15 December 2006

garden writing past and recent

Gardening magazines and catalogs strive to fill the reader with a can-do spirit.

Their writers frequently overreach in their promises of success: "Grow all the fruit your family can eat for a year and have plenty to give away." "These evergreens grow 3-feet a year in all conditions." "Give your garden Style!" "Blooms in Hot Colors for 3 Seasons!!"

Hype and hogwash.

For relaxing reading, nothing can compete with books written in years gone by. Read these excerpts and see how they provide a sense of the writers' love for their gardens and the joys inherent in growing a garden.

from "The Culture of Perennials" by Dorothy M-P. Cloud, published in 1925
"The propagation of perennials is an engrossing subject to the happy possessor of a garden, as through a knowledge of the processes of plant increase big results can be obtained from small beginnings and with comparatively small outlay. The method which Nature employs is to propagate by seed, but frequently by this means the progeny differs from the parent. A few suggestions as to this method will make it quite simple for the novice to carry out."

from "Annuals for Every Garden" by Dorothy H. Jenkins, published 1945
"On bright mornings in September it seems as though every fence post in town is hung with the gleaming funnels of Heavenly Blue morning glories. Sometimes a few moonflowers which have not yet gone to sleep are little white clouds in the sea of blue. Entrancing as is the Heavenly Blue, whether used over an arbor, along a fence or beside the kitchen door, it is far from being the beginning or the end of the annual vine story."

from "Green Thoughts: A Writer In the Garden" by Eleanor Perenyi, published 1981
"Sooner or later every gardener must face the fact that certain things are going to die on him. It is a temptation to be anthropomorphic about plants, to suspect that they do it to annoy. One knows, after all, that they lead lives of their own: plant the lily bulb in the center of the bed and watch it come up under a brick near the edge; pull up a sick little bush and throw it on the compost heap, and ten to one, it will obstinately revive."

from "Hill Song: A Country Journal" by Lee P. Huntington, published 1985
"Zinnias and marigolds in the garden are the colors of Indian saris, and in the fields goldenrod in countless numbers give a brassy shine to the landscape. The round puce-colored heads of Joe Pye weed crop up in every pasture. Asters begin to appear, all sizes from barely there to grand ebullient bursts, in colors from mouse-pale to Oriental purple.
Elderberries are ripe, and this year we have managed to gather them before they have been all gobbled by birds."

The authors engage and draw in their reader with their gardening knowledge. You can imagine sharing in their success.

Gardeners live on the belief that next season's garden will have just the right amount of rain and sun and only pollinating insects will visit the vegetable garden and fruit trees.

In spite of past failures and plants with a mind of their own, we are relentlessly optimistic and hopeful. How else could we confidently visualize our northeast Oklahoma yards resembling the photos in the catalogs that are arriving daily?

Do you have a favorite gardening book? Please share the name and title and tell us a little about it.

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