfumier.”
“ ‘Fife Yellow,’ ‘Cowichan Blue’, ‘Barnhaven Gold’, ‘Duckyls Red’, ‘Enchantress’, ‘Guinevere’, ‘Granny Graham’, ‘Broadwell Milkmaid’, ‘Sailor Boy’, ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Satchmo’, ‘Winter Dreams’, ‘Hurstwood Midnight’. . .
. . . even without a picture in a catalog, it is hard to resist ordering plants with such names, for as with roses, their beauty begins there. Add a picture, and the gardener is sunk, the plant budget spent, and the vegetables unordered.”
Annuals: “Though they are often very beautiful themselves, their charm resides to a large degree precisely in their naïveté, their simple sense of ease and well-being, just in themselves, just in what they are. It is true that their colors are often bold and unsubtle, usually in the part of the color wheel called ‘hot,’ which includes the hardest yellows, crimsons, and reds—but they are beloved by children and to any adult they offer the same kind of lift to the heart that occurs when walking through FAO Schwarz at Christmastime.”
Hybrids: “Crossing species madly ending up with a diverse swarm rather like a barnyard of mixed bantam chickens.”
Seed: “There is something deeply touching about any flower that blooms so late, and we wonder how it has time to make seed. It seems forgetful of that necessity, and even therefore, faintly tragic, or at least melancholic.”
“Within the group of plants classed as biennial are some of the most treasured in gardens, not for their rarity, certainly, but for their homely, simple charm. Usually, they are considered ‘cottage flowers,’ and their ranks include hollyhocks, forget-me-nots, dame’s rocket, Sweet William, Saint Barbara’s weed, and foxgloves. Like all cottage flowers, they seem to carry resonances far beyond their individual beauty, suggesting fine June country mornings and casement windows flung open to the bright sun and the sound of bees at work. Somewhere near them there will always be an old, well-waxed table spread with good, fresh things, and the chance to linger in the garden, to work perhaps or just to sit and stare.”
“Early each spring, we wonder whether we would love snowdrops if they bloomed in June, rather than at the end of a long, cold winter. Certainly they are beautiful enough to love at any time of the year: silken pearls in bud and winged when open to the warmth of an early spring day. They dangle on delicate, threadlike pedicels, dancing in the slightest breeze.”
“What makes lilacs treasured is not the years they can accumulate, however, but the beauty of their flowers, which come just as the last memory of winter and its ice and snow and barrenness are passing away in the May sun. They flower exuberantly then, hundreds of cobs of bloom appearing over gaunt, gray trunks. That conjunction is itself an emblem of the renewal of the year, but we wonder whether without the fragrance peculiar to lilacs they would matter so much.”
I played with violas, sugaring them for Food for Thought to embellish cupcakes~
Ideas and directions for crystallizing edible flowers, courtesy of Martha Stewart here
Dishes: Portmeirion Botanic Garden
Napoleon Bee Flatware: Horchow
Napkins: Pier 1
Napkin Rings: Home Goods
Rattan Chargers: World Market
“For more than thirty years, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd have been gardening with extraordinary, indeed legendary, results. Part memoir, part omnium-gatherum of horticultural wisdom and practical advice, Our Life in Gardens is at once literate, learned, sensible, and, often, sheer luscious poetry. There are delights to be sampled on every page. From a cultivated life, they have brought forth, once again a cultivated book.” ~Phillip Gambone
“Any gardener may find its specific (and sometime technical) advice helpful, but walkers among gardens and those who dream of gardening will find special pleasure in plant lore and history and in the lucid descriptions that render them visible.”
Sadly, Wayne Winterrowd passed away last September~ his work with Joe lives on, not only in their books, but in their beautiful garden, North Hill.
Thanks for your visit & to my hostesses, I’m joining:
Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter is X~ for an X-uberant botanic garden & gardening with X-traordinary results