Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Our Life in Gardens"

This is a haunting garden book, because so much of it is about the passage of time, in a garden and in a life. Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd have been gardening in Vermont for more than thirty years, and these short essays - from Agapanthus to Xantorrhoea quandrangulata - chronicle their experiences. A few quotes:

No real garden should ever show bare earth, much less a sea of bark mulch, which always represents both an opportunity lost and a failure of horticultural seriousness.

We can...offer some comforts to young gardeners - or to gardeners of any age who are just starting a garden...a major part of the pleasure of gardening is in the act of gardening itself...For simply to plant that tree or shrub or vine and see it gradually take hold, getting larger each year, finally surprising you by its size, even though you knew it first as a tiny thing in a black plastic nursery pot, this is where the real pleasure of gardening lies.

If the management of any garden does not fall into a rhythm of comfortable routines, there will not be a garden at all but only an embarrassment and a reproach.

Gardens by their very nature are fragile beings that live in the two dimensions of time and care.

I am certain that my garden would not measure up to their high standards - a sense of humor is not a major part of their style - but I found their book inspiring and thought-provoking, giving me a long list of plants to try. More important, their wisdom and experience offer another way to look at gardens. I will even forgive them a glancing, disdainful reference to White Flower Farm, for which I have a family feeling.

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